Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Trail Mix by Paulita Kincer (Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Trail Mix by author Paulita Kincer!

Book Review

Trail Mix by Paulita Kincer
Publisher: Oblique Presse
Publication Date: August 30, 2014
Format: Paperback - 220 pages
               Kindle - 2146 KB
ISBN: 978-1312462502
Genre: Women's Fiction / Travel / Adventure

Buy The Book:

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book.

Book Description:

In the tradition of Wild by Cheryl Strayed, comes a novel of two suburban women who decide to hike the Appalachian Trail, escaping their lives as moms and wives in search of nature, adventure, and the ultimate diet plan.

How does a woman know what she wants after spending 20 years thinking about her husband and children? Sometimes it takes a distraction from everyday life, time to examine the forest before the trees become clear. With no previous camping experience, Andi and Jess begin the 2100-mile odyssey from Georgia to Maine. The friends figure life on the trail can’t possibly be worse than dealing with disgruntled husbands, sullen teens home from college, and a general malaise that has crept up in their daily lives. At the very least, the women are bound to return home thin.

Book Excerpt:


Raindrops trickled down Jess’ nose. Her sodden boots plodded along, squooshing the mud with each step.
“Why did I do this?” She threw her head back, her face raised in lament to the sky. The hood of her rain poncho slipped off. The empty forest around her offered no answer, just a steady rain. Then, far above the treetops, she glimpsed a bolt of lightning streaking toward a nearby mountain and heard an answering boom of thunder. She cringed and scuttled faster down the trail.
For nearly two hours, since the wind first whispered its urgency through the leaves, and the raindrops began to fall, Jess had been hiking through the thunderstorm with no place to stop and dry off. No place to get warm. No offer of coffee or a dryer where she could heat up her clingy socks. She walked alone on the Appalachian Trail.
Like being in the middle of labor and deciding she didn’t want to give birth after all, Jess could not turn back. Well, she could turn back, but she would find only more of the same -- woods and rain and an endless trail.
This adventure was all Andi’s idea. As Jess trudged through the forest in the unrelenting rain, she blamed her best friend and hiking companion, Andi, who had pushed the hike as a great way to lose weight. And, when Jess’ teenagers took off for the summer leaving a big gap where the role of mother used to be, she thought a hike with Andi might fill that space. Andi, who, with her long legs, strode ahead, maybe miles away by now, claiming she had to hurry to the nearest shelter to keep the tent dry. Andi had tucked Jess’ poncho around her pack before presenting her back for Jess to return the favor.
“See you at the shelter,” Andi had called. “Only about three miles farther.”
In the city, a three-mile walk might take 45 minutes, an hour if she stopped to window shop. Here, in the mountains, it could last days as she climbed up peaks and descended into valleys. Oh, who was she kidding? She would never walk three miles in the city. She would get in her car and drive.
The thunder crashed louder, and Jess eyed the spiky greenery of a large fir tree. She could take cover under the tree, be a little bit sheltered. Even as she considered taking refuge, she stumbled past the tree, walking, walking.
Tears joined the rain on her face. She felt trapped. No exit ramps in sight. She could only continue to walk.
The wind ripped at her poncho as she climbed slippery stones that had been placed to form stairs. At the top, the wind gusts grew stronger and tried to push her back down. She hurried on along the ridge. Her walking poles dug into the mud that edged the rocks along the path.
On this crest, she stood exposed to the wind and rain and lightning. Rhododendron bushes lined the trail below, but the only plant that dared to peek through the crevices on this crag was a lone sycamore tree. If Jess could escape this bare slope, the trees ahead would provide an arching umbrella across the trail. As she started to descend with the trail, her boot slid across a slick stone, and she toppled backward in slow motion. She wheeled her arms, trying to right herself, but could not stop the plunge until her backpack hit the ground, and she landed – thump – on top of it.
This was supposed to be a diet plan, not a death sentence, she thought, lying on her back like a turtle on its shell, her arms and legs sprawled helplessly at her side. I may drown. The downpour pummeled her full in the face, but she lacked the energy to sit up, free herself from the 30-pound pack, heft it onto her back, and start the hike again.
As the rain doused her face, she slipped one arm from her pack and turned onto her side, away from the sky. For just a moment, she allowed herself to rest, curled into the fetal position beside her pack. A tingle began in her spine, and, in the moment she pondered why—everything went black.

My Book Review:

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hike the 2,100 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine? 

In Trail Mix by author Paulita Kincer, best friends Andi and Jess leave their family issues behind and embark on an arduous hiking adventure that will turn into a personal journey of self discovery that will change their friendship and lives!

Trail Mix is an inspirational women's fiction tale about two best friends and recent empty nesters, who embark on an adventure to hike the Appalachian Trail in a pursuit of weight loss and a new sense of purpose in their lives. As their adventure commences, the women encounter daily challenges to overcome, and a personal journey of self discovery that will test and redefine their friendship, while gaining a sense of personal inner growth.

I was so intrigued that two middle aged women would consider embarking on the difficult challenge of hiking the Appalachian Trail, that I easily found myself captivated as their adventure unfolded. Author Paulita Kincer weaves a delightful tale that interweaves the women's family issues with their decision to embark on the daunting hiking adventure under the guise of losing weight. I found myself feeling the gamut of emotions as I read their story, from "are they nuts" to cheering them on, these ladies sure kept me engaged and in awe as they dealt with the emotional and physical trials and tribulations during their adventure, I know I couldn't see myself doing that hike! The author provides the reader with an accurate and realistic portrayal of the daily rigor of undertaking the challenge of hiking the scenic trail. This is a riveting tale that has enough drama, tension, humor, obstacles, and personal growth that will easily keep the reader turning the pages.

Trail Mix has a breathtakingly rich description of the Appalachian Trail setting, complex and realistic characters, witty dialogue, and a wonderful storyline that explores friendships and family relationships, self-discovery, and an inspirational hiking experience that will leave a smile on your face.


 About The Author

Paulita Kincer is the author of three novels, The Summer of FranceI See London I See Franceand Trail Mix. She has an M.A. in journalism from American University and has written for The Baltimore Sun, The St. Petersburg Times, The Tampa Tribune, and The Columbus Dispatch. She currently teaches college English and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three children.

Virtual Book Tour Event Page

Click on the above link for a schedule of the tour participants.

Monday, September 28, 2015

All For Family by Olivia Hardin (Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for All For Family by author Olivia Hardin!

About The Book 

All For Family by Olivia Hardin
Book 3: A Rawley Family Novel Series
Publisher: Olivia Hardin
Publication Date: August 24, 2015
Format: Paperback - 200 pages
               Kindle - 3037 KB
               Nook - 890 KB
ISBN: 978-1515357841
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Women's Fiction

Buy The Book: All For Family
Barnes & Noble

Buy The Series: A Rawley Family Novel Series
Book 1: All For Hope
Book 2: Justice For All
Book 3: All For Family
Barnes & Noble

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book.

Book Description:

Wedding bells will soon be ringing in the Rawley family, but gearing up for Van and Kay’s nuptials revives old insecurities for Kay’s sister-in-law Meg. When she learns that her ex-husband is asking for her from his hospital bed, Meg must confront the painful memories of her past.

Family is everything for Jeremy Rawley. Most important is the one he and Meg created together. But their beginning was tangled in memories he wishes his wife could forget for good. A call from her past brings them back to a place he thought they’d never have to be again.

Forgiveness may be the key, but the first step is finding the locked heart that needs it.

Book Excerpt: 

He watched her slide her feet back and forth against the carpet. “Whew … there’s a reason big girls shouldn’t wear heels.”
Jeremy finished his own drink and sat back down beside her, this time reaching down and taking her feet to pull them up into her lap. She made a face as if she would protest, but when he began circling his thumbs into the arches of her feet, she leaned back against the arm of the couch and moaned. “Oh, that’s nice. Do they teach that at earl school?”
As he massaged, she pointed her feet in a stretch, and her toes brushed a feather’s touch against his thighs. Damn, but the woman could get a reaction from him almost without warning. He continued rubbing, then slipped his fingers between her toes.
“Oh, no, no, no,” she squealed, jerking to try to pull away from him. “Ticklish.”
“I figured…” One corner of his mouth turned up in a grin. He tugged her feet back to his lap, and when he did, the skirt of her dress hitched up almost past her knees. She immediately took hold of the hem and tried to push it back down.
He encircled both her ankles with his hands and then slid them upward along her calves, kneading the muscles of each leg as he went along.
“Jeremy, you don’t have to …”
“Shh …”
Her eyes were open wide, so many emotions in their depths that it was hard to figure what she was feeling. Fear? Embarrassment? Excitement? He pushed one of her legs to the side until it slipped off the couch, then he scooted forward into the open space between her thighs. With one ankle still in his hand, he lifted it so that he could sweep his lips across the creamy smooth skin of her calf, working his way upward.
She was still holding her dress, doing her best to cover up, but the hypnosis of his stare had her. She never once looked away from him as he made his way higher. When he nipped his teeth to the tender spot at the crook of her knee she flinched, then sucked her lip into her mouth.
He was so desperate to kiss her that he almost rose up to smother her body with his and claim her mouth. But he didn’t. Instead he let go of her leg and then took her hands, loosening the tight hold she had on her hemline. The satiny material dropped, sliding down her thighs to bunch at her waist. Under she had on tight nude-colored shapewear, which she was clearly embarrassed about.
Gazing up at her, he brought one of her hands to his cheek. Her fingers stretched long, tentatively touching his lips. When he sucked two of them into his mouth, she moaned and closed her eyes.
“Jeremy, why are you doing this?” She snatched her hands away and to her lap where she once again tried to hide herself under folds of orange fabric.

“I want there to be a day when you won’t ask that question. Maybe it won’t be with me, but one day, you won’t have to wonder why a man would worship you and your body.”

My Book Review:

In All For Family, author Olivia Hardin weaves a wonderful story of love, compassion, and forgiveness that will stir the soul and tug at the heartstrings.

All For Family is the third book in the Rawley Family Novel Series, and while it can be a standalone read, I would suggest that you read the books in sequential order. That being said, this story follows the courtship and marriage of Meg and Jeremy Rawley via the resurfacing of Meg's painful past when her dying ex-husband Ray requests to see her. 

The author does a wonderful job of interweaving the present with the past in a span of twelve years that takes the reader along on an emotional journey as Meg and Jeremy's love story unfolds. I loved how their heartwarming courtship develops via letters sent to each other, it was so romantic and very sigh worthy. You can't help but get caught up in Meg's story as her painful past with her ex-husband Ray rises to the surface, their marriage had been built on lies and cover ups, and she struggles with her insecurity about her appearance, yet she was beginning to grow stronger and independent when she meets the wealthy Jeremy Rawley, who shows her the true power of love and the beauty of how desirable a woman she really is. Meg's story comes full circle when she goes back to their hometown to confront her painful past and visits Ray in the hospital ICU, where she graciously accepts his apologies with compassion and forgiveness with Jeremy by her side.

I loved how All For Family begins with Ray's request to see Meg, then flows smoothly back into the past twelve years ago with the unfolding of Meg and Jeremy's courtship, and finally brings the reader back to the present with a touching and emotional conclusion that will simply leave a smile on your face. 


About The Author

When Olivia Hardin started having movie-like dreams in her teens, she had no choice but to begin putting them to paper. Before long, the writing bug had bitten her, and she knew she wanted to be a published author. Several rejections plus a little bit of life later, she was temporarily “cured” of the urge to write. That is, until she met a group of talented and fabulous writers who gave her the direction and encouragement she needed to get lost in the words again.

Olivia has attended three different universities over the years and toyed with majors in Computer Technology, English, History and Geology. Then one day she heard the term “road scholar,”' and she knew that was what she wanted to be. Now she “studies” anything and everything just for the joy of learning. She's also an insatiable crafter who only completes about 1 out of 5 projects, a jogger who hates to run, and she’s sometimes accused of being artistic.

A native Texas girl, Olivia lives in the beautiful Lone Star state with her husband, Danny and their puppy, Bonnie.

Virtual Book Tour Event Page

Click on the above link for the schedule of tour participants.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wake-Up Call by Amy Avanzino (Book Review)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Wake-Up Call by author Amy Avanzino!

Book Review

Wake-Up Call by Amy Avanzino 
Book 1: Wake-Up Series
Publisher: Henery Press
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Format: Paperback - 246 pages
               Kindle - 761 KB
               Nook - 1 MB
ISBN: 978-1941962817
BNID: 2940151651431
Genre: Chick Lit / Contemporary Romance / Women's Fiction

Buy The Book: 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

Sarah Winslow wakes up with a terrible hangover…and a kid in her boyfriend’s bed. She makes the horrifying discovery that, due to a head injury, it’s not a hangover. She’s got memory loss. Overnight, five years have disappeared, and she’s no longer the hard-living, fast-track, ad executive party girl she thinks she is. Now, she’s the unemployed, pudgy, married, stay-at-home-mom of three kids under five, including twins.

As she slowly pieces together the mystery of how her dreams and aspirations could have disintegrated so completely in five short years, she finds herself utterly failing to manage this life she can’t imagine choosing. When Sarah meets the man of her dreams, she realizes she’s got to make a choice: Does she follow her bliss and “do-over” her life? Or does the Sarah she’s forgotten hold the answers to how she got here…and how she can stay?

My Book Review:

What's a girl to do when she wakes up and discovers that she doesn't recognize her life?

In her debut novel Wake-Up Call, author Amy Avanzino weaves an entertaining tale that follows Sarah Winslow's personal journey of self-discovery after waking up with a head injury that results in amnesia and the loss of the last five years of her life.

Set in Washington state and told in the first person narrative, Sarah wakes up thinking that she has one hell of a hangover, only to discover that she doesn't recognize her surroundings ... and even worse ... she doesn't remember being married with three young sons! A once successful advertising executive with a promising future, Sarah is now a full-time stay-at-home mom. She can't believe that this isn't a nightmare, that it is really happening to her, and she wants to go back five years to her former life! Sarah is in for a wake-up call when she realizes that she has to deal with the reality of her new life.

Wake-Up Call is an entertaining tale that easily draws the reader into Sarah's life and the challenges that she faces when she questions how her life has changed, and whether she can make a go of her new life or get a do-over. This is an intriguing story that had a great mixture of humor and drama, you can't help but ponder what would you do if you were in Sarah's shoes. It is easy to relate to Sarah's struggles, especially if you find yourself looking in the mirror and wondering how you got to where you are in life.

Wake-Up Call is a heartwarming story about life, choices, decisions, regrets, happiness, family, love, and discovering what the really important things are in life.


About The Author

Amy Avanzino
received a Bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a Master's from the University of Washington. She is a former advertising executive, who has spent the last several years writing, while doing extensive hands-on research for her Wake-Up Call series. She’s a contributing writer of Hap Scotch, a play performed at the 2008 Frigid Festival in New York, which won two Audience Choice Awards. Amy currently lives in Folsom, California, with her husband and four children.

Author Website

Virtual Book Tour

Tour Schedule:

September 16 – Chick Lit Plus
September 17 – Miss Maggie Reads
September 18 - Lozza’s Book Corner
September 21 – Love Chick Lit
September 22 – Polished & Bubbly
September 23 – Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Monday, September 21, 2015

Taking The Ice by Jennifer Comeaux (Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with IFB Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Taking The Ice by author Jennifer Comeaux!

Book Review

Taking The Ice by Jennifer Comeaux
Book 3: Ice Series
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: August 17, 2015
Format: Paperback - 166 pages
               Kindle - 391 KB
ISBN: 978-0990434238
Genre: Contemporary Romance / New Adult / Sports Themed - Ice Skating

Buy The Book:
Barnes & Noble

Buy The Series: Ice Series
Book 1: Crossing The Ice
Book 2: Losing The Ice
Book 3: Taking The Ice
Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by IFB Tours.

Book Description:

Olympic rings and an engagement ring.

Courtney Carlton is ready for both.

She and her boyfriend Josh have skated together and dated for four years, and they’ve reached a critical point in their partnership both on and off the ice. With the Winter Games coming up and their career nearing an end, they are fighting to win a spot on the Olympic team, something Courtney has dreamed of since she was ten years old.

She also has another wish she hopes comes true soon. She’s waiting for a marriage proposal from Josh that she expected to happen by now. Will she realize either dream or will her heart be broken from disappointment?

Book Teaser:

My Book Review:

In Taking The Ice, the third and final book in the Ice series, the story featuring the ice skating pair of Courtney and Josh continues with more angst, drama, romance, and exhilarating ice skating.

Author Jennifer Comeaux once again calls upon her passion for competitive ice skating to weave an emotionally dramatic tale of friendship, love, and competitive dreams that will steal your breath away. If you are a fan of ice skating and all the drama that goes on behind the scenes, then this new series is a must read. If you are a hopeless romantic who loves the dramatic challenges and trials and tribulations that Courtney and Josh will face as they try to balance achieving their Olympic ice skating dreams while they take their love relationship to the next level, then you are in for a treat with this sweet romantic story.

Author Jennifer Comeaux pulls out all the stops and takes the reader on one final exhilarating and emotional roller coaster ride as Courtney & Josh's love story continues to unfold with a heartwarming and sigh worthy climatic conclusion. There are not enough words to express how much I loved following Courtney and Josh's journey, I was captivated from the beginning and left completely satisfied at the conclusion. There is just something so exciting about reading a romance story that has a wonderful mixture of romance and the sport of competitive ice skating, it simply draws you in and leaves you breathless.

With an intriguing cast of recurring and new characters; engaging dialogue and dramatic interactions; a richly detailed description of the settings and world of Olympic competitive ice skating; and a riveting storyline full of drama, angst, suspense and romance; Taking The Ice is an amazing lighthearted romantic story that will leave you believing in the power of love, sighing and smiling, and wishing that the exciting Ice series would continue (sigh).



About The Author

Jennifer Comeaux
is a tax accountant by day, writer by night. There aren’t any ice rinks near her home in south Louisiana, but she’s a die-hard figure skating fan and loves to write stories of romance set in the world of competitive skating. One of her favorite pastimes is traveling to competitions, where she can experience all the glitz and drama that inspire her writing. Jennifer loves to hear from readers!

Visit for contact information and to learn more about her books.

Author Website

Contest Giveaway

Win A $20 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Virtual Book Tour

Click on the above link for the schedule of tour participants.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Girl Meets Class by Karin Gillespie (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Girl Meets Class by author Karin Gillespie!

Author Guest Post

The Real-Life Story Behind Girl Meets Class 

It was the early nineties, and I was at the Board of Education accepting my first teaching position in special education. Special education has a very high burnout rate—three years is the usual tenure. Even though I had no experience I had my pick of schools. I said to the supervisor, “Tell me about the high school position.”

“You don’t want to teach there,” she said. “Roughest school in town. The turnover is outrageous. You won’t last a week.”

It was as if I was standing on the edge of a jagged cliff overlooking a lake. I could stay safe and sound on terra firma or I could jump. All my life I’d only know upper middle class comforts, but there was a part of me that hungered for a different version of reality. To my surprise I said, “I’ll take the job!”

The first day I breezed into my classroom, traveling in a cloud of idealism and naiveté. My students stared at me with open mouthed silence; I thought I was mesmerizing them, but in reality they were stunned by my utter cluelessness. One of them was so stunned he threw a chair at me just to make it stop.

Not an auspicious start.

I taught at that school for ten years, and my time spent there is the inspiration for my novel Girl Meets Class. Writing from real-life can be a challenge and the worst thing that happened to me I left out of the novel but I managed to muddle through.

My protagonist is Toni Lee Wells, a Georgia peach, who has been living a freewheeling Tiffany and Wild Turkey lifestyle. Her wealthy family finally gets fed up with her shenanigans and cut off her monthly allowance but also make her a sweetheart deal: Get a job, keep it for a year, and you’ll receive an early inheritance. Act the fool or get fired, and you’ll lose it for good.

Toni Lee signs up for a fast-track Teacher Corps program. She hopes for an easy teaching gig, but what she gets is an assignment to Harriet Hall, a high school that churns out more thugs than scholars.

People who’ve read advance copies of the novel ask me, “Did all this stuff really happen to you?”

Of course not. It’s fiction, and Toni Lee is definitely not me. (She’s an ex pro tennis player, and I don’t know a double fault from a match point.) However many events in the book happened to me or one of my colleagues.

Some of you who know me from my Bottom Dollar series might say, “Wow! This is quite a departure for you.”

Not as much as you might think. Girl Meets Class touches on some tough subjects but it’s basically a lighthearted, fish-out-of-water story about a frivolous Southern belle who needs to learn that her world is bigger than the gated, privileged community in which she lives.

About The Author

Karin Gillespie is national bestselling author of five novels and a humor columnist for Augusta Magazine. Her nonfiction writing had been in the New York Times, The Writer Magazine and Romantic Times. She maintains a website and blog at Sign up for her newsletter on her website, follow her on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook.

Author Website

Book Review

Girl Meets Class by Karin Gillespie
Publisher: Henery Press
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
Format: Paperback - 266 pages
               Kindle - 526 KB
               Nook - 1 MB
ISBN: 978-1941962855
BNID: 2940151479080
Genre: Chick Lit / Southern Fiction / Women's Fiction

Buy The Book:

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

Book Description:

The unspooling of Toni Lee Wells’ Tiffany and Wild Turkey lifestyle begins with a trip to the Luckett County Jail drunk tank. An earlier wrist injury sidelined her pro tennis career, and now she’s trading her tennis whites for wild nights roaming the streets of Rose Hill, Georgia.

Her wealthy family finally gets fed up with her shenanigans. They cut off her monthly allowance but also make her a sweetheart deal: Get a job, keep it for a year, and you’ll receive an early inheritance. Act the fool or get fired, and you’ll lose it for good.

Toni Lee signs up for a fast-track Teacher Corps program. She hopes for an easy teaching gig, but what she gets is an assignment to Harriet Hall, a high school that churns out more thugs than scholars.

What’s a spoiled Southern belle to do when confronted with a bunch of street smart students who are determined to make her life as difficult as possible? Luckily, Carl, a handsome colleague, is willing to help her negotiate the rough teaching waters and keep her bed warm at night. But when Toni Lee gets involved with some dark dealings in the school system, she fears she might lose her new beau as well as her inheritance.

Book Excerpt:

The unspooling of my Tiffany and Wild Turkey lifestyle began with a trip to the Luckett County Jail. It was mid-July in Rose Hill, Georgia, and I was trapped in the backseat of a police car. The air inside was close and thick like sawmill gravy. Up front the radio crackled and hissed with static as the dispatcher announced the city’s Thursday night dark doings: a mugging, a domestic disturbance, and a pit-bull fight.

“Don’t you people have an armed robbery or a murder to go to?”

No response from behind the mesh barrier. Might as well have been a mute mosquito.

The law enforcement center loomed over the hill, a tombstone-colored tower leaking a sickly, yellow light. First time I laid eyes on the place I scared myself silly, imagining strip searches, filthy cells and sadistic wardens. This time the sight barely made me flinch.

Here we go again, I thought.

We arrived, and the cops hustled me out of the car and into a processing room. It contained a haphazard collection of utilitarian desks and smelled like dirty feet. A stout policewoman lumbered toward me. She had a gray front tooth and a sprig of hair creeping out of her nostril. I wasn’t her typical customer, and she was sizing me up.

I tried to see myself through her eyes: A twenty-one year-old blonde, blinking and stumbling in the harsh fluorescent lights, wearing a strapless pink party dress, gold gladiator sandals, and diamond drop earrings.

Maybe she was imagining what kind of car I drove—a cherry-red Porsche Boxter convertible—or who my people were. Likely she’d heard of my family’s company and probably had a few cans of Cornelia’s Southern-Style lima beans or black-eyed peas collecting dust in her pantry. Most everyone in America did.

I was photographed and fingerprinted. The cop confiscated my python clutch and peered at the contents, a lipstick in a plum shade called Promiscuous and a Platinum Visa in the name of Toni Lee Wells. If only I could give her that card and make my latest blunder go away.

She glanced up from my clutch and gave me a look that could freeze vodka. It seemed to say, “I don’t care who you are, princess. Now you belong to me.”

The cop gestured for me to follow her. We were headed in the opposite direction of the holding cells. For a brief panicky moment I wondered if she was taking me to some secret dark room where repeat offenders were taught a lesson with a rubber hose. Instead I was led to a dank narrow hallway with a stone bench. “Sit,” she said. “Someone’s on the way to pick you up.”

I was relieved, naturally, but also curious. Who was coming? It’s not like I’d called anyone. After a few minutes my father approached, wearing a pair of wrinkled camouflage pants and a John Deere cap.

Daddy hugged me with his meaty arms, wrapping me in his scent, oak chips mixed with perspiration. The embrace went on for more than a minute. It was as if I’d been released from a ten-year stay in a Turkish prison instead of a brief jaunt to jail.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said.

Outside bloated clouds scudded overhead; the sky seemed close enough to touch. A jacked-up, emerald-green Cadillac roared past us, its frame shimmying with the bass from a rap song. I climbed into the refuge of my daddy’s Land Rover. His yellow Lab, Beau, pounced on my lap and bathed my cheeks with warm, liver-snap scented saliva.

“How’d you know I was here?”

My daddy’s freckled scalp shone through his thinning red hair. “Sibbie Stevens saw you being put into the back of a police car outside Bistro 91. Public intoxication, Toni Lee? What did you do?”

“Nothing. Just fell asleep. That’s not a crime.”

Not unless you were operating heavy equipment, which I wasn’t. Just my iPhone a few minutes before I passed out.

“Fell asleep where?”

“In the bar. It was just a little catnap. Don’t know why they felt they had to call the law.”

That wasn’t the whole story, but no need to share all the damning details. Before I hit the ground, I’d been singing along to a Katy Perry song on my phone, maybe a little too loudly and probably off-key. The usual bartender, Rita, was out sick and a snippy substitute was working in her place. The sub asked me to cut out the singing, and I tried to loosen her up by asking her to dance with me. Somehow I ended up knocking over a couple of highball glasses on the bar. Then I got dizzy and the next thing I remember was a cop pulling me up from the floor.

It’d have never happened if Rita had been on duty. Whenever I got a little wobbly in my shoes, she always took good care of me. In exchange I made sure she went home with a nice fat tip tucked into her pocketbook.

No more shots of Cuervo Gold, I thought. I’d only started drinking heavily a few months ago and was still learning the ins and outs of alcohol. Tequila was in a class by itself. No wonder they called it to-kill-ya.

On the way home, my father’s silence was so loud he might as well have been yelling at me. I was grateful when his Land Rover sailed through the security checkpoint at the entrance of Country Club Hills. The car came to a stop in front of my condo, and he gripped the steering wheel so hard his knuckles were white.

I broke the silence between us. “I don’t know what got into me tonight, but it was a one-time thing. It’ll never happen again.”

By then I felt completely sober. A trip to jail was a guaranteed buzzkill.

Daddy gave me a hard look. “One-time thing, huh?”

I nodded vigorously.

“That’s odd because according to one of the officers you’re practically a regular at the jail. Few more trips and they’ll be naming a cell after you.”

“Two trips hardly makes me a—-”

“It’s not just that,” he continued. “You’ve been out of control for months. I’m still getting calls about that terrible thing you did to Baby Bowen at Lois Atkins’ funeral.”

I’d never live that stunt down. Ten years from now people would probably still be talking what I’d done to Baby Bowen at that funeral.

“Maybe you ought to give that Dr. Lyons another try.”

I wrinkled my nose. Dr. Lyons had white carpet in his office and made me take off my shoes before I was given permission to enter. During our visit, he kept squirting Purell into his hands. He seemed crazier than I could ever aspire to be.

Daddy was scratching Beau’s ears, waiting for me to speak.

“Forget Dr. Lyons.”

He let out a heavy exhale of air.

“I understand why you’re acting out like this. Anyone in your situation probably would, and I’m the first to sympathize. But here’s the thing—”

“I’m tired. Can we talk about this another time?”

“Toni Lee.”

“It’s really late. You should get back to bed.” I patted his arm. That’s when I noticed a faded yellow bruise on his bicep.

“What did you do to yourself this time?” My father was the most accident-prone man I’d ever met. He was forever running into doors or tripping on loose stones. If there was a banana peel within a ten-mile radius he’d find it and slip on it.

“Don’t try change the subject.”

I kissed his cheek. “Goodnight, Daddy.”

“This is serious.”

I mussed his wispy hair and flounced out of the car.

“Toni Lee!”

I ignored him and sprinted to my condo, a replica of a three-story Italianate villa divided into six residences.

Inside it was bright and noisy. As usual I’d left on every light, and the television blared with a commercial advertising a Chevy Truck Blow-Out sale. I hurried to the kitchen and popped open a bottle of Zin Your Face, a California Zinfandel. I chose wines with funny names; it made alcohol seem tame and friendly, like Hi-C with a kick. One glass, I thought. I surveyed the contents of my cupboards and chose a brandy snifter the size of a baby’s head.

I filled the glass to the brim and moved to the living room, plunked down in front of the large screen TV, and shoved Texas Chainsaw Massacre into the Blu-ray player. I was addicted to horror movies, the gorier the better. They helped put problems into their proper perspective. Yes, my life might have recently taken an unlucky turn but at least I wasn’t being chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. In fact, if I was a shrink and one of my patients was having a meltdown, my advice would be to watch Evil Dead 2 and call me in the morning.

My Book Review:

If you are looking for a Southern Chick Lit / Women's Fiction story that has a mixture of sass and poignancy, then look no further, Girl Meets Class is the book for you.

Toni Lee Wells is a twenty-one year old Georgia peach from a well-to-do family. Toni Lee was an aspiring tennis professional, whose career was prematurely cut short when she suffered a permanent injury to her wrist. Tennis was her passion and the loss of her career sent her life spiraling out of control with outrageous spending sprees, heavy drinking, and numerous run-ins with the law for public intoxication. After six months of her endless aimlessness and being out of control, Toni Lee's father and Aunt Cornelia have had enough and decide it is time to implement harsh measures, and teach Toni Lee a life lesson from the school of hard knocks. They take away her very generous monthly allowance, her rent free luxurious condo, and credit cards. Aunt Cornelia gives Toni an ultimatum: get a respectable job, keep the job for one year, stay out of trouble, and she will receive an early inheritance in the amount of five million dollars. With a tennis career gone and a college degree in general studies, Toni Lee attends a career fair and applies for The Teaching Corps, an accelerated teacher training program with a goal to secure a teaching job in the local school system while completing the program. She accepts a special education teaching position at Harriet Hall High School, an inner city high school. So what's a spoiled Southern belle to do when she suddenly finds herself on an unexpected adventure with a difficult challenge that could make or break the lifestyle as she has known it?

Author Karin Gillespie weaves a wonderful lighthearted tale set in Rose Hill, Georgia that follows Toni Lee Wells' journey of self-discovery. Told in the first person narrative by Toni Lee, the reader follows the sassy young lady's adventure into a side of life that she wasn't born and raised in, it's a journey that will open her eyes to what is really important, and teach her a lesson that will ultimately change her life.

I really enjoyed the intertwining of humor and poignancy in the storyline, you can't help but get caught up in Toni Lee's journey as this spoiled young lady learns about the world outside the privileged community that she has grown up in. I really was not a fan of Toni Lee in the beginning of the story, but I did grow to like her as she made a transformation when she encountered the challenges and issues at the inner-city school. I really enjoyed how the author utilized her previous experience as a high school special education teacher to weave a story that is realistic and touches upon the challenges of the inner-city school system and social issues, yet also shows how passionate special education teachers really are.

Girl Meets Class is an entertaining feel-good story that will leave a smile on your face.


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