Friday, July 3, 2020

June 2020 Wrap Up

June felt like a long month to me, and I feel like I didn't do much/enough important things. The world is so crazy right now, it is hard to keep up with it.

I've been working a lot and putting in plenty of overtime hours. That's what I do most of the time. That and play with my pet rats!

All that aside, here are book reviews for June!

Title: Alanna the First Adventure and In the Hand of the Goddess
Author: Tamora Pierce

Synopsis: Alanna is determined to become a knight, so she disguises herself as a boy and heads to the palace for training. These two books follow her journey of becoming a page, squire, and finally a knight. She makes friends and defeats enemies and discovers more about who she is and who she wants to become.

Thoughts: These are re-reads. I needed comfort books and have wanted to re-read many of Tamora Pierce's books recently. I've read these books more times than I would like to count, but I always love them.

Rating: 4-5 out of 5 stars

Title: The Blood of Olympus
Author: Rick Riordan
Narrator: Nick Chamian

Synopsis: The adventures of the crew aboard the Argo II and their allies comes to a head as they work to defeat the giants and Gaea once and for all. Octavian is on the brink of starting a war with Camp Half-Blood, while Reyna, Nico, and Hedge race to stop him. Meanwhile the seven demigods on the Argo II head towards Athens and the final battle with the giants.

Thoughts: I had to re-read this whole series and this book is probably the best in the series (or the House of Hades, I'm always torn). I always love Leo most. As a side note, it wasn't until re-listening to the series this time that I realized how much I dislike this narrator. The narrator for the first three books was much better. But I still love the book!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Title: The Keeper of Lost Things
Author: Ruth Hogan
Narrators: Jane Collingwood and Sandra Duncan

Synopsis: After Anthony looses his fiancee and the lucky charm she gave him in the same day, he spends the rest of his life collecting lost items and trying to find their homes. However, he is at the end of his life and ready to rejoin his love, Therese. He leaves his house and all the lost things to his personal assistant, Laura. Laura, like Anthony's other lost items, is also looking for her purpose in life and she sets out to complete Anthony's work.

Thoughts: This was a book club read. There were a few things that I found a bit repetitive and maybe a touch annoying. Despite these things, I did enjoy the story and how everything comes full circle in the end.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5

Title: The Kingdom of Back
Author: Marie Lu

Synopsis: Marianne Mozart aka Nannerl is a musical prodigy and wants nothing more than to be remembered for her music. As a woman, she is not meant for such a life. But her prodigious brother Wolfgang is. A mysterious and magical being named Hyacinth finds her and offers to make her dreams come true. As the years pass and Nannerl approaches a marriageable age and her brother continues to outshine her, she begins to feel torn about the tasks that Hyacinth asks her to complete in trade for her wish. The cost might be too high.

Thoughts: This was an Owlcrate book from the March box and the book was so beautiful! It has silver edges and a pretty cover (both of which were chewed on by my rat, Hades--you can see a bit in the lower right corner... good thing he's such a cutie). It read like a historical fiction/fantasy novel. There was enough truth about the Mozart family to really keep me interested, though I did not love the whole story as much as I hoped to. I was still intrigued by the family and wanted to know Nannerl's real story.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Favorite book read this month: Is it cheating to say the Alanna books?
Least favorite book read this month: I didn't strongly dislike any of them, but I gave the Kingdom of Back and the Keeper of Lost Things the lowest ratings this month

Alphabet reading challenge completed: K (The Kingdom of Back and the Keeper of Lost Things).
I have read 53 books of my target 80 books for the year.

That's about it for this month. I have started working on a disease post about Diphtheria, but it still needs some work.

Sunday, June 7, 2020


Due to the current events (which, honestly, have been going on forever and feel like they will never stop), I wanted to make a little post.

I am a white woman and I benefit from the privileges of being a white person. This means that I will never really understand what Black people go through. It also means that I don't know enough and don't know how to help. I decided a while back that I needed to be a better Black ally. While I know that I still have so much to learn and so much more that I can do, we all have to start somewhere. I hope this post will help others begin the journey to being a better ally, too.

One thing we need to do as allies: educate ourselves.

I'm sure most of us have Black friends and/or family who we can talk to. Or other allies and activists. Some of them are very open to discussion and answering questions. Many of them know what kinds of things we can do to help. And if they are willing and able to do this, that's great. But we as white allies need to be able to find information ourselves. There are so many accounts in written and video formats that people have made to discuss the issues Black people face. Listen to what they have to say, listen to their stories and their needs. Mostly, they need us to use our white privilege to help.

A goal I have for myself is to read more books by Black authors and about the issues of race. I think that this will help me better understand and help me learn. As a book worm, this is something that is accessible to me and is a good starting point. I have seen many readers posting suggested reading lists and articles for this purpose. I will share some of the top books on my reading list in case you want to add them to your list, too.
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognize Your Privilege, Combat Racism, and Change the World by Layla F. Saad
  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  • The Hate U Give and On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • How to be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
I know there are so many more. And if you have one that was really good or made a big impact on you, please share! I have read several, and here are a few that I personally recommend:
  • Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hold in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

Image credit: @jane_mount

We also need to speak up when we hear hurtful things from our friends and family. And, while I am not a parent, I think that teaching children about racial issues is important. Things won't get better unless the future generations are also on board. There are articles and books available to parents and children to help. I have included a short list to get started:
Another thing we can do: donate.

There are organizations that are doing great work that are in need of monetary donations. Depending on your location, there may be places or organizations that need volunteers. I have seen people going to protests to add their voice or even people offering up services (water, first aid, etc.) to protestors or even offering their homes as safe havens. Some places might be in need of supplies. All of these things are helpful.

I have found a (short) list of organizations that you can donate to if you are interested. I have donated to a couple myself either in the past or recently.
This is far from all of the organizations out there. If you have other good, reputable organizations to add to this list, please let me know. And inform me of specific places that might be in need of volunteers or supplies.

Take action: participate, sign petitions, and call government officials.

If you can, participate in peaceful protests or help those participating. There are so many petitions out there to try to bring people to justice for killing innocent, unarmed Black people.

Here are just a few petitions to start with:
Call mayors and officials. Tell them you want justice for these innocent people.

And here is a big one: register to vote and then go vote! We can help policies change and vote in officials who will support these movements.

Support Black people.

Listen, stand with them, support them. Support Black-owned businesses. I for one have been seeking out bookstores owned by Black people to order books from. We can help elevate them and draw attention to them. Read books by Black authors, support Black artists, Black podcasts. Seek them out and broaden your horizons. Find stores that are donating proceeds to organizations that are seeking justice. There are people on instagram and twitter you can follow. (One of my favorites on instagram is @theconsciouskid)

And Love.

Let this help bring us together. Together we can change our world for the better. Together we can demand justice. Reach out to people, check on them. Ask your Black friends and family how they are doing. Take care of each other. We are stronger united than divided. Don't let the names of the victims fade away.

Thank you for reading. I hope this will help other white allies start their journey to being better allies.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

May 2020 Wrap Up

So this month Blogger, which I use to host my blog, changed its interface. And I am still trying to find everything again. It looks nicer on my side of things, but the old interface was in place for years. Sorry if things seem a little different while I get adjusted.

I am also working on a blog post about some of the current events and things that people can do to educate themselves and to help. Stay tuned for that, I will try to get it finished and posted soon.

Alright! Books read in May:

Title: Ouran High School Host Club Volumes 13-18
Author: Bisco Hatori

Synopsis: Haruhi is a poor scholarship student at the very wealthy and prestigious Ouran Academy, where the students have too much money and too much free time. In a twist of fate, Haruhi ends up in debt to the school host club (a gang of six attractive boys). Originally mistaken for a boy herself, she keeps her gender a secret from the rest of the school to become a host to work off her debt. And hilarity ensues.

Thoughts: I needed something light, quick, and fun to read, and these fit the bill. I finally finished the series and I really enjoyed them. They were cute and fun.

Rating: Overall, 4 out of 5 stars

Title: Ask Again, Yes
Author: Mary Beth Keane
Narrator: Molly Pope

Synopsis: Two New York police officers end up buying houses next to each other in the suburbs. Francis's wife, Lena, looks forward to making friends with Brian's wife, Anne, but Anne seems cold and like she wants nothing to do with anyone. They go through normal life, Lena and Francis have three daughters and Brian and Anne have one son, Peter, who is around the same age as Lena and Francis's youngest daughter, Kate. Kate and Peter become best friends. When tragedy strikes to tear them and their families apart, they will have to decide if friendship and love is enough.

Thoughts: This was a book club read for me (and I didn't quite finish it in time for the club's online meet, but I did finish it a day or so later). Overall, I enjoyed the story. Parts were sad or strange or heartbreaking, but there was a lot to love and a lot of redemption. However, I think I was more interested in Francis and Lena and George than I ever was in Kate and Peter.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5

Title: The Mark of Athena
Author: Rick Riordan
Narrator: Joshua Swanson

Synopsis: The adventures of the seven demigods begins as the Argo II travels from Camp Jupiter to Rome after possibly starting a war between the Roman and Greek demigods. Then when they finally reach Rome after a harrowing journey, Annabeth must strike out on her own quest to follow the Mark of Athena. The other six have to find and save Nico from evil twin giants.

Thoughts: This was a re-read for me. I have lost count of how many times I have read these books, but I just love them!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Title: The House of Hades
Author: Rick Riordan
Narrator: Nick Chamian

Synopsis: Nico has been saved and joins the crew of the Argo II, Annabeth and Percy have plunged into Tartarus. Percy and Annabeth need to find the Doors of Death to help close them and Nico has to lead the rest of the crew to and through the House of Hades to close the doors on the mortal side. Meanwhile, the Roman demigods are marching to Camp Half-Blood, intent on destroying the Greeks.

Thoughts: Another re-read for the up-teenth time. And I had book club books to finish or start but I still re-read this anyway. I did decide to wait to re-read the Blood of Olympus until after I finish another book club book. I love these books very much, in case you couldn't tell.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Title: I Hope You Get This Message
Author: Farah Naz Rishi

Synopsis: In seven days, the world will end. According to the alien message received on Earth, the aliens from the planet Alma have human lives in their hands and plan to terminate those lives. Jesse isn't sure he believes this and sets out to capitalize on peoples' hopes to help his mom and himself out of the poverty they've been struggling in. Cate, urged by her schizophrenic mother, sets out to find and meet the father that doesn't even know she exists. And Adeem, the coding wiz and radio amateur goes in search of his estranged sister and bring her home before the end. Their paths will collide in Roswell, New Mexico.

Thoughts: This was an Owlcrate book from several months ago. I thought it sounded interesting, but wasn't really in the mood for this sort of apocalyptic/sci-fi type of story. It ended up being quite good, in my opinion. I kept thinking about it and the characters when I wasn't reading. And while I did predict part of how the book ended, I still wanted more and had more questions. But I guess that's sort of the way real life is.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Title: The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper
Author: Hallie Rubenhold
Narrator: Louise Brealey

Synopsis: The stories of the ones no one talks about. We all know about Jack the Ripper, but what about the women he killed? This book talks about the five women who were murdered: Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Mary-Jane. Also, they were not all prostitutes as the stories like to tell. These are their stories.

Thoughts: I am guilty of being fascinated by Jack the Ripper, which is why I chose this book. And this book is not about Jack the Ripper and talks only briefly about the murders. It is about his victims who were real women that were treated very unfairly by society both before and after their deaths. This was actually a book club book and I was excited that it was one of the selections because it had been on my TBR for a while. I greatly enjoyed it. If you are interested in history, this book is very well researched and the stories are well told.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Favorite book read this month: Aside from the House of Hades? The Five.
Least favorite book read this month: I think I have to say Ask Again, Yes, only because I didn't really care enough about Kate and Peter.

Also, I read three books with characters named Kate/Cate? Ask Again, Yes, I Hope You Get This Message, and the Five (Catherine was called Cate/Kate--not sure how it was spelled as I listened to the book).

Reading challenges:
I have read 46 of 80 books for the year.
For the alphabet challenge I crossed off "I" (I Hope You Get This Message) and, inadvertently, "H" (The House of Hades, but was planning to read House of Salt and Sorrows for "H.")

In other news, a student that I started tutoring about 6 years ago graduated high school this month. I am so proud of her and excited to see what her future brings.

It was also Mother's Day and I sent my momma a card and gift and got to talk to her an extra day that week. But Kevin was sweet and put a gift together for me "from the rats." It was super sweet. Here is a picture of the front of the card and the painting they made.
The painting is color-coded. Green for Zeus, blue for Poseidon, and red for Hades. And orange for Kevin.

Social distancing has continued, but I still have spent every Saturday evening chatting with friends via Houseparty. Sometimes we play games or work on crafts/projects, and sometimes we just hang out. I love it!

I have started thinking about my next disease post. I can never decide what disease I want to tackle, but I think I will do diphtheria next. I hope you are as excited as I am!

I hope you are all staying safe and healthy and reading good books!