Katherine Kuzma-Beck

An academic mom.

A couple days ago, my mentor had informed me that my doctoral dissertation had received school approval and following a few brief formatting edits would be ready to be sent in for publication review. This is a giant step towards completing my doctorate and for some, I have entered the part of this journey where I just have paperwork and a conference call left before my dissertation is completed and I graduate with my PhD.

doctoral regalia

My doctoral regalia. It’s a long cry from the one I wore at Rutgers University commencement and also the slightly cooler than Rutgers one I had for my master’s from SNHU.

I thought the timing was rather funny because a couple of months ago, I was contacted by an editor at editage.com, a blogging website that shares personal stories of academics and doctoral candidates about their work, life and the craziness of going through this process about having some of my blogs from here republished on their site. They were mostly ones about being pregnant and writing and then being Logan’s mom and still having to write.

https://www.editage.com/insights/the-best-week-of-my-life

This one was one of my favorites because it reminded me of when we thought we were going to do this whole gender reveal party, but Logan just wanted us to know right then and there that he was a boy.

https://www.editage.com/insights/how-does-she-do-it-all

Then there was this one where I shared what it’s really like to be working full-time, adjuncting AND writing a doctoral dissertation while being a mom to a new baby. I teared up re-reading this one because it reminded me of how hard this journey has been and how much of me it took, but I still think it was worth it because I kept my dream going even into motherhood and I am setting a good example for my son and future children.

https://www.editage.com/insights/life-gave-me-a-big-surprise-on-the-cusp-of-me-becoming-a-doctor

And then, the time where I found out that I was pregnant and a newlywed AND set to begin doctoral comps just as I was hitting the “pretty pregnant” stage.

I wouldn’t change any of it. I am so proud of where I have come and where I will go from here and my heart just bursts at the idea that I have this beautiful family that I get to be with as I do it all. I am so thankful where my life has taken me and I am so grateful for my husband and our little prince who’s already walking and screaming MOM whenever he wants me. It’s just the best.

 

dartmoorWho doesn’t love a period book set against a vast English countryside complete with a sweeping country manor and a couple of amateur sleuths that are eager to get a break from Victorian London and the murder mystery that they just solved?

A Merriweather and Royston Mystery

Death Comes to Dartmoor is the second installment of the Merriweather and Royston Mysteries. The novel picks up on the heels of the first book. That said, this installment is hard to get into and fully understand the backstory if you have not read, The Butterfly Conspiracy. It is beneficial to read the first book of this series before you begin Death Comes to Dartmoor or you might be lost and not be able to get into the mystery that unfolds for our pair of zoologists whose vacation doesn’t go anywhere near as planned.

Murder in the Village

I don’t know what it is about Devon, maybe it’s the moors and the overall vibe of the village, but there are so many novels like And Then There Were None and even The Hounds of the Baskervilles that use the moors and Devon as their setting. Much like stories before, our main characters Merula Merriweather and Lord Rayven Royston arrive in Devon with Merriweather’s maid, Lamb, and Royston’s valet, Bowspirit only to find that their idyllic country getaway is going to be far from what they expected.

Oaks, their host, is acting incredibly strange. The specimens that he collects are thought to be coming back to life and then, his maid disappears. Oaks is bordering on delusional and the villagers are calling for his blood. Almost inevitably, the maid turns up dead and Oaks is the main suspect, leaving Merriweather and Royston to delve into the mystery that they have walked into and prove Oaks’ innocence.

Continuing Story Line

In The Butterfly Conspiracy, we learn that Merriweather does not know who her parents are. She has lived with an aunt and uncle who have loved and raised her, but she is still determined to find out where she comes from. Merriweather’s parental lineage comes into play again when she encounters a man from a traveling theater company at a local gathering who makes the comment that she looks so much like her mother. Merriweather is given a lead into her mother’s past that she is eager to flesh out and it will be interesting to see what the story of her parents are and how she reacts when she finally uncovers the truth behind her parents’ past and how it will play out in future books within this series.

Book Information

Death Comes to Dartmoor: A Merriweather and Royston Mystery by Vivian Conroy will be released on August 13, 2019, from Crooked Lane Books with ISBN 9781643850092. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review. To snag special pre-order pricing click the link above!

twisterThis was my first book to pick up from the Jane Lawless Series. It can be a stand-alone book and I only was slightly confused by relationships and characters going in. It would have been helpful to have read the other books in this series just to understand the returning characters more. However, other than that I enjoyed this cozy murder mystery.

The Murder

Four years ago, everyone assumed that Gideon Wise and Rashad May were happily married. That is until Rashad was arrested for Gideon’s murder. Rashad is inevitably sentenced to prison where he remains for four years until Jane Lawless agrees to help her father reopen the case.

A Cast of Characters

As restauranter and private eye, Jane Lawless delves deeper into Rashad’s case, we are met with a cast of colorful, fun characters that all could possibly be Gideon’s murderer. Ellen Hart does a solid job at keeping us guessing as to who the true killer of Gideon actually is. What is clear is that Rashad May really didn’t have anything that would make him want to kill his husband. Jane is ready to dive deeper into the case when her own brother who has been strangely absent makes a surprise visit home.

A Suprise Visitor

Jane’s brother Peter surprises everyone with not only his visit, but also with a break in the case for Peter is connected to the J.H. Chenoweth Gallery. As Jane has already figured out, the gallery was the only other access that there was to Gideon and Rashad’s home. However, Peter is still carrying a torch for Kit Lipton-Chenoweth, the wife of gallery owner John Henry Chenoweth. He becomes angry with Jane when she questions Kit and it clear that he has held his feelings for Kit for a long time, ever since she was with Eli, Peter’s former dealer, and John Henry’s own son.

Book Information

Twisted at the Root: A Jane Lawless Mystery is scheduled to be released from Minotaur Books an imprint of St. Martin’s Press with ISBN 9781250308429 on August 13, 2019. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

To snag special pre-order pricing follow this link —> https://amzn.to/2Mp1bL4

 

 

andthentheyweredoomedAs a middle school language arts teacher by day, one of my favorite authors to teach is Agatha Christie. The kids get so into it even though the language and time are dated because Christie is such a master at weaving together a mystery and making you think it is someone when the twist at the end is someone entirely different that you often either never thought of or even forgot about as the story went on. Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli borrows many Christie references that weave this cozy, dark mystery through its pages.

A Mysterious Letter

If you are a fan of And Then There Were None, you know that 10 strangers receive an invitation from the mysterious Owens’ to enjoy a long weekend on Solider Island, a luxurious residence that stands alone on an island. None of them have anything in common other than having been involved with murder and gotten away with it. Slowly, they are killed one by one until there is only one of them left. So, when author Zoe Zola receives a letter edged in black inviting her to an Agatha Christie symposium at an old Upper Peninsula hunting lodge, she is a little bit spooked especially when she realizes that she has been invited by a Ms. Emily Brent. In Christie’s novel, Emily Brent was an old pious spinster who drove her maid to suicide when she found out that the girl was pregnant. Zola goes anyway, eager to find out the mystery behind the letter and what is about to unfold at the old hunting lodge.

10 Little Christie Scholars…

Much like Christie’s And Then There Were None, 10 Christie Scholars appear on the Peninsula. Each one has an eerie resemblance or some similarity to one of the people from Christie’s novel. For instance, some of their names are the same or similar or even more strangely, just sound like one of the characters from Christie’s book. All the guests assemble for dinner and their first lecture. Here, Zoe notices that there are figurines of children around the floral centerpieces only they are not as innocent as they appear because each represents a line from the famous poem that the killer uses in And Then There Were None  to kill each of their victims:

soldier boys

And much like Buzzelli’s source material, Zoe soon finds that each night brings about a new disappearance of a guest and she must find a way to survive long enough to get herself off the Peninsula. She immediately calls her friend Jenny Weston for help, only, Jenny has to wait out the storm over Lake Superior before she can get to her friend. Zoe must use her wits to keep herself safe until help arrives. As she waits, Zoe’s story unfolds and the secrets of her own past and of her family’s are brought to light.

This dark cozy mystery is a fast read and if you love Agatha Christie, you will surely love, And Then They Were Doomed the fourth installment of the Little Library Mysteries.

Book Information

And Then They Were Doomed by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli is scheduled to be released on August 13, 2019 with ISBN 9781643850009 from Crooked Lane Books. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic copy from the publisher that was given in exchange for this review.

For special pre-ordering pricing, snag your copy here —–> https://amzn.to/30OjzQl

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love one of my favorite lines is this: ” Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”

In 2013, my life kind of fell apart much like it did when I had graduated from college. I was in an awful relationship that finally ended. I was acting as a French teacher though I wasn’t properly certified to be a French teacher and that too, abruptly ended when they found someone with the certificate to finish the year. The next 6 months brought with it so much change.

I finally landed a tenure track position that I was certified for. I met my husband. I enrolled in my master’s program. Within a year, my life was so completely different. What had started out as a really hard time quickly blossomed into what would become my real adult life. Within 2 years, I had bought my first house, moved out of my first single gal apartment and made a real commitment to my husband who was just my boyfriend then and I enrolled in my doctoral program.

Yesterday, my handsome baby boy stole my heart, even more, when he called me “mom.” And he called me mom all day because I made such a big deal every time he did. All he wanted yesterday was his mom and when I would put him down or not be by him, he was next to me in seconds with his big brown eyes fixed on me and his hands gripping my pants going “momomomomom.” I just can’t. He is the absolute best and I am so incredibly lucky that I get to be his mom.

Later yesterday evening, I took Logan outside to go get the mail from the mailbox and our entire front lawn was alive with what had to be 50-something dragonflies. We just stood and watched them zip all around us. When I was 19, I got a tattoo of a dragonfly on my hip. I got it because dragonflies are symbolic of transformation and at the time, I was transforming into a student of art history who was about to go live on her own in New Brunswick. I have always loved dragonflies and I have them throughout our home.

dragonflies-gabriela-valencia

Dragonflies by Gabriela Valencia

This afternoon, news came back from my mentor that my committee approved of my dissertation which means I am now, officially, only two steps away from being able to call myself Dr. My life is transforming again and by this time next year, I know that I am going to be in a very different place in my life altogether. Everything I have been working for since that point of ruin is transforming me into who I was meant to become and it is amazing and almost indescribable to finally be at this point.

D7HAokEW4AApx8a

To anyone who ever said I couldn’t do it or I wouldn’t finish, take a look at this. I did all of this while pregnant and newly post-partum. I did it with no sleep and a newborn nursing from me every 2 hours. I did it because I dreamed it and I wanted it bad enough. I wanted to change my life and I did. As my mentor will always say, ONWARD!

 

My husband and I were together for almost 4 years before we got married. We took our time, we dated for a year and a half before we moved in together. Then we lived together for a year before we got engaged and were engaged for a year before we got married. We enjoyed each other and we enjoyed getting to know each version of each other that we got to meet as our relationship changed and deepened. However, falling in love with each other happened fairly quickly. We knew we wanted to be with each other exclusively by the fourth date and by 6 months, we were talking about building a future together.

 

I had lunch with an old friend a couple of months ago and when we met up, I found out that she had ended it with what she thought was going to be her person because he suddenly decided he didn’t really want to be with her, but at the same time didn’t want to let her go either. Girl, I remember that relationship all too well. It takes a lot of courage to let go of the sliver of hope that one day it’ll be good again and brave it alone. She had asked me how I knew that my husband was different and at the time I really didn’t have an answer other than I just knew and it was because he spoke differently than other men had before him.

I’ve had four relationships in my life. I had the high school into college boyfriend who at the end of it, we found that we were more friends than we were romantic partners, I had the big one that leveled me, I had the rebound relationship and then I met my husband. And there were a bunch of bad dates, weird run-ins and a couple of whatever this is, it isn’ts. All of my boyfriends had told me that they had loved me, they had had their sweet moments and they had had their raising jerk moments too and outside of the big heartbreak, the rest all had mentioned wanting a future with me (he would say things that would always allude to a future, but he never really said it). He’d say things like “I know you’re going to be happy from now on and I know you’ll never feel alone again,” but that’s really where it ended. And with the others, those words always seemed superficial and like they were saying it because they thought that was what I wanted to hear rather than honesty which is what I craved in relationships for a long time.

Then I met my husband. And he truthfully always told me what he wanted from me and unlike other men before him, I found that his loyalty matched mine. I am a very loyal person and when I decide that you are worthy of that loyalty, I will defend you till the end. However, many people are not like that and my husband was the first person I met where he too, would protect you to the end if you were his person. He also loved his mother and his family and wanted one of his own eventually. He also courted me, he held to his word– if he said he was going to do something, he did. If I ever called him needing help, he was the first one there. It was easy and effortless to be myself with him and vice versa.

And he met any hurdle I put down. I made it clear I wasn’t putting up with anything that wasn’t right for me or compromised myself or my self-worth. He didn’t even test that, but instead, never made me question it. We both were completely open with one another.

That is how he was different and that is how love and a marriage were able to blossom between us. We respected each other and we not only love one another, but we choose each other every day. When you meet your person, they’re going to be your person no matter what. Even when they’re mad at you, they will still be there. You’re not going to question or have anxiety over where you stand with someone, it’s all going to be very easy and it will naturally unfold. While my and husband and I disagree on things, we don’t really fight. We have had one big fight in the now nearly 6 years that we have been together and that was fueled more by the stress of buying a house than it was anything between us.

Your person is just going to be different and better than anything that you ever could have dreamed of. You deserve that person and they deserve you.