Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March 2020 Wrap Up

Alright! Book reviews!

Title: Get Well Soon
Author: Jennifer Wright
Narrator: Gabra Zackman

Synopsis: This book discusses some of the worst plagues in history, starting with the Antonine Plague all the way to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The author gives details about the diseases and how humans responded: what worked and what didn't? How good leadership can help in the face of horrible epidemics and pandemics.

Thoughts: This was a re-read for me. I needed a break from the next book listed because it felt a bit intense. I'm not sure what it says about me that reading a book about diseases made me happy. But this is a good book. It is humorous and informative. I highly recommend it.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5



Title: Children of Virtue and Vengence
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Narrator: Bahni Turpin

Synopsis: Zélie with the help of Amari and others managed to bring magic back to Orïsha. But this also awoke the magical heritage in the nobles and they have learned to use it. And some of them are much more powerful than they should be. Zélie and Amari try to unite the maji in order to bring down the monarchy, but both are warring with themselves: Zélie is trying to figure out how much more pain and suffering she can take and Amari is trying to find her place in this group of maji that want nothing to do with her. And civil war is coming.

Thoughts: There are things I enjoyed about this book and things that I did not. First of all, I cannot stand Zélie's inability to communicate with people (even those she cares for) and she wavered so often between leaving and staying that I started to get frustrated. I'm not entirely sure that is justified. But I like the types of magic and how the maji can use their gifts. There were parts that were sad or intense, but some parts seemed to drag a little. Honestly, I will probably continue reading the series eventually. I really like the narrator, she does a great job.

Rating: 3-31/2 stars out of 5



Title: Daughter of the Pirate King
Author: Tricia Levenseller

Synopsis: Alosa, daughter of the pirate king and captain of the Ava-lee has been sent on a dangerous mission: to intentionally be caught by a rival pirate lord in order to steal a map. She has endless tricks up her sleeves, but the rival first mate, Riden, is making her life and mission much more difficult.

Thoughts: I picked this up for the Owlcrate-A-Thon this month. It is one of the oldest Owlcrate books I own (probably not the oldest, but definitely close). So I read it in one weekend and I was hooked!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



Title: Daughter of the Siren Queen
Author: Tricia Levenseller

Synopsis: Alosa has completed her mission to complete the map to an island rumored to be full of treasure. Some of the pirates who had held her captive are now her prisoners or part of her crew. But one of them plants doubts in her mind about her father's intentions. After breaking into the pirate king's office and discovering some of his secrets, Alosa and her crew make a run for it, trying to beat the pirate king and his fleet to the island the map leads to.

Thoughts: After completing the first book, I almost immediately turned around and ordered this one from Amazon. I enjoyed this duology quite a bit. They were fun and well-written and generally kept me on the edge of my seat.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars



Title: Tweet Cute
Author: Emma Lord

Synopsis: Pepper works hard to try to have it all and to be the best. She gets great grades, is the captain of the swim team, and is a general perfectionist. On the side she helps her family's (or mom's) business by handling their Twitter account. But behind these masks is a girl who feels like a complete outsider and whose only friend is an anonymous guy she texts on an app. Enter Jack who feels completely overshadowed by his golden twin brother and feels destined and doomed to inherit his family's deli, a fate he loves and hates all at once. Behind the scenes, he develops apps (like the one the school uses to text anonymously). And he manages the Twitter account for his family's deli. And then the Twitter battle happens.

Thoughts: I had seen this book being advertised long before it came out and it seemed like just the kind of YA contemporary book that I would like. And I did. Parts of it dragged a little bit and I feel like it took a little bit to get into, but in the end, I enjoyed it. It was very cute and a nice, easy read.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars


Title: Crime and Punishment
Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Narrator: Anthony Heald

Synopsis: Rodion Roskolnikov is an impoverished and rather desperate student and those conditions drive him to murder a local pawnbroker and her sister. The novel follows his deranged mental state before, during, and after the murder as well as how her perceives the people around him (including those who are trying to catch the murderer).

Thoughts: This was a book club book for March. I had never read it so I thought I should give it a try since it is a classic. While the story telling was OK (if repetitive), I kind of hated the main character, Rodion. He was kind of an entitled baby. He was desperate for money but refused to get a job or do much to actually improve his situation. I did like his friend, Razumikhin, who he definitely did not deserve. The stories of the other characters and how they entwine with Rodion's was more interesting to me than Rodion going in circles with his guilt, horror, and justification of his crime.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars



Title: You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)
Author: Felicia Day
Narrator: Felicia Day

Synopsis: This is an entertaining and interesting memoir from Felicia Day, of web show fame. She has funny, quirky stories from across her life and she is unflinchingly honest about her experiences and her thoughts and feelings through it all.

Thoughts: This has been on my audible wish list for a long time. And I wanted something different after listening to Crime and Punishment. Plus, this book starts with a "Y" which I still needed for my alphabet reading challenge. So the stars aligned and I listened to this one. I enjoyed it. I only really know of her in passing, I remember watching a little of the Guild, but that's about it. This was a fun, interesting book about her life; growing up weird, and dealing with anxiety, depression, and bullying. And it was great to listen to her tell her story.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars



Title: Ouran High School Host Club
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. Someone on one of the online reading groups I am a part of was looking for fun manga to read and this one was suggested. So I decided to read it. I watched the anime years ago and always wanted there to be more. Plus I love Kyoya (I cosplayed as him once many years ago. I still have the costume). But these are fun and I plan to read more in the next couple of months as I feel I can afford them on Kindle.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Least favorite book read this month: Probably Crime and Punishment
Favorite book read this month: Oh, that's a hard one this month. I enjoyed most of my reads, but none of them really knocked my socks off.

Reading challenge: 22 out of 75 books read.
Alphabet challenge: completed C (Children of Virtue and Vengence), O (Ouran High School Host Club), and Y (You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)). I am working on getting some more books lined up for this challenge. I have 12 out of 26 done!

Another reading-related challenge: a lady who belongs to a reading group I am in on Facebook and who I now follow on Instagram created this Quarantine Readers' Challenge. You can find her on Instagram: @stephani_writes. But here are the prompts. I know a couple of these have passed, but this is fun so I want to share it!
If you are interested in seeing the results, check out my Instagram and follow the hashtags!

I know things have been a little crazy lately with the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing. I hope everyone is being safe and smart out there. I will try to put together a little disease post about it (though I am by no means an expert on the virus). Maybe I can pass on some helpful information.

Thanks for reading! Here's to a better April!

Saturday, February 29, 2020

February 2020 Wrap Up

February is over. This month saw the third anniversary of my first date with Kevin. It was nice to have a little celebration of that, especially since he is the best guy ever.

Other than that, work got a bit more crazy with tests not working correctly and having to work and re-work schedules that will involve us doing a decent amount of weekend work some weeks over the next few months. Some of it is kind of exciting, and some of it is a bit rough. But I continue to learn and grow as a laboratory worker.

I'm trying to figure out how to get my car registered here and make a list of everything that I need to do and take care of before we go to India, including traveler's insurance and special vaccinations. That part is much more interesting than trying to take care of my car registration!

In sad news, my mom had to put our kitty down this month. She was nearly 17 years old, diabetic and hyperthyroid. But she was the best, sweetest kitty. She had a great purr and was a talker, which I love and miss the most. I can't really believe that she is gone. But she isn't suffering anymore.
Our kitty, Faithful (aka Fidge). I was her favorite person and she was a great Samara alarm.

I read a fair amount of books this month. Let's go over those!

Title: Across the Great Barrier
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Narrator: Amanda Ronconi

I'm not going to give a synopsis and thoughts for this book and the next one. Only because I have reviewed them before. I love this trilogy and they are good comfort books for me. I wanted to re-read them just because I love them!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: The Far West
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Narrator: Amanda Ronconi

See the above comment. I still love and recommend this trilogy!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars





Title: The Gilded Wolves
Author: Roshani Chokshi

Synopsis: This story takes place during the end of the 1800s in an alternate Paris. Séverin and his crew of specially selected and skilled people are on a mission to restore him to his rightful place as heir to one of the houses of the Order of Babel. Tristian, Séverin's brother in name but not blood, is talented with plants and Séverin believes his rightful fortune would benefit and protect him. Laila is a dancer with a strange and mysterious past who seeks more than what this quest will bring. Zofia is a brilliant and socially awkward engineer who wishes to free her sister from her place serving others and send her to medical school. Enrique is a half Filipino brought to France for his education; he is a historian who wants nothing more than to help the people of his homeland. They team up with Hypnos who is the head of House Nyx in the Order of Babel to track down a secret object and bite off more than they can chew.

Thoughts: This was an Owlcrate book that I got about one year ago. I don't know why I waited so long to read it as I have loved all of Roshani Chokshi's books that I have read. It is a bit of a heist book mixed with lots of great and interesting mythology. Their magic system and societal structure are different, but intriguing. I loved most of the characters and some parts made me nearly cry while some gave me chills. I am looking forward to the next book!

Rating: 4-4 1/2 stars out of 5



Title: Race to the Sun
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Narrator: Kinsale Hueston

Synopsis: Middle school student Nizhoni wants to be popular. She wants to be known and important. Also, she can see monsters. No one besides her brother, Mac, knows this about her. Who would believe her? Then her father is offered a job out of state by a wealthy man called Mr. Charles. But Mr. Charles is a monster. To get Nizhoni and Mac to cooperate, he kidnaps their father and Nizhoni and Mac, with Nizhoni's best friend Davery, must rescue him. But they will need help and all the guidance that their Navajo heritage can provide.

Thoughts: This was a Rick Riordan presents book, so of course I had to read it. Definitely geared for a younger audience, but I still enjoyed it. I loved learning about some of the Navajo stories and traditions by listening to this book. It was a good story and I look forward to reading more!

Rating: 3 1/2-4 stars out of 5



Title: The Dutch House
Author: Ann Patchett
Narrator: Tom Hanks

Synopsis: Cyril Conroy was a business man who made a series of good investments and his wealth grew and grew. To celebrate his elevated status, he purchased the Dutch House for his family. But it ended up being the undoing of them. His wife, hating the house, leaves and never returns. Eventually Cyril re-married a woman named Andrea who moves into the house with her two younger daughters. Slowly, Danny and his older sister Maeve are pushed away and out of the house by their stepmother. Danny and Maeve maintain a very close relationship and often reflect on their lives and on the Dutch House where they are no longer welcome. As time goes on, the house continues to influence them.

Thoughts: This was a book club selection for the month of February. And I was excited because it had already been on my radar as some people that I follow gave it good reviews. It was a different story than I was expecting. And I'm not really sure what to say about it. I feel like I can not properly sum up the scope of this book. I will say that I had lots of feelings and there was a time or two that I cried. And despite feeling like I didn't understand the plot, I still wanted to keep reading. I recommend it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



Title: We're Going to Need More Wine
Author: Gabrielle Union
Narrator: Gabrielle Union

Synopsis: This is a collection of stories from the life of Gabrielle Union. From early childhood and finding pride in her identity as a black woman, to struggles of adolescence and relationships, to her acting career, and on.

Thoughts: I bought this audiobook a while ago after a discussion on the Owlcrate Society Facebook page about which memoirs were good to read. This one sounded interesting, so I went for it, even though I knew very little about her. Some of the stories were funny, some were sad, but they were all very real. I definitely recommend it.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars


Favorite book read this month: Maybe the Gilded Wolves. Since I have been trying to find any special edition releases of the sequel later this year (to match my special edition of the first book).
Least favorite book read this month: None! I didn't dislike any of them

Reading goal progress: 13 of 75 books completed
Alphabet reading goal progress: This month I crossed off D (the Dutch House), F (the Far West), and the W (We're Going to Need More Wine). I need to stop reading books that start with the same letters!

What I should have done was read more books by black authors as it was black history month. But that didn't occur to me until later in the month when I started reading We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union and then started Children of Vice and Virtue by Tomi Adeyemi. But I will try to make up for it in general this year as I have a couple books that I definitely want to get to this year that were written by black authors. I think it's important to read books by more diverse authors. I hope this is something that I can always work on.

I think that is about it for this month. I haven't started on another disease post yet, but I will think on it and see what I want to do next. I'd love to do the plague, but it's my very favorite disease and I am intimidated. I want to do it justice. I'm not sure that I am ready to tackle it yet.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Disease Post: Brucellosis

This is one of my favorite "bugs!"

Background:
Bucellosis is caused by a bacteria from the genus Brucella. There are a few different species that cause disease in animals and humans. For humans, the three species that usually cause disease are suis, abortus, and melitensis.
Brucella colonies on blood agar. Image from Pixnio.

Brucella species are small, anaerobic, gram negative coccobacilli, meaning that they do not require oxygen and do not have peptidoglycan in their cell walls and stain red/pink on a gram stain (bacteria that stain purple are gram positive). Coccobacilli describes the shape--they are between cocci (round) and baccili (rod-shaped).

They are facultative intracellular organisms, which means that they have to be inside another cell for part of their life cycle, but can also live outside of another cell. In the case of Brucella species, the cell they tend to invade is the macrophage. Macrophages are important cells in your immune system. Briefly, they usually "eat" things that are dangerous, like bacteria, and break it up into pieces. Then they take those pieces and display them on the surface of their cells using special cell receptors that will signal other immune cells to look for them. That way, the rest of your immune system can respond to the invaders. Brucella bacteria hiding in these cells, it makes it much more difficult for your body to find and fight off.

How is it spread?
Humans usually get this disease either by being in close contact with an infected animal or by eating contaminated animal products. Namely unpasteurized milk, which is contaminated with the bacteria when an animal is infected (this is why drinking unpasteurized milk is so dangerous). The bacteria can cause infection if inhaled, ingested, or through the skin. Most commonly, it infects via mucous membranes (for example: the eyes, throat, or respiratory tract).

According to the CDC, person-to-person spread is rare, but is most common if a mother is infected, she can infect her breastfeeding infant.

This disease is most worrisome in animals, both wild and agricultural. It is also found world-wide.

The bacteria are not especially hardy, they don't form spores and they can be killed with heat. However, they manage to survive in the environment for several years, if the conditions are right.

The incubation period for this bacteria is about two to four weeks, so there can be quite a delay between getting infected and showing symptoms.

Symptoms:
Many of the symptoms are flu-like: fatigue, fever, sweating, headache, body aches, anorexia, nausea, and malaise (generally not feeling well). According to the CDC, some symptoms can be recurring or persist for a longer period of time. Most commonly these symptoms are: recurrent fever, arthritis, swelling of the heart, neurological problems, chronic fatigue, swelling of the male reproductive system (namely the testes and scrotum), and swelling of the spleen and/or liver.

The good news is that brucellosis is rarely fatal in humans, but it is still considered a potential bioweapon because it can be easily spread and incapacitate people.

The chronic symptoms that are so common with this microbe are due to a couple things: incomplete antibiotic treatment, which causes relapses, and persistent infection by the bacteria in tissues (like bone, spleen, liver, et cetera). It can be difficult to get rid of.

Brucella colonies on serum dextrose. Credit: Royal Veterinary College and Wellcome Collection

Prevention and Treatment:
One way to prevent human infection is by pasteurizing milk and other dairy products. Eating under-cooked meat is not recommended as it could be contaminated with Brucella. There is also a vaccine for herd animals to B. abortus.

People who work with animals like cattle, pigs, goats, and sheep should wear protective clothing, like gloves and goggles.

Because the bacteria hides inside cells, antibiotic treatments can last a long time (often 6 weeks) and often more than one antibiotic is needed. Doxycycline with with rifampicin can be used, or doxycycline with gentamicin. Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole can be used for women who are pregnant or for young children.

Miscellaneous Information:
What I find super interesting about this bacteria is that it causes abortion (and infertility), which can lead to further infections in animals. It almost plays off of the maternal instinct. For example, if a cow is infected and it causes the cow to have an abortion, the cow may survive. However, the aborted fetus is infectious. Other cows may come into contact with the aborted fetus as they inspect it and then the bacteria can infect the new animal. A bit evil and fascinating.

Brucellosis is known by many other names, including: Malta fever, Mediterranean fever, Cyprus fever, goat fever, Gibralter fever, to name a few.

Sources:
The Centers for Disease Control: Brucellosis
Microorganisms and Bioterrorism edited by Burt Anderson, Herman Friedman, and Mauro Bendinelli
Emerging Infectious Diseases by Lisa A. Beltz
Medical Microbiology 6th edition by Patrick R. Murray, Ken S. Rosenthal, and Michael A Pfaller