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

You can find previous book reviews here and add me on Goodreads here! Also, if you use StoryGraph, you can add me here!

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