Wednesday, June 7, 2017

2017 Summer Reading List

As I mentioned previously, one of my goals for this summer is to read through a stack of books that I have checked out from the library (and a few of my own). It's incredibly easy for me to fall into a Netflix (or lately, Britbox) marathon and waste hours upon hours in front of the tv. Even though there's nothing wrong with that every once in awhile, I want to balance out my downtime with something maybe a bit more productive. Here are the ones in my lineup:

1) BurnTown by Jennifer McMahon: Jennifer McMahon really sucked me back into the world of mystery novels and fiction in general a couple years ago, and I quickly read through all of her books.  When I saw that she had a new book coming out, I pre-ordered it immediately, and I'm really excited to dig into it.

2) Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan: I snagged this one through Blogging for Books a couple weeks ago; it's really hit or miss for me in terms of finding books that sound interesting to me on there, but this one definitely fits the bill. Deep dark, potentially life-ruining secrets? I'm in.

3) The Good Girl by Mary Kubica:  I've actually started reading this one already, and it completely sucked me in. It's told in a before/after of the kidnapping of a woman in Chicago, through her perspective and that of her kidnapper, mother, and a detective assigned to her case. It's a bit weird knowing part of the ending (due to the "after" chapters), but it's managing to keep me captivated regardless.

4) The Plantagenets by Dan Jones: I'm actually about halfway through this one already. I've been taking my time working through it, and really soaking up the information, rather than just powering though; retention is the goal here. I've loved all of Dan Jones' documentaries (I actually have two of those checked out from the library right now too), and so far this book hasn't disappointed either.

5) The Passenger by Lisa Lutz: This was a book I saw on the shelf at Target and decided I needed to read. It's another mystery/thriller (which is apparently my genre lately) about a woman who finds her husband dead at the bottom of the stairs one morning and goes on the run, assuming new identities along the way. Who she really is and what really happened to make her leave are big questions that I'm excited to find the answers to.

6) The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell: This was recommended to me by a friend, and I don't think I have ever heard a plot synopsis so relevant to me and my interests--mystery, heirs, British setting, and the Bronte sisters? Sold. Now to schedule some pool time.

7) You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott: The library just came through for me on this one, so I need to go pick it up and bump it up the list. It's another mystery (surprise surprise) about an elite gymnast and the depths that she and her family will go to get her to the Olympics. I did gymnastics competitively for several years when I was younger, so this is definitely a must-read for me.

8) The Widow by Fiona Barton: It's not often that I read a mystery that doesn't directly involve the main character (and maybe it does and I just haven't gotten that far yet). This one, though, seems to be more a question of what the protagonist's husband may or may not have done (and whether or not she knows about it). It's definitely a different spin on a typical mystery, and I'm ready to see where it ends up.

9) The Norman Conquest by Marc Morris: Earlier this year, I listened to a lecture on 1066, and I've been trying to read as much as I can about the Norman Conquest ever since. When I was trying to find some more British historians to read through, Marc Morris' name came up, and I was excited to see this book in his collection.

10) The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell Not going to lie, I initially picked this one up because the cover was gorgeous. Judge me. Turns out, though, when I read the synopsis, it sounded perfect. A mystery novel set in London? I'm not sure it gets better than that for me.

11) Those Girls by Chevy Stevens. I haven't ready any of Chevy Stevens books before, but I'm always looking for new mystery/thriller authors. I've discovered that I tend to prefer female writers in this genre, and I'm not sure why, but I'm happy to read as many books as I can to see if my preference holds. :)

12) The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware: Confession--I haven't gotten around to reading In a Dark, Dark Wood yet, but it's also on my list. The Woman in Cabin 10 might have to come first, though, because it just sounds soooooo good. I've had a couple people recommend this one, so it's definitely a priority for this summer.

Are you reading anything good this summer? Any more recommendations for me? I keep a constant list of upcoming reads and I'm always looking for more suggestions!

Friday, May 19, 2017

School's Out

Today's the last day of school, and I couldn't be happier. Not that I don't love my job--I definitely do--but part of the reason I love it so much is that the schedule allows me to have a break before I hit burnout, and I've been so close to burnout the past few weeks. I do have an extended contract and I'm working summer school, but it feels good to have the year wrapped up and to move on to the next challenge. Summer school is also only half days, so I'll have lots of time to work on non-work related things in the afternoons--which is good, because my to-do list keeps growing: finalizing and booking my trip to England for next summer (I've already started on this one!), reorganizing my library of books, cataloging my records, scanning and organizing old family photos, sorting through my closet and taking donations to Goodwill are all toward the top, not to mention reading the pile of books that I checked out from the library this week.  Throw in a trip to the PNW, Alaska, and British Columbia, and I think my summer is pretty well packed. You know I'll find some time to wander our local art museums and camp out at some coffee shops, too, though.  What about you--any fun things planned for summer? You might have an idea that I need to add to my list. :)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Learning To Grieve Again

She died a month ago today. It seems like an eternity, but it's only been 30 days. I didn't know if I'd ever be ready to write about it, but here I am.

By "she, " I mean our cat, Eleanor. I guess I should count myself lucky that this is the first time I've had to experience the death of a pet as an adult, but it has been weirdly harder than I ever thought. I didn't expect it to be easy, obviously, but it seems much more difficult this time than I remember it being as a child. In some ways, it's been harder than the deaths of friends and family members, and I think for the same reason: I was responsible for her. She was mine. I was supposed to keep her healthy, keep her safe, keep her alive...but I couldn't. 

I second-guess every decision we made in the weeks leading up to her death. She had always been more reclusive than her brothers, so I wonder if it took us longer than it should have to realize she was sick and take her to the vet; it seemed to happen so fast, but how does a cat lose three pounds so quickly?  I wonder if we should have taken her for a second opinion when our vet didn't seem certain of what was causing her illness, or even after she did--pancreatitis-- but the steroids and antibiotics didn't seem to make her well. I wonder if we had done exploratory surgery if she would still be alive. I wonder if my seeing her getting "better" at times was more hope and blind optimism than reality.  I wonder if my force-feeding her every few hours to help her gain weight caused her pain. I wonder if she was happy with us and if she felt loved. 

I really didn't think she was going to die. 

The vet didn't either. We had taken her back for a check-up (one in a series of many) on a Tuesday, and she had gained more weight back--likely due mostly to the frequent force-feedings. The vet told us she was headed in the right direction and that we should wait to decide on exploratory surgery. I asked if waiting would be putting her in danger; I didn't want to put her through unnecessary pain, but if waiting was doing further damage to her body, I didn't want that either. I didn't want to risk her life, and I asked if I was. The vet said no. 

Five days later, on Easter Sunday, we woke up to find her laying under the kitchen table, and when I reached down to pet her, she was cold and stiff. That moment is burned into my brain. It has replayed over and over the past 30 days, forward and backward, in slow motion. 

I'm not good at grieving. I know what I should do, but in the moment, going through it myself, all of that seems to go out the window. I'm really good at compartmentalizing during the crisis phase, but when I try to process it afterward, I get easily overwhelmed by emotions. For me, grieving is a slow process, and one that I have to re-learn each time--and this is part of that. It won't do to stuff everything down and pretend I'm not hurt, or try not to think about her. She deserves better than that; she deserves to be remembered as much in death as she was loved in life. Even though I'm sitting here finishing this post with tears running down my face, I know it's necessary, and healthy, and a good start to learning to grieve again.  

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