Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Book Reviews - Quadruple Feels

For this round of books, there were so many feels in so many ways. It was one of those quartets where I really dug a little something (or a whole bunch) about each of the reads!

Kind of Coping: An Illustrated Look at Life with Anxiety by Maureen "Marzi" Wilson (who is on IG as @introvertdoodles) was the realest of real looks at anxiety told through comics. As someone who knows the anxious life well, this one resonated with me on so many levels. I laughed as there were so many situations I had definitely comically found myself in. I nodded because she illustrated perfectly what anxiety can be like in both analogy and actual experience. I even cried as it was just so many feels of what anxiety can be to manage. The simplicity of her illustrations are what make them so great. She truly has a gift for explaining anxiety in a way that just works. Here are a few of my favorite of her pieces from the interwebs.

Image result for @introvertdoodles anxiety
Image result for @introvertdoodles anxiety
Image result for @introvertdoodles anxiety
I could literally post pictures of each page of the book because there was something great about each of her illustrations. I read through this one and felt emotionally refreshed. There's such value in knowing someone else knows what your life is like - even the tough stuff. This is a wonderful read for talking about mental health and understanding the ups and downs of how people/you get through.

Read this book if - You want a unique (and helpful) read on mental health. You want something that illustrates what it is like to navigate mental health.

Cursed by Karol Ruth Silverstein is a great YA #ownvoices read about being a teen with a chronic illness. The story is inspired by the author's own health experiences making this one all the more real in describing what the main character goes through. The story focuses on Erica "Ricky" Bloom. Ricky has been newly diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. She is also starting at a new school. When the story begins, Ricky has straight up stopped going to school (unbeknownst to her parents) because it was just too much to navigate. Right off the bat, it subtlety speaks to how systems and processes can be exhaustive and exclusive. Eventually, she is found out, and she has to learn how to navigate the school, including her classmates, her teachers (especially missed work), and the building itself. Her parents are also recently separated, so she's managing this new normal. Finally, she's managing her care. One of the pieces I appreciated about this dimension of the story is the way they talked about finding the right doctor. She seamlessly wove into the story the importance of having comfortability with provider even for teens. I overall appreciated reading a story about a character with an identity that isn't often spotlighted. Ricky also just had this cynical sense of humor that I really dug. Overall, this book so wonderfully shared the struggles of chronic illness, as well as how Ricky learns to navigate all the things happening in her life. This one won't be out until June (once again, NetGalley allowed me the early view), and this will be one that you'll want to be sure to check out. 

Read this book if - You want to read a YA book that focuses on allowing voice and space for an identity. You want to learn more about chronic illness through a fiction (but very real) read.

These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen was a good ol' chick lit read of sorts. I don't read much of this anymore, and I have grown to love the author's thrillers (written with Greer Hendricks), but this was a good revisiting of the genre. The book focuses on three roommates who are navigating life in NYC. Cate is navigating a new role at Gloss magazine. As it does, the new job comes with new issues to navigate. Renee is also working on Gloss. When a beauty editor position opens, she wants the gig. However, she is also overcome with some impostor syndrome, and she turns to unhealthy strategies to overcome. Finally, Abby shows up to fill the third roommate spot. She is the sister of a colleague, and she's left her job as a nanny for reasons she doesn't want to discuss. The story explores the secrets each of these women keep, the relationships they manage, and the struggles they have to find success and happiness. It was just a good book - I recognize that's a bit of an ambiguous statement, but that's what it was. The characters were compelling, and for three stories running simultaneously, I wanted to know what was going to happen. It was a well-told read on navigating love and career and family and all the things. Again, just a good book.

Read this book if - You want some well-written chick lit that focuses on struggles to fit in and find happiness in life and career.

What Remains True by Janis Thomas is a sad book. There's no other way to put it. However, the way it tells the story is beautiful. This is the story of a family navigating grief. Five year old Jonah has been tragically killed, although you won't know how until the final pages. However, what you do know is that the family is broken. They are overcome with sadness and anger and regret all the feels. Above all else, this is a story of a family trying to get through the unthinkable. The story is told through multiple narrators - Mom, Dad, Sister, Aunt, Jonah, and the family dog. Each person is going through something and is holding a secret inside. Their stories are told both after the accident, but the tale also works through everything that happened in the before. It was a hard read because there's so much pain, but again, it makes you think about resilience and how to get through something so awful. It was a heavy read for sure, but I think it's important to have books about grief. There is nothing easy about navigating it, and this story shows that from multiple angles.

Read this book if - You are looking for something full (SO FULL) of all the feels.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Anxiety of Me

Via a picture that came up in my Timehop, I was reminded that today marks the three year anniversary of one of my worst days of anxiety in life. When you have anxiety, every (literal) day is a day with anxiety, it's just a matter of the level. Some days, I hardly know it's there, and others it's taking up all the space. Three years ago was definitely one of the latter. I don't care to rehash all the what of that day, but it ended in a hyperventilating panic attack in a hotel room. So, yeah.

While my look back at memories are often enjoyable, on days like today, things take a very different turn. I wouldn't say that anxiety is something I don't want to remember. Again, it's a part of me, so it's not like I can forget even if I wanted to. 

As I think about that point three years ago, I was just beginning therapy. It was something that was long overdue. There was some residual trauma that I just had never worked through, and I had to face those parts of myself. Some of that was a terrible case of impostor syndrome. I'd unexpectedly been promoted put into an interim role at work. I had taken the "acting" part of my title a little too literally, and I'd convinced myself I wasn't good enough. Rather than believing I could do the job, my anxiety was constantly whispering in my ear that I might not be qualified enough or competent enough or anything enough to be there. I left that job holding onto some of my hardest days and feelings of doubt, rather than appreciating all I'd done to manage two jobs and do quite enough to do that well. I went into a job after this where I did too much. In the face of a job that wasn't a fit, I became angry and frustrated and really tired. In this role, my anxiety stemmed from negative emotions and anticipation of what was to come in each workday. This escalated to the point that I was once pulled over on a drive home for erratic driving. When the officer came to my window and asked, "Is everything okay?" I said to him in an eerily calm tone, "Honestly, I was just thinking about work." It was in that moment I realized how far my anxiety had accelerated. It was terrifying.

I took all of that baggage (and more) into therapy. It took me a year of weekly appointments to get to a point where I felt I had enough tools and techniques to self-regulate my anxiety. Was I cured? Heck, no. That's not how anxiety works. However, I finally felt empowered over myself. It's such a weird thing to say, but cognitive behavioral therapy is really about teaching you how to manage yourself better. 

I still have anxious days - Today was one of them. Anxiety is lots of things for me, none of which I particularly enjoy. It's like. . . 

  • Trying to drive a car forward, but obsessively staring in the rearview mirror the entire time.
  • Considering every single ending of a Choose Your Own Adventure book simultaneously.
  • Having a montage of everything negative that's happened in the past few weeks running on loop in my head.
  • A forecast with a chance of an anxiety storm every single day. 
  • A big ol' Dawson Leery ugly cry - This one's not an analogy, it's a legit response.
  • Wearing a mouthguard at night to combat the way I carry my stress. Also, I clinch my fists, and sometimes my hands hurt. Again, not an analogy, but a physical manifestation.
I don't share any of this for sympathy, or for anyone to think of me differently. The reality is that if you didn't yet know this about me, now you do, and I'm still the same person. I am just a person that navigates anxiety - with varying levels of proficiency. Anxiety will always be part of me - It's always been here. I can tell you some of my earliest experiences with it, it just took me a long time to name it what it was. 

I often look to books and TV shows and movies to describe how I feel, and tonight as I wrote, this quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower came to mind: 

“So, this is my life. 
And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad,
 and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.” 

For me, talking about the happy parts of me, along with the sad has come with great freedom. Letting go of the fear of stigma and judgement has allowed me to open up and share. I spent so much time terrified to give voice to what was inside of me. However, I overcame that fear. It was scary at first, but I soon realized that when I was the voice, I held the power. When i spoke over the anxiety and acknowledged what was there, I maintained the control.

I've written about mental health before, and I've sat and typed those posts in a hot mess of tears. Tonight, as I type, I feel different. Three years later, some things are different, and some are the same. Some are good and some are not so much. And so, I'll end this reflection with yet another quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower: 

“Please believe that things are good with me, 
and even when they're not, they will be soon enough. 
And i will always believe the same about you.” 

Friday, February 22, 2019

What's Making Me Happy: The Return

Y'all, the first two months of this year have been 800 days long and have included literally all the snow. I wanted to try to overcome the struggle and inject some joy here and into the universe. So, I thought I'd resurrect one of my regular features here - What's Making Me Happy! 

If you've talked to me lately, there's a high likelihood I've told you about Pen15 on Hulu. Y'all, this show is incredible. The two main characters are played by two thirtysomething comediennes. Okay, so what? Well, WELL, they are playing middle school versions of themselves in the early 00s. The other piece of this is that everyone else in the series is normally cast for their age. 

For me, it's the perfect nostalgia feels - It's a time I know well in both the pop culture and experience. It's also just absolutely hilarious, and I LOVE it. To the point that I've watched it all twice, and I'll probably watch again soon. 

maya erskine hulu originals GIF by HULU

Oh, and if you want even more happy/reasons to watch, they have this playlist on Spotify. If this was MySpace, this would be totally playing in the background rn: Pen15 Playlist.

Another great piece of middle school "stuff" that I checked out this week was Eighth Grade - Now streaming on Amazon Prime! Much like Pen15, it took me back to middle school, but in a very different way. It was full of so many feels! While it focuses on kids today and the role of social media, the want to fit in descends all the generations - and even beyond middle school. It was outstanding and a film that really made me think.

This is a really good clip from CBS Sunday Morning (a perpetual source of happy for me) on what the film is all about:

Y'all, I cannot think of a time looking back on middle school/adolescence made me so damn happy, so that should really, really speak to the quality of this stuff.

As a final happy treat, here's a picture of me from my actual middle school days.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Book Reviews - Throwbacks, Captivating Characters, and Change Agents

Well, hello there! For this round of reads, three of the four were "blind dates" with books, and the other book in the quartet was a new release from the library. Now a week into the blind dating experiment, I have to say I really like it! I still have that innate want to have that power to pick what's next, but then I just start reading, and I quickly change my tune.

First up, I read Help! I'm a Prisoner in the Library by Eth Clifford. This was a book my husband found for me in my recent quest to rediscover the trade paperback gems of my youth. For a gal like me (as both a kid and now), getting stuck in the library would be a dream, so this is my kind of read. The premise of this one is there's a snowstorm, and Mary Rose and Jo-Beth manage to get stranded in a library. Through the night, they navigate the unfamiliar space eventually finding the library's caretaker who has a residence in the building. From a nostaglia end, this was great. These are the types of fiction reads I loved as a kid, so it was fun to go back in time and read on that level. 

Read this book if - You read this as a kid and want to re-read and/or want to think about being stuck in a library as a kiddo.

Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman was just outstanding writing. This is my third book by this author, and I love his books. He has a way of writing characters that makes them so incredibly captivating as he centers these humans in the stories he writes. In this one, Britt-Marie has recently left her cheating husband. She's out to find a job to claim some space and show that she is as the title states here. She takes on a job in a small down as the caretaker of a recreation center. From there, the story is about Britt-Marie (re)finding her way. The job isn't a perfect fit for Britt-Marie, but she tries her hardest to figure it out and help those she comes in contact with in Borg. I absolutely loved how Britt-Marie's story was told on this journey. She's at a unique place in her life, and the way she connects and navigates Borg is wonderfully told. She definitely doesn't have all the answers, but I love how she seeks them out. At the end of the day, she just wants something to leave her mark on the world, and the way this was framed was so relatable and hit me right in the feels. Again, Backman is just masterful at storytelling. This is another gem of a read by him that you should definitely add to your list.

Read this book if - You like character-driven stories. You like books that are well-written. You are a fan of Backman and haven't read this yet.

Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen is a beautiful and heartbreaking read. For context on my own perspective, Columbine happened my sophomore year of high school. It is a defining event of that time for me, as it changed so much of how I viewed safety and school. It's hard that this next generation has to have these same happenings impact their experience. In his book on Columbine, Cullen focuses more on the actual event, while this book very much explores the after. In the the moments after this tragedy, a group of students decided they wanted to make change happen. In their grieving and stress and anger, they committed to having their voices heard. Cullen follows this experience as they mobilize and strategize. In addition to making change, they're navigating the emotions of the experience, as well as still being teenagers and high school students. Cullen does a masterful job in telling this story. They bring such drive and determination to the cause, even as they encounter obstacles, hope remains. 

Read this book if - You want an authentic look into the work and people involved with March For Our Lives. 

Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst was a book I actually first read about a decade ago. In my "blind dates with books" project, I decided to throw in a few books for a re-read. This book revolves around the reality show Lost & Found which is a lot like The Amazing Race. I have a long-standing love of reality television, especially those that are adventure/challenge-based, so I was all about this. The focus of this one is not so much the game, but the complex relationships of the players. Told through a variety of narrators, it explores the secrets different players hold. As the game evolves, these secrets play more of a role in the team dynamics. For me, this read just like watching a reality television which I really dug. It had lots of twists and turns throughout the stories of those who are playing the game.

Read this book if - You want a fictional read focused on reality television.

Onto my dates/reads!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Battling the Starlings

When it comes to the bird feeder, there is one kind of visitor that is the worst - Starlings. They are terrible. Even the National Audubon Society identifies Birdist Rule #72 (Note - I'm not sure what the first 71 are) as It's Okay To Hate Starlings.

Chasing starlings from my feeder is the most exhausting part of the process, mostly because these jerks don't take a hint. They swarm in, and I have to head to my back door to shoo them away. The funny thing is the second the door knob turns, they know they need to dip. Before the door is even open, they're off the feeder. If they want to push their luck, they just move to the tree, but the second I actually open the door they're gone. Some days, they'll continue to try and try and try, and then I shoo and shoo and shoo. It's definitely got that Groundhog Day feel, but I'm not giving this one up.

I was watching the starlings yet again today, and I thought about an analogy as I do all the damn time. I thought about the "starlings" in my life. I thought about the battles I fight over and over - many of those are with myself.

I was also thinking about how often I let those "starlings" in my life stick around for far too long. Instead of doing that shooing in my life, I let them take over. I let them have all the power over me, and it holds me back. The "starlings" come in many forms - They come in fear, extreme "What if?" scenarios, self-doubt, overthinking all the things, and so on and so on.

As I wrote last week, I'm trying to be more like the blue jay. I realized as I reflected today that is also going to mean addressing some of these "starlings" that always tend to come for me. My therapist told me once that the biggest lie anxiety tells us is that we need it. It literally fools us into thinking it's a necessary part of a process. The key is changing the default process, so that's not the way that it is.

Like much of what I reflect on, it's a work in progress. I've been trying to figure out some plans and dreams these past few weeks. It's been a frustrating process, mostly because I have let those darn "starlings" get in the way. Now that I can see they're there, it's taking the time to give them a shoo, so I can get where I want and need to go.

Until my next ornitho-themed analogy!

Oh, and while looking for a picture about starlings, I found this, and it made my life, so I'll end this post with this solid meme.

Image result for starlings meme

Friday, February 15, 2019

Book Reviews: Intriguing Stories and People

At this point, I think it's the rule not the exception that I read in really random quartets. This is one of those (normal) times.

Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert's Guide to Making Connections that Count by Karen Wickre was an interesting read. There wasn't any earth-shattering and/or new advice about networking per se. Instead this was really a reframing of networking. I'll own that as an introvert (and with other identities I have/traits) networking isn't an activity I enjoy. With that in mind, this was a book that actually made me feel better about the next time I'm in a networking space. She really does a great job of explaining networking simply in a way that makes it a far less daunting practice. I appreciated that this book was almost like a boost of confidence for introverts. She explains what qualities and strategies introverts might already have that could be an asset. The tips and tricks in this one are definitely things I plan to revisit and try out down the road. Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to check this useful tool out!

Read this one if - You're looking for a book that will enhance your ability to network, particularly if it's not your jam.

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede was outstanding! If you want a book that shows you the absolute best of people, this is that book. This is the true story of what happened in a small town in Canada on and after 9/11. When US airspace was closed, there were still plans en route that needed somewhere to go. One of those places was a town of around 10,000 people that had large runways due to once being a refueling station. So, planes started landing - lots of planes. In fact, over 7000 people descended on this town. It was such a time of uncertainty in pain, and here these humans were in an unfamiliar place with so much confusion and questions about what was happening. The book details how the townspeople worked to do whatever they could to help those temporary residents. It also details the stories of the some of the passengers who found themselves there - both with backstories and while in Gander. In what will always be one of the worst times, this book shows the good of people. I will also say that prior to reading this, I didn't know anything about what happened in this town, and I was so very captivated. This is my current go-to recommendation, so if you haven't read this one, and you're looking for a book that is just all-around incredible, this is that book rn.

Read this book if - You want something to show you the best of us.

The Last Day of Night by Graham Moore was a re-read. This time, I checked it out on audiobook. My online book club discussed it this month (based on my recommendation), and it was great to revisit this world once more. I won't review this one again given I just did in May, so check out the original review here

Read this book if - You're a fan of historical fiction. You have either no, little and/or any level of knowledge about light bulbs and Thomas Edison (and Westinghouse and Tesla, too!), as this really can appeal to all crowds. You enjoy a book that makes an unexpected topic fascinating.

As I shared earlier this week, I'm also now blind dating my books. This was my first date.

The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay is the story of four sisters who join a vaudeville act. When their father is injured when trying to help someone else and unable to work, joining a vaudeville act is deemed the best way to make money by their mother. They decide to create a tumbling act, and they enter the show. This story is told in alternating chapters by two of the sisters - Gert and Winnie. While there is quite a bit (obviously) about the vaudeville experience, this is really about the sisters and their relationships. Through these relationships, there is heartbreak, there is forbidden love, there is new love, and there is unexpected love. This was an enjoyable read as it had compelling characters and storylines, while also allowing me to learn more about vaudeville.

Read this book if - You like your historical fiction with a side of love story and complexity. 

Onto the next ones!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Bookish Adventures - Blind Dates with Books

I've been in a weird book rut lately. I'm still reading (and finding things I love), but I'm not just not in my usual rhythm.

read mariah carey GIF
To get out of the rut, I've decided to try something new- I'm going to blind date my books. 

You see, I tend to pick books that I'm in the mood for. Mood is hard to explain. It's really just what jumps out to me when I look at what I've got - That could be genre, how long I've had it, author, etc.

cat jump GIF

Other times I pick based on page number. I tend to read things that are <350 pages or less, so anything more than that messes with my typical pacing. I"m obviously capable of reading more pages, but that's just where my page preferences land.

read x files GIF by The X-Files

There are still other reasons I pick books - Timing for Book Club, buzz from a friend, library availability, etc. Anyway, I'm not here to talk about how I usually read. I'm here to share my newest adventure.

The strategy is simple really - I don't know what I'm reading next until I have it in my hand. To make this work, I put all the books I own and still need to read, as well as a few I've been wanting to re-read, with their spines down in a basket. I then had my husband mix them up a bit just so I wouldn't pick something based on what/where I thought it was.

The hardest part for me will be giving up control. I mean, I've already "pre selected" these books given I've bought them, but leaving the order/anything to chance is not usually my jam.

So, for the next few weeks, if you need me, I'll be on some book-ish blind dates. It'll be an interesting adventure, but I'm hoping it gives me that jolt that I'm looking for when it comes to reading.

Here we go!

 fail book finger reading lick GIF

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Channeling the Blue Jay

One of my more recently acquired hobbies is birdwatching. Thanks to a bird feeder installation from my dad (a fellow birdwatcher), I have the opportunity to sit and watch the dynamics at the bird feeder. It's fascinating, y'all.

No matter who stops into the feeder I find myself most captivated by the blue jay.

Time Out. 

Before I go into more detail on this, you should know I have a special place in my heart for blue jays. You see, growing up, my grandparents had a pet blue jay named Frank. Frank was found when he was a baby, and my grandparents took him in and raised him. I thought this was a normal pet to have until I learned it wasn't. 

Growing up with Frank, I saw the intelligence of the bird, particularly in mimicking noises. Whenever I see blue jays these days, I always think of my grandparents with love - and of course, Frank, too.


What's fascinating about the blue jay in the bird feeder environment is how they show up. They're great at mimicking noises (Quick Frank fact as an illustrative point - He could mimic the phone and door bell!), and they are smart when it comes to knowing the chain of command in Bird Land. So, do you know that they do? They make the noise of a hawk. This freaks all the other birds out, so they scatter. So, there's the blue jay(s) with the meals all to themselves.

I know, I know, why am I writing about this?

I love the confidence of the blue jay. The blue jays know who they are, but they also know what they could be, and they believe that. They're willing to take a chance on what they love (food), and they come in bold and ready to go. I love how I can hear the "hawk" call, and know when I go to check out a feeder, it's always a blue jay that will be there.

I've been thinking a lot how the life the blue jay leads relates to me. I mean, y'all should know I love a good metaphor. Given my love of this bird, it only makes sense I'd seek wisdom here.

The blue jay has reminded to think big. I have ideas of where I want to be and/or of what I want to do. The blue jay reminds me of power in trying and going for it. I don't ever have to be that hawk, but I can channel that energy to get things rolling. 

I'm not going to tell you that I've got the blue jay mentality down right now. The reality is this - I don't. It's an aspirational lifestyle. Although I guess you could say that me even acknowledging that is the first step in becoming more blue jay-eseque.

I'm writing about this because I want to start more actively living that blue jay dream. I'm going to start exploring the ways of the blue jay in my own life. It's a bit of unchartered water for me. I like known plans and structure and rules. However, I want to tap more into big ideas and questions and dreams. It's going to be different, and it's a definite stretch of the comfort zone, but I'm ready to try it.

I don't have any specifics yet, but my first step? Writing this post. Consider my initial blue jay call unleashed.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Book Reviews - Heavy (But Good) Reads

Y'all, whatever you do, do not ever read these four books in succession. Independently, you might want to check them out, but trust me when I say they are not meant to be read as a quartet. They are heavy and dark and intense, and when you quadruple that feeling, you land at a not great place.

A Serial Killer's Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love and Overcoming by Kerri Rawson is by a woman who is the daughter of BTK. Given this occurred in Kansas, I was quite familiar with Kerri's father's crimes. However, this story, above all else, was about Kerri. It was about the before of her life and then the after. Before, she was living a relatively normal life, as she went to school, college, got married, etc. Then, there was the after as she discovers (along with the rest of the world) that her father is Wichita's most notorious serial killer. Everything she thought she knew is different now in an unimaginable realization. Throughout, Kerri tells a honest and authentic story. She shares the depths of her emotions as she reflects on the before of her life, and then had to process everything that was revealed about the man she thought she knew. This was an incredibly powerful read as she centers her story in a reality that she could have never imagined. She shares how she struggles, especially with her own mental health and grief, and she also shares where she found comfort and even forgiveness. it was an emotional read, but again, it was Kerri taking ownership of her story and showing how she has found a way through it all.

Read this book if - You want to read a true crime book told from a unique and powerful perspective.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson was a book I read after hearing about it on an architecture tour this summer in Chicago. I knew it was about the World's Fair, but y'all, I'll be real that I didn't know the serial killer plot that would be going on. That's totally on me, and not a critique of the book, but just worth noting. To connect back to the title, it's definitely way more devil than stuff about the White City. Anyway. This one revolves around the Chicago's World's Fair. What captivated me here is the work that went into making these fairs happen. I mean, they essentially built a temporary city from scratch for these. It truly was an incredible showcase, and I couldn't even fathom how they'd make something like this happen then or now. The other story is about a serial killer who uses the fair to create a ruse to lure young women to his hotel/home/business (pending on which angle he was working) and ultimately kill them. As I was reading, I had to remind myself that "Holmes" was a real person. All of this tragic story was something that happened in real life. Throughout, there was so much detail in this one as the stories were told, and it was so incredibly well done. 

Read this book if - You like your historical fiction with a side of intense thrills.

The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Ebola Virus by Richard Preston was horrifying. Y'all, I knew that the Ebola virus was a thing, but holy smokes, I did not know what it really and truly was. I now have a thorough understanding, and it is truly one of the scariest things I've ever read about in life. This book explores how the virus began, how it spread, and how it almost could have been worse - and it still could. There is incredible detail about the research into how this virus spreads, including many (terrifying) unknowns. I do not know that I have read a book where I was so petrified of content, while also being captivated by what I was reading. The author talks to those who know the virus best, and that is what makes the story all the more horrifying. They know what the virus is capable of because they've seen it firsthand. This book is also a warning of the potential this virus has to cause damage. It moves quick, so continued research, awareness and education is paramount. I never, ever want to read this book again, but I am glad to now know more about this virus. Wow.

Read this book if - You want to be simultaneously terrified and informed.

The Girl in the Window by Wilma Yeo was a throwback read. After reading a trio of thrillers, I decided to take on one from the juvenile genre. I remember this book from my childhood as one of those books that we all read and/or was in book orders regularly. I did not remember any of the plot. The premise is that Kiley's next door neighbor has disappeared. She is worried, and she takes it on herself to do some investigating. She is further confused when she thinks she sees missing Leedie Ann in the window aka THAT'S WHERE THE TITLE IS FROM. She suspects a gypsy who is connected to the family is involved, and she takes it on herself to investigate her as a suspect. Through this work, the gypsy is arrested. She turns out not to be the culprit, and additionally, Kiley learns more about the gypsy's past in a pretty intense way. This one took a turn towards the end that I was not expecting which really upped what the story was about. 

Read this book if - You're looking for a throwback thriller.

I'll definitely be looking for lighter content in the next quartet. Geez!