Wednesday, October 2, 2019

September 2019 Wrap Up

September marks my first month in my new home state. It's been a busy month of moving, organizing, cleaning, job hunting, and adjusting to living with my boyfriend. It's been hard to find a routine so far, but I know it will come with time. And I did manage to find a position in a laboratory here and it is a very exciting opportunity!

I hadn't been working out, though I finally got back into Insanity once we had enough space for me to do a video. Until I got a nasty cold and then started working, so I stopped again more or less. And I have still been working on my bullet journal. It has been something that I actually enjoy and look forward to working on/filling out. I was originally afraid that it would end up feeling more like a chore.

I tried to low-key participate in Victoria Schwab's Schwabtember challenge to read a book (or more) that you've never read by her. I already love some of her books though, so that wasn't a chore for me! Here are the books I read this month. (Luckily more than I read last month...)

Title: Muse of Nightmares
Author: Laini Taylor
Narrator: Steve West

Synopsis: Sarai has been the Muse of Nightmares ever since her power made itself known and she used that to sow fear in the people of Weep. Now that she is a ghost and the man she loves is a "God," everything changes and their fates are held in Minya's bitter, angry hands. As the story unfolds, so does the history of the Mesarthim and how the gods traveled between distant worlds.

Thoughts: I enjoyed the development of the story and the characters, but at times things felt a little chaotic and disjointed. I'm sure some of that was intentional, given the subject, but it made some parts feel oddly drawn out and others seem resolved too quickly. But in general, I was satisfied with the ending.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars


Title: Spin the Dawn
Author: Elizabeth Lim

Synopsis: Maia is the only daughter of a talented tailor. She learns the craft and is very gifted, herself, but women are not meant to be tailors. When her aged, broken father is summoned to court to compete for the position of Imperial Tailor, she disguises herself as his and goes in his place. The competition will challenge all of her abilities and it becomes more complicated once she attracts the attention of the Imperial Enchanter. But it is the final challenge to create three impossible gowns that could prove her downfall.

Thoughts: This was a recent Owlcrate book that immediately caught my attention. Plus, Tamora Pierce gave it a favorable review. I really enjoyed it. In the beginning it struck me as being very Mulan-like, but the story changed after a while. I didn't always love the love story, but I did like the characters and the magic.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: Vicious
Author: V. E. Schwab

Synopsis: This is the story of Victor and Eli. College roommates and friends turned arch nemeses. During the end of college, they found a shared interest in rumored people with special abilities and eventually figured out how to create the proper circumstances to give people these abilities. A series of horrible events lands each of them with extraordinary abilities and lands Victor in jail. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison with the single-minded goal of stopping Eli. And Eli's goal has been to remove all extraordinary people from earth. Both sides have terrible powers and formidable teams, but only one can survive.

Thoughts: I picked this book up forever ago when I was still getting into Schwab's books. I had read the Monsters of Verity duology and loved it too much to get into her other stuff right away. I finally read her Shades of Magic trilogy which I also enjoyed, so I'm not sure why I waited so long to pick this one up. But Schwab hosted a Schwabtember challenge this month and it was the perfect opportunity to read this. And I loved it. It was intense and crazy. I couldn't stop thinking about it and wanting to know what happened next. As usual, V. E. Schwab has not failed to impress. I can't wait to get my hands on Vengeful.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars (The only reason I didn't rate it 5 stars was because I loved the Monsters of Verity duology just a tiny bit better.)


Title: Two Dark Reigns
Author: Kendare Blake

Synopsis: The stories of the queens continues in the third book of the Three Dark Crowns series. Mirabella and Arsinoe have escaped the island, but something is trying to lure them back and they are not sure why. Jules is training her partially bound war gift and joins a rebellion against the old queens as the new Legion Queen. And Kat deals with the dead queens as well as the mist that is rising against her people.

Thoughts: I always wait a long time between these books because they are dark and intense so I always need a break before I continue. But this means that I forget things between reads. Some things did come back to me, but I probably should have brushed up a bit on the last book. That aside, this book felt different than the first two, to me. I think the shifting plotline is what did it. And maybe that is why I liked this one just a bit less than the other two. Despite that feeling, I still liked the book overall. There were parts that were dark and hard, which was expected, and parts that made me very worried for what happens next. And my main thought at the end was, "Everything is going wrong!" So that's where I left it. I do have the last book that I ordered specially from the Bookish Box. It is a signed first edition and came with lots of cool stuff inspired by the trilogy. I loved it. And the first book was received in an Owlcrate box years ago, so it is a little special, too. Anyway, I am looking forward to reading the last one and finding out how it all ends, but I am going to need to take a little break first!

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5


Title: Soul of the Sword
Author: Julie Kagawa
Narrators: Brian Nishii, Joy Osmanski, and Emily Woo Zeller

Synopsis: Hakaimono has broken free and taken over Tatsumi's body. Historically, the Shadow clan would kill the former demon slayer in order to return Hakaimono's soul to the sword. But the leader of the Shadow clan recruits Yumeko to save the demon slayer, which she and her companions were already planning to do. They also need to find the secret temple and give them the piece of the scroll that Yumeko carries.

Thoughts: I enjoyed the first book, Shadow of the Fox, so I knew that I wanted to continue. I was pleased with the way Yumeko (sort of) saves Tatsumi and I liked some of the small side stories of some of the characters. I plan to keep reading so I can find out what happens to everyone now that I have become attached to the characters!

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5


Title: Soul of Stars
Author: Ashley Poston

Synopsis: This is the sequel to Heart of Iron. Di has been HIVE'd, the Great Darkness is coming, and Ana is presumed dead, but feels compelled to save the universe. And Di. Meanwhile Jax has to face the destiny he has dreaded and return to his home planet which he hoped to never see again. And Robb finally finds out who Jax really is. Will Ana and her crew full of misfits be able to stop the Great Dark before it consumes their worlds?

Thoughts: It has been too long since I read Heart of Iron, but I LOVED it. But didn't quite remember how everything ended... which is sad and I probably should have brushed up. I cried a few times while reading this one because I love these characters. I enjoyed Jax's arc and I felt like Robb really came into his own in this book. And I absolutely adore Siege. There were a couple things I found odd. One was Ana's search for Starbright to obtain their help saving Di which was never actually utilized, though I like the other characters that were added because of it. Also, Ana and Di's ending seemed a bit odd, but I'm just going to ignore it. Overall, I enjoyed it very much (though maybe not quite as much as the first one).

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: The Fire Keeper
Author: J.C. Cervantes
Narrator:

Synopsis: This is the second book in the Storm Runner series. Zane put out a call to other god-borns and that has started to bear fruit. Except that most of the gods want the god-borns dead and Zane just put them on the gods' radars. Plus his dad, Hurakan, is in trouble. He's not sure they will have time to save his dad and the god-born. And some powers are working against him and he doesn't know who he can trust.

Thoughts: This was another one that I should have refreshed my memory of the first book before reading this one. Luckily the author hits the key points from the last book very well. I enjoyed the overall story and the characters that were in this one, especially Ah Puch. I have some questions that I want answers to Ixtab's story and motives. I really enjoy learning the Mayan mythology. That's a huge draw for me. While I didn't love this book, I still really liked it and I am looking forward to the next one.

Rating: 3-31/2 stars out of 5


Favorite book read this month: Vicious
Least favorite book read this month: Maybe Muse of Nightmares? I read a lot of good books this month, so I don't feel that I had an obvious least favorite.

And next month is October! My favorite month and that means spooky reads! I will post a bit about what I plan to read on my Instagram, so please check that out.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Disease Post: Anthrax

Something a little different: our first bacteria!

Background:

Anthrax is a disease caused by a bacteria called Bacillus anthracis.

What is bacteria? A bacterium is a single-celled organism. The cells are a little like ours, but a bit more primitive. They are called "prokaryotes" which means "primitive nucleus." (Our cells are "eukaryotes," meaning "true nucleus.") This means that they do not have a nucleus that holds the DNA like our cells do.

Bacteria come in all different sizes and shapes. Bacillus anthracis is in the shape of a rod and is large (relatively speaking). It is Gram-positive, which refers to the way bacteria are stained before looking at them under a microscope. Gram-positive means that they stain with crystal violet dye because they have a cell wall made of peptidoglycan. I won't go into too much detail about peptidoglycan, but it is made of sugars and amino acids and is important in how the bacteria functions and how the immune system interacts with the bacteria.
Anthrax bacillus. Credit: the Wellcome Collection. The bottom two images show the long, rod-shaped bacteria the best.

Another important thing is that this bacteria forms endospores. Endospores (or just "spores") are dormant bacterial cells that cannot reproduce and are very resistant to anything that would kill a normal bacterium. This means that anthrax can survive in bad conditions and in the environment for a long time (usually a few months to a few years, but some can survive for decades). Once a spore enters a host, it can enter the active phase and start reproducing again. Once they are exposed to the environment again, they can sporulate and wait in the dormant state until they can infect another host.

Anthrax bacteria can contain up to three genes in their DNA that codes for different toxins. It is the toxins that cause symptoms. There are particular ways that these genes can be present and they can be transferred between the bacteria, but I don't want to go into too much detail about that. Just know that there are important toxins that can make an anthrax infection worse if the bacteria have any of those genes.

How is it spread?

There are a few types of infection that anthrax can cause: cutaneous (skin), gastrointestinal (in the digestive tract), inhalational (infected through the lungs), and, rarely, meningitis (infecting the nervous system).

Anthrax is mostly a disease of animals and is naturally present in soil all over most of the world. Human to human transmission is very, very rare. We see it in domestic livestock like cattle and in wild animals. Humans are usually infected through the skin or the lungs, often from animals that have the disease or animal products that are contaminated with anthrax.

Symptoms:

Let's break it down into the different types of infection.

Cutaneous: It takes about 1-7 days (incubation period) until a small papule forms on the skin at the infection site. It may become larger. They are usually painless. They can rupture easily and become ulcers and the base will become black, which is characteristic of cutaneous anthrax infection. As long as there are no complications and treatment is received, the lesions will heal just fine. This form is very rarely fatal and is one of the more common forms humans get.
Meat handler: skin lesion of anthrax. Credit: Royal Veterinary College and the Wellcome Collection

Gastrointestinal: This is often how animals are infected, by ingesting the bacteria, and it is an uncommon infection in humans. The incubation period is abut 1-5 days. There will be a fever and localized symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain. From here, it can spread to the blood stream (sepsis) and may cause secondary meningitis if it gets into the central nervous system. The gastrointestinal form can be treated, but is about 40% lethal without treatment.

Inhalational: This is the other infection type that humans get (relatively speaking, inhalational anthrax cases are actually quite rare). It is this form that makes anthrax so scary. Inhalational antrax infection is extremely dangerous and is nearly always fatal without treatment. And treatment needs to happen very quickly and aggressively. This type is about 92% fatal, even with treatment. Usually in this form, spores are inhaled and enter the lungs. They incubate for about 1-6 days. The first symptoms are flu-like (fever, tiredness, aches, headaches). As the disease progresses, there is a high fever, decreased lung function, respiratory distress, chest pain, and more. This form can also cause secondary sepsis and/or meningitis as the bacteria spread. While all forms of human cases of anthrax are rare, this one is the reason it is an agent for bioterrorism.

Meningitis: This form is rare and is mostly associated with gastrointestinal or inhalational infections. This happens when the bacteria infect the central nervous system via the blood stream.

Prevention and Treatment:

There is an anthrax vaccine, but it is not normally available to the public. People who usually have access are laboratory and military personnel and other people who may come in contact with infected animals. The vaccine can also be used after a person has been exposed, much like the rabies vaccine.

There are vaccines available for animals like livestock. Vaccinating these animals significantly reduces human exposure.

There are various antibiotics that can be used to treat the different types of infections. Doxycycline and Ciprofloxacin are commonly used, according to the CDC, but there are others. The treatment with antibiotics is very long and intensive to make sure that the bacteria and any spores are treated.

Sources:
Medical Microbiology 6th Edition by Patrick R. Murray, Ken S. Rosenthal, and Michael A. Pfaller
Centers for Disease Control: Anthrax
WHO: Anthrax

Thursday, September 5, 2019

August 2019 Wrap Up

Sorry for the delay in posting this! And I apologize for the lack of disease post last month. August ended up being very rough for me. My anxiety was through the roof due to moving and leaving my job. And then I had to put my sweet rat, Pye, down. It was the right decision, but it is still hard.

I also ended up helping to rescue 25 (!) baby rats and taking them to the Denver Dumb Friends League. The people there were great. I managed to find homes for 5 of them on my own and then I took three boys home. In normal nerdy fashion, I named them Hades, Zeus, and Poseidon.

I only finished two books in August! I haven't read so few in a very long time. I did get close to finishing two more, but it won't be until September so they won't count. But here are reviews for the two I read:

Title: Strange the Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
Narrator: Steve West

Synopsis: Lazlo Strange has always been a dreamer. He has grown up obsessed with a mysterious and mythic city called "Weep." As a grown man, he continues researching all he can, immersing himself in fairy tales. Or so everyone thinks until he ends up in a party of travelers who are going to Weep to help the locals solve a mysterious problem.

Thoughts: I feel like I am late to the Laini Taylor party. This is the first book by her that I have read. I have to say, it is not what I was expecting at all. But despite that (or because of it), I did enjoy it and immediately started the second book because I needed to know how everything ended.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: Sorcery of Thorns
Author: Margaret Rogerson

Synopsis: Elisabeth is an orphan adopted at a young age by librarians. She grows up around the tomes in one of the Great Libraries of the realm. In this place, most books are dangerous, steeped in evil sorcery and sorcerers, as she understands, are all evil. Then a powerful grimoire that is chained in her library breaks free as a destructive Malefict. Elisabeth defeats it, but ends up traveling to the capital with sorcerer Nathanial Thorn and his demonic servant. But things aren't quite what they seem, and Elisabeth has to question all that she has been taught and find where her loyalties lie.

Thoughts: This was a recent Owlcrate book and I wanted to read it as soon as I read the synopsis. Elisabeth and Nathanial were quite likeable. And I grew way too attached to Silas for my own good. He was definitely my favorite character. I think if you read the book, you will see why, but I definitely can't say anything without spoiling something!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Since I only read two, I won't pick a favorite or least favorite. And both were quite good. And both concerned books and magic!

Anyway, September has started and I am mostly settled in New Mexico. I hope that I can get back on course here and that my next wrap up will be on time and that I will get a disease post up. I'm planning to do the next one about anthrax. I hope you are as excited about it as I am!