Katherine Kuzma-Beck

An academic mom.

My first Mother’s Day was a little bittersweet. I missed my aunt as this was the first Mother’s Day without her so there was a sadness throughout the day that she wasn’t there. She was so excited to meet Logan and it makes me really sad that she was gone before she had a chance to do so. They would have loved each other.

me and logan

Me and my boy on my first Mother’s Day.

I got to sleep the night before because my husband took teething baby duty and when I woke up there were roses and my favorite ice cream because on Mother’s Day calories don’t count and you can get butter pecan ice cream for breakfast and it is okay. Mother’s Day is a mandatory work day for my husband so it would have been nice to have had him there yesterday, but he had to work. We made up for it later with the AWFUL, DISAPPOINTING (I won’t go further because…spoilers) Game of Thrones episode.

Going to my mom’s puts me back to where I grew up even though she doesn’t live there anymore. I drive through my hometown and through my college town to get there and every time I take that trip it reminds me of so much of my life. It got me thinking about the small identity crisis that I have been going through and the very true fact that I had lost part of myself throughout the years. I started thinking about when I was done with my PhD I would go back to Rutgers and take some graduate classes in art history and just enjoy it. Then, I laughed at myself because can I really stay in school forever? Probably.

to find ourselves

My fortune cookie

After that daydream about Rutgers and art history, I couldn’t help but laugh at my fortune cookie following the annual Mother’s Day Chinese food feast. I’ll take it as a reminder that I as figure out the next phase of my life that I had to escape from who I was to become who I was supposed to be, but that doesn’t mean all of my former self is lost forever. She was just away for awhile while I focused on other things.

sleeping me and logan

And those focusing on other things led me right here to meeting my husband and getting to be a mom to this amazing little boy. His Mother’s Day gift to me? He took his first steps on Friday when his dad and I were sitting in our living room and talking. We both got to see him do it together. It was the best gift he could have given us this weekend. I can’t believe how fast it’s going. I just wish time would slow down a little bit because I can’t imagine having to watch this little boy leave us.

I hope you all had a wonderful day filled with love and family.

I began dissertation when I was at the end of my pregnancy and was eagerly awaiting Logan’s arrival. It was an insane time to be that pregnant and trying to write a doctoral dissertation and I struggled during my first couple of terms. Whenever I hit a forward point in my dissertation, my mentor would conclude his comments, advice and/or congratulations with an ONWARD! I found it highly motivating, at first, but now that I am burning out from this 150-page paper…I am looking forward to never having to see ONWARD again.

onward_upward

I lost my mind a little bit yesterday. It was a hard day of testing middle schoolers who are just done and dealing with my university that suddenly decided to stick me with a huge bill because they screwed up and overcalculated my financial aid…from LAST YEAR and are now trying to get me to pay back a loan that they awarded me and has been gathering interest all year. And they want to act like oh well, it happens. That sort of thing happens when someone doesn’t do their job correctly. This is why I hate for-profit universities. The way they mismanage students and their money is disgusting and I am, unfortunately, not the only person they have done this to. They’re actually in the midst of a class action lawsuit because of their business practices and the hefty costs that they push on to doctoral students.

I have valued my time there with their core staff. I learned a lot from really great educational leaders from all over this country and each of them has lent themselves in some way to my research and I am where I am because of their knowledge and support. What I have not loved is the vast level of incompetence that pervades much of their support departments because they hire people for those jobs that have no clue what they are doing and there is often a quick turn over amongst them so it’s often just a continuous cycle of stupidity and insanity that gets pushed onto already highly stressed doctoral students who really just want their degree.

I have reached that point. I just want my degree. I want to move on with my life.

Just as I was at my end yesterday and texting my advisor my options for withdrawing and being “all but dissertation” for the rest of my life because I didn’t have it in me for another fight with this school’s support services (this is the third time they have done something out of left field nuts which impacted my finances or ability to register) my mentor had emailed me that he had approved of my completed dissertation and had forwarded it on to my committee for their review and commentary.

And as always he concluded with his bold, ONWARD!

It calmed me down a bit. I requested for the third time documentation about this financial conundrum that they have put me in. And then I took a deep breath.

I have two weeks before I will hear back and then, I am hopeful that there won’t be any edits and that if there are, they are small. I can do the tweaking quickly and then, it goes to my school for one last back and forth review before it goes for formatting and the dean’s approval. I probably will not get to my dissertation defense during this quarter because everything from here on out is depending on other people to be available to read and edit and approve of my work. I am okay with that though and I will most likely finish over the summer which means I will not get to attend the graduation in Minneapolis, but we will have to go to Orlando which I can already hear my husband screaming with excitement in the background. He would move us to Florida if he could.

ONWARD!

the doctorThis book immediately grips you from the get-go. The Doctor opens on Dr. Amit Burman and his wife Alisha. It is clear from the very beginning that Alisha is terribly sick and Amit has little use or understanding for her. Their relationship is abusive and Alisha remains remote and resigned to the torturous life that is her marriage. It is clear that Amit is not a good man and as the novel progresses, we see just how sinister he really is especially as the abuse that he deals out not only to his wife but his daughter,  unravels as well as his ongoing abuse of animals.

A New Neighbor

Emily and Ben move in next door to the Burmans. They have a young son, Robbie and it isn’t long before Emily becomes intrigued by the goings on at the Burman’s residence. She becomes drawn to Dr. Burman and his wife and is eager to find out more about her strange neighbors. However, they do not feel the same way towards their new neighbors. In fact, Dr. Burman is cold and distant, clearly wanting to keep his family at a safe distance from his new neighbors. This only pushes Emily further to figure out why her neighbors want to be so elusive. Emily just doesn’t realize at the time that her interest in her new neighbors is going to put herself and her family in danger.

Late Nights

Emily soon finds herself watching the doctor at night as he works in his outbuilding. She is not sure what he is doing in there, but she is determined to find out. Without much thought to herself, Emily begins to dive deeper into the doctor’s nocturnal activities which put her right into the doctor’s sight. One day her husband comes home and finds that Emily is gone and it is Ben who must find his wife and uncover what the doctor is truly up to.

Medical Experiments & a Twist

We find out early in the novel that cryogenics is at the heart of the doctor’s research. Chapter 2 opens with the doctor’s frustration over a child getting the rights awarded to him from a judge to have his body frozen upon his death. This sends Amit into a rage because he wants his ill wife to have the same opportunities should her time come. She appears less than interested…at first.

Justice comes to all, for the most part, at the end when we learn of the doctor’s fate as well as Ms. Emily’s. What you will not see coming is the true mastermind before everything that has unfolded since the first page. I have been digesting this book for the last two days and it still sends shivers up my back when I think about the ending because as creepy as it is, it is also so believably real that it has you thinking that somewhere out there in the world that could possibly all be happening right at this very minute.

Book Information

The Doctor by Lisa Stone will be released on July 25, 2019, with ISBN 9780008322939 from Avon Books. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review. To be linked to special pre-order pricing, click the link above.

hatties homeThere are few things in life that can level you emotionally, socially and physically all within a couple moments. Heartbreak has got to be one of the worst, most longest lasting ones that can have that kind of power over you that can level you in every which way. Often when you are made to feel that awful, you seek comfort in what is familiar. For Hattie Rose, her heartbreak leads her home and in coming home, she finds herself in an entirely new set of affairs.

From Paris to Dorset

Hattie Rose was living her life in Paris. She loved her life in the city of lights and is established in her path. However, Hattie soon meets with a heartbreak that devastates her and leads her to make a huge mistake at her job. Ultimately, she is forced to leave her job and with the loss of her employment, she also decides that she has to leave Paris behind her as well. She decides to return to her cliffside hometown in England and takes a job at Sweet Briar Farm, an animal sanctuary for abused goats.

Sweet Briar Farm

When Hattie arrives back in Gillypuddle, she takes a job at an animal sanctuary for abused goats. We meet her boss, Jo, who makes it known early on that she is not too fond of her new employee and prefers her goats to people. It takes some time for us to learn that Jo is harboring a secret life and heartbreak of her own. The farm also brings us, Seth, the handsome veterinarian that catches Hattie’s eye and Owen, an equally as handsome newspaper reporter who helps unravel Jo’s secret past.

Theme of Loss

Throughout Hattie’s Home for Broken Hearts, we meet characters that are navigating their lives following a large loss. when Hattie first returns home, she learns that her parents are navigating a tragedy and then we meet Jo who is working through her own as we watch Hattie rebuild her life from the one that she had left behind her in Paris. Throughout the tears and the anxiety of loss and the unknown Tennant also intersperses humor and laugh out loud moments that show us that even in the worst of our grief, we can still find the simple joy that brings us to the new lives that we build after we are leveled by our old ones.

Book Information

Hattie’s Home for Broken Hearts: A heartwarming laugh out loud romantic comedy by Tilly Tennant is scheduled for release on July 10, 2019, with ISBN 9781838880019 from Bookouture. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review. Pre-order pricing is available through the link provided above.

 

In my early 20’s I had graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in art history and journalism. I was set to go to graduate school for art business. I saw a world of possibilities in Europe, and art and everything that lay before me. I had finally ended things with my high school into college sweetheart and was ready to embrace the life that I had been building for myself.

And then I collided (there really is no other way to describe it) with the first person I ever truly loved. That love was steeped in such a part of me that was that artsy girl who loved life and reading and traveling. And then after many months of being together, he turned the tables on me and I ended it because I thought I was protecting myself from him and from my feelings. To go from having someone who would call me ten times a day and talk to me for hours, send me flowers and court me in every sense of the word to then flip the way that he did hurt me in ways that I wouldn’t even realize for years.

It derailed me from my life as it was. I fell into a deep depression, it took me years before I felt like I could trust anyone again and to stop encompassing bad habits that I thought were making me get over it all, but in reality, were just causing more damage. He took from me that artsy girl I was and it’s a piece of me that I have never quite recovered. This was a turning point in my life where I abandoned the life I had and I pursued education and went full force with that instead of becoming the art history professor that I had wanted to be. I pursued education because it felt good to me to take all of that hurt and do something good in the world with it instead of allowing it to fester and become something I used to hurt someone else with.

Only now, I am finding myself again at a crossroads in my life. I am graduating this summer or fall depending on when I get to defend my dissertation and then I am done with my Ph.D. I will have gone as far with it as I had wanted to do with art history and I also know that I am at the point where I am ready to leave the classroom. In my heart, I know I have done as much good as I am going to do and to stay would just make me bitter. My husband and I were talking about all of this last night and he told me that while he has gotten glimpses of that girl that has been gone every once in a while, he never really got to know that side of me because the side he did get was a woman trying to save the world and growing angry when she couldn’t get funding and couldn’t make something better for her students and when you teach in high poverty like I do, this is a frequent if not daily occurrence. He told me that he would love to meet the girl that has been gone, she seems pretty cool.

With this time of my life and my time as a classroom teacher coming to a close, it’s also a chapter of my life closing that began 10 years ago with that collision. I am looking out on that future that lays ahead of me again where I am completely finished with school and have countless options ahead of me. And this time, I have my real true love by my side and our handsome little boy along with me for the ride into the next chapter of my life.  Thankfully, my boys are just as goofy as I am and we take really great family photos at weddings:

fam

We decided last night that as we look for our family’s forever home we’re going to add to our list of wants a space that I could make a studio so that I could start painting and doing pottery again. My best friend also started to send me jobs closer to her so that we can find ourselves together and start going on adventures again like we used to. I am thankful that this is going to be a very blessed season of my life filled with love and support from those who have known me the longest and have been around for this crazy ride. I am also excited to embrace that side of myself that I buried when my heart was completely broken. I would like to see who that person is now that she is older and in a much better place in her life.

Debbie Macomber books are the kinds of books that you go back to when you want something that is comfortable and consistent. Her books are “cozy” books for me because they often are about female friendship throughout the years that span time and love and loss. Window on the Bay is no different.

Female Friendship

Window on the Bay brings us Jenna and Maureen, two women who have raised families and are at a good point in their lives and in their friendship with one another. Jenna has been divorced for 20-something years and has focused her energy on raising her children. Her ex-husband has left a bad taste in her mouth and now, even years later, she still struggles with trusting someone again. With both of her children off at college, she is also struggling with being single and being a new empty nester. Maureen has also had her share of heartache as her marriage ended early as well. Together, the two women have come together over the years and have been each other’s support systems as they figured out motherhood and raising their children without the help of their ex-husbands.

Maureen is happy for her friend and wants her to embrace her newfound independence despite Jenna’s reservations. She pushes for them to take the trip to Paris that they had planned on taking in college together when Jenna became pregnant and canceled those plans.

A Love Affair

As Jenna is finding herself again in her new life as a mom to adult children and a single woman, her mother is in need of hip surgery after she breaks it. Dr. Rowan Lancaster is there to help save her mother and soon, Jenna finds herself being drawn to the handsome surgeon, but at the same time remains extremely guarded because of her past. As handsome as Dr. Rowan is, he is also a surgeon just like her philandering ex-husband who had broken her heart so many years ago.

Jenna must find the strength within herself through her friendship with Maureen and the love she has for her children to break free of her past in order to create her future. Jenna’s children also have their own bits of drama that they come to their mother with and Jenna must find ways to manage the shocking news that they bring her without losing everything that she has newly found.

Book Information

Window on the Bay: A Novel by Debbie Macomber will be released on July 16, 2019, from Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House Publishing with ISBN 9780399181337. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

When I was an undergraduate at Rutgers University studying art history, one of my all time favorite books that I continually went back to and even now, will pick up from time to time were any of Peter Mayle’s Provence series. What I loved so much about them was that I was learning about life in Provence as an ex-pat through the life of someone who clearly loved Provence. I was learning through someone else’s passion and in so many ways that is the best way to learn because they will never cease to be an endless treasure trove of information about their subject.

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Charleston, South Carolina

I felt the same concept of learning through someone else’s passion with Witold Rybczynski’s Charleston Fancy. Instead of Provence, we are emersed in the world of Charleston, South Carolina, and its beautiful architecture. Charleston is a town with roots that go back to a time before the 1700’s when it was first occupied by British colonists who had landed on the Carolina coast. The city grew and has attracted varieties of people to its warm climate and abundance of different architecture that is notable throughout the town.

Rybczynski opens the world of Charleston, South Carolina up to his readers as we are informed about the various types of architecture that are present and the different types of people and characters we meet along the way. The novel brings Charleston to life through small vignettes and glimpses of Rybczynski’s cast of characters and homeowners as we are further exposed to the varied world of Charleston and its architecture.

Southern Architecture

When I think of Charleston, my mind immediately wonders off to verandas, wicker chairs and huge porches that are all sprinkled along tree-lined streets with brick sidewalks and beautiful masonry. While some parts of the south are like this, Rybczynski focuses his book on the surprises that Charleston has to bring us. From the small houses that hide beautiful courtyard verandas to Byzantine and Moorish beauties that are tucked away– he takes us on a ride through the surprises and beauty that is the prevailing sense of creativity that abounds throughout Charleston’s homes and architecture. It is detailed and colorful in his approach to bringing the world of Charleston, South Carolina for those of us who aren’t familiar.

Book Information

Charleston Fancy: Little Houses and Big Dreams in the Holy City by Witold Rybczynski will be released on May 28, 2019, from Yale University Press with ISBN 9780300229073. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.