Monday, July 8, 2024

Adventures in Marine Biology: Sea Camp 2024

I had first learned about Sea Camp from a girl I went to Air Camp with a couple summers ago! I wasn't able to do a fun PD last summer, so I thought this sounded like fun to do this summer (although I really didn't know much about it, and didn't know what to expect).  As I always tell people, I don't sit still well!

Saturday, June 22, 2024

This morning was rough. I’d had a pretty bad migraine earlier in the week that left me sick and miserable the following day. On Friday, I spent the day with my brother and future sister-in-law as Luke was taking me to the airport in the AM. I could feel another one coming all day and was doing everything in my power to dissuade it (aside from taking medicine, because I didn’t want to deal with an upset stomach again). I was SO anxious about another migraine coming all night that I didn’t sleep more than 30 minutes at a time. I finally got up at 2:30A, even though I hadn’t planned on getting up until 3:15A, and took a med hoping it made the mild headache go away and didn’t give me a stomach ache. Chronic pain sucks, y’all. 

My brother brought me to the airport and I was through TSA lickety split! Which was funny because the day prior I realized I didn't have my KTN saved in my Southwest app, so PreCheck wasn't on my boarding pass. I added it to the app, then printed my boarding pass at the airport. Completely pointless because no one was in line for TSA anyway, but at least I could keep my shoes on and not have to take anything out of my bags! (I'll take the win).

ANYWAY, I hung out in the airport for two hours before boarding, playing games and reading. My flight was thankfully uneventful EXCEPT that I had the whole row to myself!! I love flying at 6AM. I slept the whole time.

I landed in Dallas around 8:30 and had an hour and a half layover before flying to Houston. My stomach was still unsettled because #anxiety so I didn't eat there. My flight to Houston was again uneventful.  I ended up hanging at the airport in Houston for a couple hours because the shuttle I had scheduled to take me to Galveston wasn't coming until 1. We weren't suppose to show up to camp until 5, so I had time to play with. I ended up finding a spot with really comfy chairs where you could watch airplanes and sat there until it was time to get the shuttle. 

The shuttle then took me to Galveston AFTER telling me he wasn't sure he would be able to get me to Pelican Island where I needed to go because there was problems with the bridge! As if I wasn't anxious enough. No worries though, we made it! I sat and read for a few hours in the dorm lobby while waiting for my room to be ready.

Eventually a couple other ladies showed up who were also counselors at camp this week. They grabbed me from my room and we went to Shrimp 'N Stuff for dinner. I had a fish taco and was glad I only ordered one - it was HUGE! But delicious! I would have loved to have eaten more! (As I proof this to publish two weeks later, I am STILL thinking about this taco). After eating we headed back to the dorms to get a good nights rest before day 1 of camp.

Sunday, June 23, 2024 // Sea Camp, Day 1

I slept in! Until almost 7:30! This is a big feat for me. I got to have a lazy morning. I grabbed some Apple Jacks at the airport yesterday and ate those for breakfast, then took a shower and lounged around for a bit. I went to take a walk at 9:40 and boy was it hot! I checked the weather and it was already 84 degrees with a feels like temp of 98!! My walk only lasted 20 minutes, and I felt like I needed to shower again, but I took pictures of lots of things that made me smile!

We had a counselor meeting at 11 before going to lunch at the cafeteria. 

After lunch we had some chill time before check-in began at 2:00. There are 5 camps this week, so many families coming through to move their kiddos into the dorms.

Along with my co-counselor, my check-in duties were to greet the kids coming to my camp (Adventures in Marine Biology), collect any meds, distribute room keys, and answer questions regarding the week.

At 4:45 we gathered to take them all to dinner in the university cafeteria. After dinner, we had an all camp meeting to go over rules and expectations for the week. From there we split into our camps.

My camp did a couple activities first. 

  • They were split into 4 groups of 7 kids each - they needed to come up with a group name that was at least three words
  • They had to draw a picture of their favorite animal with their eyes closed. Then, they introduced themselves with their picture.
  • They had to come up with a new 'camp call' for us to use to get their attention. They decided on the popular "Waterfall" "Shhhh...."
Then we went over the schedule for the week before heading back to the dorms to make signs for our dorm doors, and then free time until bed time at 10.

Monday, June 24, 2024 // Sea Camp, Day 2

I was on the dorm floor with our girls, so I had them up and moving by 7 so we could head straight to breakfast. After breakfast, we all met in the lounge of our dorm and walked down to the boat docks for a picture before splitting into two groups. My group started the morning with a nature walk. Our task was to find things in nature we could press in the plant press. While on our nature walk I was with the four girls in my small group and one of them lifted up a large palm that had fallen. We all saw something coiled underneath and were like "ew!" because we thought it was animal poo. Then the girl who lifted the branch said, "Is that a snake?!" and we all quickly backed away. I told the instructor by us and she wanted to see it because she loves snakes. I showed her where it was and then quickly backed away because NOPE! Turns out it was a water moccasin, and I was right to back away. We left that area soon after. 

We walked to our classroom and gave everyone a white piece of paper to lay their collections out on, then stacked the paper into the press. We will get our creations back on Thursday!

After the press, we went through a Prezi presentation about sharks. I was so impressed with how much these kids knew! They were naming pictures of sharks I had never heard it! (I am definitely not at space camp anymore!) 

Our other instructor joined us then for shark direction.  Each instructor dissected a shark, and the kids (and myself) got to touch whichever parts we wanted to. The coolest thing I thought was the eyeball because it was super hard like a marble. We found octopus tentacles in the intestines of one shark and a fish in the stomach of the other. 

Shark Eyeball

After shark dissection we played a quick game of camouflage. This is where each kid got a 2" x 2" square of paper and had to color it to match something in the room. They would tape it up while the instructors were in the hallway, and then the instructors would come in and have 5 minutes to find them all.

From there we went right to lunch and had some chill time at the dorms until our afternoon activity.

At 1:00 my small group met back in our dorm lobby to go to the boat. We walked down to the doc, signed the manifest, and got our life jackets. The boat captain went over the rules. When he went over "Abort Ship!" he ended it with "and then all we have to do is link arms and sing Kumbaya while we wait for the Coast Guard to rescue us. One of the kids asked, "what is Kumbaya?" and we all felt old.

We boarded the ship and set sail! The first stop was a ways out where we put in a net to go trawling. Trawling is basically throwing a weighted net off the back of the boat to see what you can catch. We left the net in the water for 20 minutes while we slowly cruised before taking it out to see what we caught. They captain and his crewmate reeled in the net and dumped it in a cooler they had prepped with water. We caught a catfish, two crabs, a bunch of anchovies, and another small-ish fish. The small-ish fish (whose species I can't remember) had a parasite in his mouth that was eating his tongue. Apparently the tongue grows back when the parasite leaves, so that was cool to see! After we looked at each organism we threw them back into the water. The kids got to throw the anchovies out for the seagulls - they loved that! (The kids AND the seagulls!)

Then we cruised for awhile and saw a bunch of dolphins, and the remains of the oil tanker SS Selma shipwreck, and a the Battleship Texas navy ship that they're currently restoring.

By the time we got back I was sunburned and tired! We headed to the dorm for a quick 30 minute rest before our pizza and pool party. At 5, we gathered back in the lobby for pizza before heading to the campus pool for a few hours. When I got to the pool we went straight for the pool chairs. Unfortunately, there was a small, three-inch step to get up to the pool chairs that I did not see because it blended into the rest of the pool deck. Well I managed to bash my big toe right into it. It is now jammed or broken or sprain and a very vibrant shade of purple!

After the pool, my co-counselor and I hung out for a bit until the kids had to be back to the dorms at 8:30, and then made a Target run because I needed socks and Aloe.

A shower was much needed after the hot day outside, as well as a good nights sleep!

Tuesday, June 25, 2024 // Sea Camp, Day 3

After getting the girls up at 7, we headed down to breakfast, then met at 8:15 in our dorm lobby so we could head down for our first activity of the day. We went to the classroom where the kids learned about crawfish (aka mudbugs/crayfish/crawdads), including their habitats. They were given a challenge to build a model crawfish habitat. There were three categories they could "win" in - tallest, most realistic, and most creative. But first, they needed to collect materials for their mudbug towers.

We took them down to Shell Beach with some trays where they collected shells and sediment to use to build. It was already quite toasty out!!

Then we headed back to the classroom and gave them 20 minute to build. They also needed to come up with a story behind the creation of their habitat. The creativity was awesome! Some of these kids I've gotten to work with this week have the best imagination! My personal favorite story included a natural disaster which resulted in the death of the crawdads that lived in the tower, which were now sitting on our counter so we could dissect them and see what we could learn.


Most Realistic

Most Creative

When the building and judging of the habitats was done, we moved on to dissecting the crawfish. The kids were put into pairs, given directions, then given pretty much free rein to dissect. They determined if their crawfish were male or female, found the heart (amongst other parts) and were amazed to learn that crawfish don't have brains!

After cleaning up the dissection, we watched a little of a marine animal National Geographic video before heading to lunch.

After lunch rec, we met back up with the kids in the lobby of the dorm to head back to the classroom for fish morphology. The kids learned about different fish and their parts and adaptations, then they got to do fish printing on their t-shirts. They had the choice to use rubber fish (turtles, frogs, etc.) or real ones, and they got to paint the fish, then press them onto their shirt. They could also use puff paint and stencils to add additional designs. 

We finished the National Geographic video, then took a long walk back to the dorms for a short break before gathering for dinner. 

After dinner, the kids had rec time where they played a game of Capture the Flag against the kids in the Shark camp. They had free time the rest of the night, so I took a group to the pool until it closed before coming back to shower and relax.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024 // Sea Camp, Day 4

After getting the kids up this morning and having breakfast, we met back in the lobby of the dorm so we could board the bus to Galveston Island State Park. Today’s first activity was salt marsh seining. I opted not to get into the water due to my vibrant purple big toe as I didn’t want to risk kicking anything and making it worse underwater.

When seining, the groups went out holding a large net. They had to do what’s called the Stingray Shuffle, which means that your feet stay on the ground and you just move them forward, shuffling. This prevents someone from stepping on stingray and having it bite you.

One of the kids was uncertain about going in because he was nervous about being stung by a jellyfish. I wandered with him on the beach as he collected hermit crabs and we spotted jellyfish in the water. 


Hermit Crabs

Soon after, one of the instructors brought out one of our campers that had been stung by a jellyfish, so I took her up to the first aid kit to pour vinegar on the spot to relieve the sting. 

Not too soon after another kid came out with jellyfish stings. I never got to see what was in any of the nets, because kids kept coming out with jellyfish stings! Eventually, everyone just came out of the water because things were not going so hot. I think about 10 kids got stung by jellyfish, and three of the four instructors/counselors. I did learn how to take care of a jellyfish sting at least! Pour vinegar to help relieve the sting, and then use a credit card or something of the sort to scrape the stingy stuff out (I can’t remember what the stingy stuff is called), pour on some salt water, then dump on some meat tenderizer. So random! 

It was too soon to head back to camp, so my co-counselor decided to take the kids on a walk. They made it not 5 feet into the grass when everyone started slapping themselves because there were mosquitoes everywhere. She continued to walk with them, but the rest of us adults stayed back on the cement. They didn’t get too far before they all turned around around and came back! We decided we would head back to camp a little early after all. 

We got on the bus and headed back to the dorms. Since the kids had just been in the sun and salt water, we had them go take a shower to help combat dehydration. Then we headed to lunch. 

After lunch, we got to do some tie-dying. I was surprised at how many kids had never done tie-dye before! It was a summer staple in my childhood. 

During our next activity, the kids got to learn about oysters via a presentation, and then they got to explore some oysters. They saw many of the things that lived inside oysters, such as crabs and shrimp. They were hoping to find pearls, but you only find pearls in one out of 1000 oysters. Someone who has been a part of the camp for the last 15 years said that for as long as they’ve been here, only one pearl had been found. 

The kids got to try an oyster if they wanted to. They shucked their oyster first, before pulled out the muscle and disconnecting the meat from the shell. We had saltine crackers to go with them as well as cocktail sauce. I was surprised at how many of the kids actually wanted to try the oysters. A lot of them made faces a few spit them out, a handful really enjoyed it and asked for another one. I did not try it. No way! Take me to ACME, I will eat all the oysters there!

We took a long walk on campus before heading back to the dorms for a short break before dinner. After dinner, the kids had rec where they played dodgeball. Then it was free time for the rest of the night.

Thursday, June 27, 2024 // Sea Camp, Day 5

Yet again, I woke up before my alarm this morning. I think this has happened every day of camp. 

While I was sleeping last night, I was woken up by frantic knocking on my door. I panicked thinking that I had overslept and was late for meeting with the kids. I looked at my watch and saw that it was only 11:30PM. Then I panicked because I thought something must be wrong. There must be a fire or someone was hurt or some kind of emergency. I looked out my peep hole to find four of my girls standing in the hallway. I open the door and they told me that they thought their room was haunted! They said that water was dripping down a wall and a light that they didn’t turn on was on and they heard knocking, and then they looked on the Internet and "saw stuff." I told them to go to bed. 

We had breakfast at the cafeteria, then met at 8:15A to get on the bus and head back to Galveston Island State Park for beach cleanup. When we got there, we met with a lady from the organization called SPLASh. SPLASh collects garbage from the Galveston area beaches analyzes it to find what litter occurs most often. They found that typically the trash is bottle caps from things like water/soda bottles and styrofoam. The kids collected trash for about a half an hour before we cleaned up and headed back to camp. 

It was lunchtime when we returned, and then we had a little bit of free time before heading to the classroom for the afternoon.  Our lesson today was on marine mammals. Kids learned about different marine mammals and got to see some skulls from a sea lion, a polar bear and one more mammal I forgot. Then, they got to do the blubber investigation where they put their hand in a Ziploc bag coated in another Ziplock bag full of Crisco, then stick it in freezing cold water, and notice how they can’t feel the cold water. 

From there they were put into groups and had to work on their group project. Their group project was to create their own marine animal, give it a common name, scientific name, and list at least three fun facts about it. 

After the lesson, it was time to go to the beach. We met up in the lobby of the dorms with all of the other camps. After being given directions, we loaded up five buses and headed back to Galveston Island State Park. The kids got to swim for about an hour. I decided not to go in the water because I did not want to be stung by jellyfish. The kid were way braver than me. Many were stung, and they still went back in! 

I stayed on the shore and watched the kids interact with the marine life. One of my kids had brought a bucket and an aerator, and was trying to collect the sea animals to put in it and observe. He attracted quite an audience. They got a couple hermit crabs, but the most thing they were most excited about the eels. They had at least three eels they had found. I'm not sure where they found the first one, but I saw the second one stick its head out of the sand, and then the kids dug it out! It was a hard NOPE for me. I did some digging (ha) and I think what they found are called Shrimp Eels.

After swim time, we headed back up to the pavilions at the top of the beach for dinner. The counselors got to have snapper that the fishing camp had caught. It was taken to a local restaurant, (the same one I went to for dinner on Saturday), and cooked along with hush puppies, fries, and a delicious key lime pie. The campers all got to have hot dogs and chips.

After dinner, the rec crew took all the campers down to the beach to play some games while the counselors and the the rest of the staff got the s'more stuff ready. We put marshmallows on skewers and prepared the graham crackers and chocolate. I ended up having two s'mores. They were delicious.

At around 8:30 the mosquitos were coming out, so we headed back to camp for much needed showers and rest.

Friday, June 28, 2024 // Sea Camp, Day 6

Our final day of camp. After getting everybody up and heading to breakfast, we met together in the lobby. We headed over to the campus bookstore so the kids could do some shopping. I got myself a nice Texas A&M sweatshirt. Then we headed to the classroom so kids could finish their final projects. They had to take the idea they came up with yesterday and make their final poster to present.  As counselors and instructors, we had to judge to decide who had the best animal and presentation. The winner would get to present at the closing ceremony that afternoon.

Winner: the Fangler Fish

From there, we boarded the bus to head to The Strand. The Strand is like the downtown area of Galveston. We went to a place called Stuttgarden for lunch. The kids had a choice of chicken tenders, grilled cheese, cheeseburger, or hamburger. I had a cheeseburger.

After lunch, we headed to the The Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum. We spent an hour there, letting the kids explore at their own pace.

After the museum, we split into four groups. The instructors and rec stuff took our kids out to go shopping on the street. My co-counselor and I went shopping together a little bit away from the main road to get away from all the noise. We went to the Galveston Bookshop first, where I found a nice ghosts in Galveston book which is my favorite souvenir to buy when I travel. I also got T-shirts for the kiddos at another shop. Our last stop was for candy and ice cream at the ever-popular La Kings.

After a couple hours on The Strand, the group met back to to head back to campus to clean up and get ready for dinner. After dinner was our closing ceremony. The winning team got to present their animal poster and each camper was presented with a certificate.

Some campers left after closing ceremony, but others elected to stay until Saturday for check out. I took a couple girls to the pool until it closed, then came back to the dorms and  showered and started to get packed up. 

I can honestly say that I had a really great week, but it will be nice to get home to my bed, my shower and some clean clothes. Also to escape this Texas heat and humidity!

Saturday, June 29, 2024 // Sea Camp, Day 7

Today was the official final day of camp. I took the camp shuttle back to the airport with the four campers who were flying home. After getting the campers luggage checked and tagged, we went to Starbucks because we were all starving after the 6:30AM departure from the dorms. They all flew out before me, so I stayed with the campers until they had all boarded before heading to my gate. 

It was a toasty week, but I had a lot of fun! I could definitely see myself doing this again next year, if not for many summers to come. I'd love to try out the other camps offered!

Monday, June 17, 2024

#gretchensbooks2024 - May

Auditorily (apparently not a word, I'm using it anyway), this month was filled with more podcasts than books, and of course TTPD. Wrapping up the school year meant I didn’t have a ton of time for reading, but it means I WILL (hopefully) have a ton of time for reading coming up!

Book 46 of 2024 🎧 Only if You’re Lucky by Stacy Willingham (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller 

🗓PUBLISHED: 16 January 2024

Lucy Sharpe is larger than life. Magnetic, addictive. Bold and dangerous. Especially for Margot, who meets Lucy at the end of their freshman year at a liberal arts college in South Carolina. Margot is the shy one, the careful one, always the sidekick and never the center of attention. But when Lucy singles her out at the end of the year, a year Margot spent studying and playing it safe, and asks her to room together, something in Margot can't say no—something daring, or starved, or maybe even envious.

And so Margot finds herself living in an off-campus house with three other girls, Lucy, the ringleader; Sloane, the sarcastic one; and Nicole, the nice one, the three of them opposites but also deeply intertwined. It's a year that finds Margot finally coming out of the shell she's been in since the end of high school, when her best friend Eliza died three weeks after graduation. Margot and Lucy have become the closest of friends, but by the middle of their sophomore year, one of the fraternity boys from the house next door has been brutally murdered... and Lucy Sharpe is missing without a trace.

While not my favorite of hers, this one held my interest throughout, even on audio. I did not predict the ending coming, and I felt it was unique to the prep school story. It is more YA than adult thriller, which didn’t bother me, but may be a deal breaker for some.

Book 47 of 2024 📖 The Paradise Problem by Christina Lauren (5/5🌟)

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 14 May 2024

Anna Green thought she was marrying Liam “West” Weston for access to subsidized family housing while at UCLA. She also thought she’d signed divorce papers when the graduation caps were tossed, and they both went on their merry ways.

Three years later, Anna is a starving artist living paycheck to paycheck while West is a Stanford professor. He may be one of four heirs to the Weston Foods conglomerate, but he has little interest in working for the heartless corporation his family built from the ground up. He is interested, however, in his one-hundred-million-dollar inheritance. There’s just one catch.

Due to an antiquated clause in his grandfather’s will, Liam won’t see a penny until he’s been happily married for five years. Just when Liam thinks he’s in the home stretch, pressure mounts from his family to see this mysterious spouse, and he has no choice but to turn to the one person he’s afraid to introduce to his one-percenter parents—his unpolished, not-so-ex-wife.

But in the presence of his family, Liam’s fears quickly shift from whether the feisty, foul-mouthed, paint-splattered Anna can play the part to whether the toxic world of wealth will corrupt someone as pure of heart as his surprisingly grounded and loyal wife. Liam will have to ask himself if the price tag on his flimsy cover story is worth losing true love that sprouted from a lie.

Oh I loved this!! I got an ARC and saved it to read until just before publishing date. I forgot how much I love Christina Lauren books!! It starts out kind of sneaky, and then I was absolutely captivated by the characters. I wanted them to be end game so bad. And I wanted to go to some tropical island so bad!! The dad infuriated me, which was obviously the point, but still. Definitely recommend!!

Book 48 of 2024 📖 Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges Are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them by Ross W. Greene (4.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Non-Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 21 October 2008

School discipline is broken. Too often, the kids who need our help the most are viewed as disrespectful, out of control, and beyond help, and are often the recipients of our most ineffective, most punitive interventions. These students—and their parents, teachers, and administrators—are frustrated and desperate for answers.

Dr. Ross W. Greene, author of the acclaimed book 
The Explosive Child, offers educators and parents a different framework for understanding challenging behavior. Dr. Greene’s Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) approach helps adults focus on the true factors contributing to challenging classroom behaviors, empowering educators to address these factors and create helping relationships with their most at-risk kids.

This revised and updated edition of 
Lost at School contains the latest refinements to Dr. Greene’s CPS model, including enhanced methods for solving problems collaboratively, improving communication, and building relationships with kids.

Dr. Greene’s lively, compelling narrative includes:

• Tools to identify the problems and lagging skills causing challenging behavior
• Explicit guidance on how to radically improve interactions with challenging kids and reduce challenging episodes—along with many examples showing how it’s done
• Practical guidance for successful planning and collaboration among educators, parents, and kids

Backed by years of experience and research and written with a powerful sense of hope and achievable change, 
Lost at School gives teachers and parents the realistic strategies and information to impact the classroom experience of every challenging kid (and their classmates).

I worried a book of this topic would be dry and hard to get through, but that wasn’t the case at all! I liked the organization of it, and the questions and story of implementation supplied throughout.

The only this I wish it had was more solution ideas. I definitely thought of this book a lot when dealing with behaviors, and while I haven’t done the full she-bang since I read it at the end of the year, the little steps I did take from this book were very helpful!

Book 49 of 2024 🎧 Lone Wolf (Orphan X #9) by Gregg Hurwitz (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Action/Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 13 February 2024

💭 Favorite Quote: You go searching for crazy, you’ll find crazy. That’s why generally I search for bourbon.

Once a black ops government assassin known as Orphan X, Evan Smoak left the Program, went deep underground, and reinvented himself as someone who will go anywhere and risk everything to help the truly desperate who have nowhere else to turn. Since then, Evan has fought international crime syndicates and drug cartels, faced down the most powerful people in the world and even brought down a president. Now struggling with an unexpected personal crisis, Evan goes back to the very basics of his mission - and this time, the truly desperate is a little girl who wants him to find her missing dog.

Not his usual mission, and not one Evan embraces with enthusiasm, but this unlikely, tiny job quickly explodes into his biggest mission yet, one that finds him battered between twisted AI technocrat billionaires, a mysterious female assassin who seems a mirror of himself, and personal stakes so gut-wrenching he can scarcely make sense of them

Evan's mission pushes him to his limit - he must find and take down the assassin known only as the Wolf, before she succeeds in completing her mission and killing the people who can identify her - a teenaged daughter of her last target, and Evan himself. Matched skill for skill, instinct for instinct, Evan must outwit an opponent who will literally stop at nothing if he is to survive.

I love the Orphan X series as a whole, but this one wasn’t as interesting to me. There was a lot going on, and it just didn’t hold my attention like some of the previous books have. That being said, I definitely like these books more when I read them than when I listen to them.

Book 50 of 2024 🎧 Saving Emma by Allen Eskens (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 19 September 2023

When Boady Sanden first receives the case of Elijah Matthews, he’s certain there’s not much he can do. Elijah, who believes himself to be a prophet, has been locked up in a psychiatric hospital for the past four years, convicted of brutally murdering the pastor of a megachurch. But as a law professor working for the Innocence Project, Boady agrees to look into Elijah’s file. When he does, he is alarmed to find threads that lead back to the death of his colleague and friend, Ben Pruitt, a man shot to death four years earlier in Boady’s own home.
Ben’s daughter, Emma, has lived with Boady and Boady’s wife Dee ever since that awful night. Now fourteen years old, Emma has been growing distant, and soon makes a fateful choice that takes her far from the safety of her godparents. Desperate to bring her home, and to free an innocent man, Boady must do all he can to investigate Elijah’s case while fighting to save the family he has deeply come to love.
Written with energy, propulsion, and his characteristic pathos and insight, Eskens delivers another pitch-perfect legal thriller that reveals a twisted murder and explores faith, love, family, and redemption along the way.

This was technically the second book in a series, but you don’t need to read the first book to understand this one (though it was really good!) The characters in the story were likeable (well, the ones that were supposed to be anyway) and you can really feel their emotion in the writing. My only complaint is that the ending was dramatic and much too sudden!

FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Book 51 of 2024 🎧 Mine by Courtney Cole (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 28 May 2019

He’s mine. 

That’s what both Tessa and Lindsey believe about Ethan. But after getting caught in an affair months ago, Ethan ended things with Lindsey in an attempt to win back his wife. Lindsey refuses to let go of the relationship so easily and begins stalking Tessa. Tessa, still shattered from Ethan’s infidelity, finally hits her breaking point and snaps, devising a plan to lure Lindsey to her home one weekend when her husband is away. 

Told in alternating perspectives and set over the course of a weekend, Mine explores the emotional complexity of infidelity and its aftermath and what happens when those two scorned women finally meet face-to-face.

This one has been on my list for years, but I have no idea where I added it from. That being said, it was great to listen to! There were lots of twists, and I didn’t see the ending coming, but I loved how it resolved!

Book 52 of 2024 📱 Rebirth (Jack Randall #10) by Randall Wood (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: FBI Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 18 January 2018

Jack and his crew are distracted, searching for the escaped assassin, and not knowing that operation Rubicon is in motion. The General and William are determined see Rubicon through, and send the Shepherds out on their final mission. Haney and The Trust have other plans. But will they be in time? Jack senses something is coming—something big—and he doesn't know that he is now in the sights of both groups. When the final day arrives, it is a day that the citizens of the United States will never forget, a day of new beginnings and fateful ends, a day when everything and everyone will have closure. Will operation Rubicon succeed? Will Jack survive? Will Anna find her way home? By the time the sun rises, those questions will all be answered. Permanently. Both the nation and Jack will never be the same again. Rebirth is the sixth and final chapter of the Twelve Shepherds Saga.

This was the final book in the series, and let me tell you, I was ready for it to be over! I enjoyed reading it, but sometimes I felt like the series dragged on, and I really wanted to know how all the parts would wrap up! All in all, I enjoyed how the story resolved, but definitely felt like some parts could have been edited out of the series.

Book 53 of 2024 📖 Differentiating Phonics: instruction for Maximum Impact by Wiley Blevins (5/5🌟)

📚GENRE: Non-Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 17 January 2024

Teacher be nimble, teacher be quick―the routines in this book make phonics learning stick.

Author Wiley Blevins is renowned for changing the way educators think about teaching children to read, helping thousands of teachers implement effective phonics instruction. Now, Blevins gets us to think in powerful new ways about differentiating whole-class phonics lessons, so students at every skill level can engage. With Blevins’ trademark clarity, Differentiating Phonics Instruction for Maximum Impact provides:

  • High-impact routines that focus on the skills known to develop students’ literacy best.
  • Differentiated application of these routines―with fun multi-modal games and variations―for students working on- below-, and above grade-level expectations, and for multilingual learners
  • Guidelines for creating skills-based small groups for more intensive work
  • "Look-fors" for teachers and supervisors, to know when instruction is working or needs to be adjusted
  • Several reproducible phonics and spelling assessments for placement, progress monitoring, and formative assessments to keep every learner growing as readers and writers.

Differentiation needs to be in the DNA of every instructional plan―so all students′ skills progress every day. That’s a tall order, but with this resource, teachers discover that over time, doing the routines gives them a nimble, global sense of their learners and makes teaching more impactful and learning to read more joyful.

This book came up in my LETRS training, and then again in a book study, so we decided to do another book study on this book. It was really helpful! I liked the ideas presented, and I especially found the example lessons and strategies were really helpful. 

Book 54 of 2024 📖 Camino Ghosts by John Grisham (5/5🌟)

📚GENRE: Legal Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 28 May 2024

In this new thriller on Camino Island, popular bookseller Bruce Cable tells Mercer Mann an irresistible tale that might be her next novel. A giant resort developer is using its political muscle and deep pockets to claim ownership of a deserted island between Florida and Georgia. Only the last living inhabitant of the island, Lovely Jackson, stands in its way. What the developer doesn’t know is that the island has a remarkable history, and locals believe it is cursed…and the past is never the past…

Ooo this one was fun! I love when Grisham’s novels have bits of real life history in them, even if it’s modified to fit the story. And I liked that this one had a bit of voodoo mystery in it! It’s technically the third in a series, though could be read as a standalone. I love the characters in this, both old and new characters, and absolutely devoured this story!

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(Summaries are from Amazon, but all thoughts about them are my own!)

Reading Challenge: 54/120 books read in 2024

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