Thursday, August 1, 2019

July 2019 Wrap Up

July has been a hectic month what with packing and moving and job hunting. I still managed to read a few books though, so lets start there!

Title: My Plain Jane
Authors: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

Thoughts: So I did not love this book. I started it at the beginning of April and didn't finish until the beginning of July. I liked the overall idea of the story (and their last book, My Lady Jane, was OK). I definitely considered bailing a couple of times, but I love Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte, so I kept going.

It is an alternate story of how the classic Jane Eyre came to be. But in this version, Charlotte Bronte was friends with Jane Eyre. And Jane Eyre can see ghosts. Silly? Yes, but a little fun (even though the humor wasn't really my brand).

Rating: 2-2 1/2 of 5 stars



Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Narrator: Priya Ayyar

Thoughts: This has been on my TBR pile for what seems like ages and I'm not sure why I took so long to read it! I loved all the mythology and magic. I cared so much about the characters and about Maya's journey to find her place. As daughter of the Raja, she is prominent, but cursed with a terrible horoscope that spells a dark destiny for her. In a strange turn of events, she marries Amar and becomes queen of Akaran, but Akaran is not all it seems. As Maya uncovers more secrets about herself and Amar, her life changes and she risks losing everything that she loves.

I loved it and I love the way that Amar loves Maya. I know it has several different inspirations from Hindu mythology, but the story reminded me of Psyche and Eros. Highly recommend it, and I need to read more of her books!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: Finale
Author: Stephanie Garber
Narrator: Rebecca Soler

Thoughts: I did this one partially listening to the audiobook and partially reading my physical copy, which is a pretty edition I received in an Owlcrate.

Overall I liked it OK, though I did predict some of the plot twists before they happened. And I still have very conflicting feelings about Jacks. I really wanted him to have a redemption arc in this book, but I'm not really sure he got one? I loved and hated him all at once.

While I'm glad that almost everyone got the (mostly) happy endings I hoped for, I think the book felt a little more dragged out than the last one but the ending felt very abrupt. I still enjoyed the series and would recommend them, but I think I liked the first two a little more because they happened during actual Caraval events, which are interesting to me.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars


Title: MCAT Biology Review
Author: Kaplan Test Prep

Thoughts: Not a real reading book, but it took me months to finish this one and I am counting them towards my reading goals! I'm not sure why it took me so long to read this one. Usually biology is my strongest subject, but I seriously need some anatomy and physiology classes before I take the MCAT and then go back through this book again.

                                      Rating: 3 out of 5 stars



Title: Shadow of the Fox
Author: Julie Kagawa

Thoughts: Yumeko is half fox, half human and is tasked with saving a magical scroll and taking it to a secret temple far from everything she has ever known. Soon after, she meets up with a specially trained ninja, Kage Tatsumi, who is low-key possessed by a demon who has been sent to find the scroll. She strikes a deal with him to take him with her if he will help protect her from the many demons, witches, and other evil creatures sent after her and the scroll. There are a few problems: Tatsumi doesn't know that she is part fox nor that she has the scroll. Other people join their group, complicating their mission. And Tatsumi may have to kill Yumeko at the end of the journey. And he might kind of like her.

This was an owlcrate book I received many months ago. I had mixed feelings going into it, probably because it has pretty mixed reviews and I didn't know what to expect. At first, I wasn't very into it, but by about half-way through I was pretty invested and read the rest quickly. I enjoyed it quite a bit and definitely need to read the next one! I must know what happens!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: The Royal Art of Poison
Author: Eleanor Herman
Narrator: Susie Berneis

Thoughts: This book is about poisons! But also about history and royalty (and other high-ranking, important people) and how they died. All the people covered were suspected to have died of poison, but were they? This book talks about different poisons, how they work, the symptoms, and even how they were used in cosmetics and medications. But diseases and general filth killed people, too. How did the royals protect themselves against poisons? What cures did they use?

This book was super interesting. I am interested in diseases, which feel similar to poisons to me and I loved the case histories and trying to pick them apart. Very enjoyable if you are interested in history and poison!

Rating: 3.5-4 out of 5 stars


Title: Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus
Authors: Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy

Thoughts: This book is all about rabies. Plenty of information about the history of the disease and various crazy "cures" through the ages (which don't work as rabies is nearly 100% fatal). The best part for me was a chapter about how rabies may have contributed to the stories of the werewolf and vampire.

I didn't read this book in detail since I was going through it for my rabies disease post, but I did at least skim the whole book, so I am counting it. If you are interested in infectious diseases and would like the history as well as some cultural stories and histories and a few more modern stories, this is a good book for you.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Title: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
Author: Abbi Waxman
Narrator: Emily Rankin

Thoughts: Nina Hill is just living her (mostly) quiet, book-filled life in LA when she has a dead father and a crazy family thrown into her lap. She learns all about her new-found family and mixed things about the father she never knew. And on top of it, she might want to date this guy she met. And she doesn't handle change and surprises very well.

I liked this book overall. There were a few parts that I just didn't love, but there were some parts that made me laugh out loud. I related to Nina by loving books and also having anxiety. I enjoyed the adventure for sure, though for some reason didn't love the ending? Maybe it felt too forced and rushed for my taste. But I still enjoyed it enough to read it again in the future.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Favorite book read this month: The Star-touched Queen or the Bookish Life of Nina Hill
Least favorite book read this month: My Plain Jane

I have been continuing Insanity, which I think is a very good thing for me. And I have made a few trips down to the new apartment and have been slowly moving my stuff down there. And trying to get rid of things (which I am terrible at doing) because the new place is pretty small and there isn't room! But slow and steady wins the race, right?

My anxiety has been steadily climbing because I am not good at moving or handling change. Plus I ended up trying to help a lady find homes for some baby rats. By the way, if anyone in Colorado or New Mexico would like some cute baby rats, please let me know! I will probably take a few myself. Anyway, working out seems to help and I am trying to do little things each day to help keep it manageable.

I'm not sure if this will help my anxiety or make it worse, but I decided to start a bullet journal/planner. I've always kept a fairly detailed planner, this will just be more involved. At the very least, I hope it will help keep me on track and help me track the things that help my mood and anxiety. If it is successful, I will try to post some of the things I am trying.

And last but not least, I hope you enjoyed my disease post. Rabies was fun to do. And now that it is finished, I am a bit at a loss for what to do next. Smallpox and rabies seemed like easy ones to tackle (I'm not sure why I felt that way, but I did). I would like to do something bacterial next, so maybe I will try for Brucella or anthrax. If it feels like too much, maybe I will switch to another virus like herpes or Varicella zoster (which causes chicken pox). If anyone has questions or requests, please let me know!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Disease Post: Rabies

Welcome to the Rabies post!

Background:

Rabies is caused by a virus from the rhabdovirus family and is bullet-shaped. The virus has an envelope (a double layer of lipids like those that form our cell membranes). Rabies' genetic material is single-stranded RNA.
Transmisson electron microscopy picture of a rhabdovirus. Image from the Wellcome Collection.

Brief review: in humans, our genetic material is double-stranded DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that is kept in the nucleus of our cells. Kind of like the control center. When we need to make a protein, the DNA strands unwind and we have cellular proteins that make a copy of the DNA which is called RNA. Human RNA (ribonucleic acid) is always single-stranded. This strand of RNA then exits the nucleus and into the cytoplasm of the cell where other proteins translate the RNA instructions into a protein.

Since rabies contains single-stranded RNA, it can enter the cytoplasm of our cells and use our cell's machinery to make more viruses.

Rabies is a disease that is present all around the world (except in Antarctica) and has been around for thousands of years (at least). It is thought to have evolved with dogs and wolves as those are usually the most easily affected and infected animals. Most cases in humans occur in Asia and Africa, but it is regularly seen in Europe, Australia, and the Americas, too. In places where dog vaccination is common (like the US), fewer dogs are problems and bats become more likely to spread the disease. There are also vaccination programs in wild animals like foxes and raccoons via food baits, which is great, but there aren't any programs that can easily vaccinate bats, to my knowledge.

How is it spread?

Rabies is often found in wild animals like raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and bats. Domestic animals, like dogs and cats can become infected. And of course, humans. To my knowledge, rabies only infects mammals.

Rabies is spread through the saliva of an infected mammal and enters the new host through broken skin. Infections are usually caused by a bite, but can be transmitted by a scratch.

The virus enters the wound and moves into the local nerve cells or neurons. Once it is in the neurons, it can hide really well from your immune system (obviously your immune system should not normally attack your nervous system because it is so important for all of your normal functions). From the local nerves it makes its way from nerve to nerve to reach the central nervous system (your spinal cord and brain). After that, the virus travels down to the salivary glands where they can shed into the saliva and try to spread further! (Side note: viruses when they multiply are said to be "shed" or released, usually in very large numbers. This is how they enter the environment and spread to other hosts.)

One lucky thing about this virus is that it moves pretty slowly, depending on how far away it is from the central nervous system when it enters the body. For example, if you are bitten on your calf, you will have a lot more time before the virus reaches your brain than someone who is bitten on the neck. Viral load, or how many viruses enter the wound, also plays a role in how quickly it moves. If only a few viruses enter a wound, it will take longer to get to the brain. It's slow movement is important for treatment, which we will discuss later.

Symptoms:

According to the WHO, "incubation period for rabies is typically 2–3 months but may vary from 1 week to 1 year, dependent upon factors such as the location of virus entry and viral load."
Rabid dog. Image from the Wellcome Collection.

Early symptoms are pretty standard: fever, weakness, headache, and body aches. Oftentimes, people will feel tingling, prickling, and/or burning sensations as the virus spreads through the nerve cells. Hydrophobia (fear of water) and sometimes photophobia (fear of light or sensitivity to light) are later symptoms.

There are two forms of the disease: paralytic rabies and furious rabies. Furious rabies is the rabies most of us are familiar with. Furious rabies is a faster moving manifestation of the disease. It is characterized by hyperactivity, excitability, hydrophobia, agitation, confusion, and insomnia.

What is super interesting to me is the hydrophobia. The people who experience this (and not all rabies-infected people/animals do) have pain when they try to swallow. This is a viral strategy (so to speak, they aren't alive) to help spread it. The virus is present in saliva and the virus wants to get out, not be swallowed. Being swallowed defeats the virus' purpose. The virus affects an animal's ability to swallow in order to spread. Much like a cold virus will cause a person to sneeze so that virus can be spread in the air to new hosts.

In paralytic rabies, the disease is slower and not as exciting, so to speak. As the virus spreads, the person becomes paralyzed starting at the site of infection and slowly spreading until the person is completely paralyzed and falls into a coma.

No matter which form you get, the ultimate outcome is almost always death. According to the CDC, "less than 20 cases of human survival from clinical rabies have been documented" and only a few of the survivors had not had any preventative treatment (like the rabies vaccine) or treatment after they were exposed. This shows just how deadly this virus is. It has been noted throughout much of history that if a victim reaches the hydrophobia stage of disease, the outcome will be death.

Prevention and Treatment:

For those of you with dogs, you probably know that rabies vaccines are routine. Generally, they receive the vaccine as puppies and then have a booster every three years, though some areas require a booster every year. Dogs are often vaccinated against rabies, which is good because most cases of human rabies are from domestic dogs. Humans who work closely with animals, like veterinary doctors and staff, or laboratory staff that work with animals may receive the vaccine as prevention. Vaccination against rabies is not standard in humans, though.

If you get bitten or scratched by an animal that can carry rabies, what do you do? Seek care as soon as you can, especially if you do not know the animal or their health state. Cleaning the wound very well can help a person's chances. Normally, people who may have been infected receive the rabies vaccine because the virus moves slowly enough for your body to react to the vaccine and then to react to the actual virus to clear it. Your body just needs a little help from that vaccine. If someone is further along or more at-risk, they may receive rabies immunoglobulin. Immunoglobulin are antibodies specific to a disease, rabies in this case. Antibodies are produced by your immune system to help target and inactivate viruses (or bacteria, and so on). The immunoglobulin is produced in a laboratory and given to people to help their immune system combat the disease until that person's own immune system can catch up and start making its own antibodies.

Miscellaneous Information: 

If you are interested in rabies, I highly recommend the book Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy. My favorite parts were about how the rabies virus may have helped inspire the stories of werewolves and vampires. Both horror figures are strongly associated with wolves/dogs. Vampires are also associated with bats. Both involve biting to spread the conditions. Werewolves are often associated with rage and being unpredictable and uncontrollable. And then vampires don't do well (or can't exist at all) in sunlight--photophobia. Many classic vampires also can't cross water--hydrophobia.

The book also goes into the history of the disease, old time treatments (like drinking something containing "the hair of the dog that bit you," which is a common phrase even now) and how it has caused people throughout time to create laws to prevent the spread of rabies.

That is about it for rabies! Please let me know if you have any questions or if I have any information incorrect! Thanks for reading!

And a very special thank you to my friend, Veronica! She edited this post and helped me find things that needed more information or clarification. So thank you for your help!

Sources:
Virology: Principles and Applications by John Carter and Venetia Saunders
World Health Organization
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy
Medical Microbiology 6th Edition by Patrick R. Murray, Ken S. Rosenthal, and Michael A. Pfaller
WebMD Pet Vaccines: Schedules for Cats and Dogs

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

June 2019 Wrap Up

Time for the June wrap up! Here is what I read in June:

Title: Circe
Author: Madeline Miller
Narrator: Perdita Weeks

Thoughts: I love mythology and so I loved this take on Circe's story. It has been ages since I read the Odyssey, but this made me want to go back and read it again. There is a bunch that I didn't remember. But this story made Circe a pretty remarkable character and I loved this story.

           Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: When Women Ruled the World
Author: Kara Cooney
Narrator: Kara Cooney

Thoughts: I also love history and find Egyptian history so mysterious and interesting. I once listened to an audiobook/lecture about Egypt and the lecturer talked about how to become Pharaoh, one had to marry the right woman and it sparked an interest in me about women in early Egypt. This book was about six specific queens (and even female kings) in these days: Merneith, Hatshepsut (a personal favorite of mine), Neferusobek, Nefertiti, Towasret, and Cleopatra. But I loved the history, the archeological finds, and the speculation about their lives.

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


Title: Legendary
Author: Stephanie Garber
Narrator: Rebecca Soler

Thoughts: OK, it's been a couple of years since I read Caraval and I should have re-read it to refresh my memory. There were several things about Caraval that I didn't remember too well, but I mostly got by. This book focuses on Tella and her participation in Caraval in order to find her mother. The last game felt real, but wasn't. This game is a lot more real than anyone, including Tella, would like.

Overall, I enjoyed it quite a bit and I am looking forward to reading the last book, Finale, to find out what happens!! I need happy endings for Tella and Scarlett, and even for Legend!

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


Title: King of Scarrs
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang

Thoughts: I read this partially as an audio book and partially with my physical copy because I just needed to keep going! (For the record, the only other times I have done this was with the Six of Crows duology also by Leigh Bardugo.)

I loved it. I loved the dynamics of the gang that the story focuses on. It was funny, charming, and occasionally a bit sad and scary. And I still love Nikolai and it turned out that I also like Zoya! No one was more surprised about that than I was. And I'm not sure if we are heading towards a Nikolai/Zoya romance or not, but I am not opposed to the idea after reading this book. I'm honestly not sure when the next one comes out, but I can't wait!

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


Favorite book read this month: King of Scars
Least favorite book read this month: I liked the books I read this month! None!

I also started Insanity again. I don't plan to do any of the month two videos, but I do plan to keep repeating the month one videos. It's a good, quick workout that I can usually make time for. Plus, I am hoping it will help with my anxiety and my sleep. So far it does seem to be helping.

No real news on the job front, but I have started moving my things into what will be my new home. I'm feeling very nervous about all of this, but I hope it will be a good new chapter in my life.

I suppose that is about it for June. And I hope you enjoyed my first disease post. I am already working on the next one: rabies! If anyone would like to see a specific disease (or similar topic) covered, please feel free to reach out. Otherwise I will continue to pick whichever strikes my fancy and feels like a topic I can tackle.

Until next month, read good books!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Disease Post: Smallpox

Greetings and welcome to my first (hopefully of many) science posts.

If you read my last post, I was inspired by the second half of the vaccine episode of the podcast This Podcast Will Kill You (which is an awesome podcast and everyone should listen to it). In the second part of the vaccine episodes, they discussed that people not believing science and scientific research is because scientists don't make information accessible and easy to understand. I agree and think this is a huge shortcoming in the field of science. To that end, I would like to contribute to the scientific knowledge that is available out there.

Let me start with a little introduction and background:

I have my Bachelor's degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. I did a decent amount of focus on molecular biology at this time. I have my Master's in Microbiology and infectious diseases are certainly my passion. Currently I am taking steps (slow baby steps, but steps) towards medical school and on to be a doctor who specializes in infectious diseases (fingers crossed). Because that would be the most amazing thing ever. I have a pretty good science background. I have worked in a lab for several years and have background as a tutor. I am hoping that these things will enable me to take on this blog project.

However, my background is almost entirely in Biology and Microbiology. I can get by Chemistry alright, but that is about the extent of what I know. So as much as I wish I could educate on topics like global warming, I can't and don't plan to try unless I get help from someone who knows the field. So that means that I will end up focusing on diseases (at least to start). I do have an older post about vaccination here: Why You Should Vaccinate, and I may do more like that in the future. Right now this is a bit of a pet project and we will see how it goes.

And now for:
Disease Post One: Smallpox!

A tiny bit of background information: what is a virus? The Merriam-Webster dictionary says a virus is
     any of a large group of submicroscopic infective 
     agents that are usually regarded as nonliving 
     extremely complex molecules, that typically 
     contain a protein coat surrounding an RNA or DNA 
     core of genetic material but no semipermeable 
     membrane, that are capable of growth and 
     multiplication only in living cells, and that 
     causes very important diseases in humans, 
     animals, and plants

Basically, this means that there are several different kinds and families and types of viruses. They might have DNA or RNA genetic material which may be single- or double-stranded (which will affect how they use the host cell to make more copies). Some have an envelope around them that is basically the same as our cell's membranes. Some do not have a membrane. These will affect how a virus enters and exits a host cell and provide some level of protection/preservation when the virus is not inside a host. It is up for debate whether viruses are actually alive or not. That's not something we are going to get into here. Viruses are mostly considered non-living because of one important feature: they need another living cell in order to multiply their numbers and spread. 

Viruses are the source of many different diseases, some are lethal and others are minor. Some can even cause cancer. I'm going to underline this next point: viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics! Antibiotics treat bacterial infections, not viral. There are anti-viral medications out there for serious infections, but viruses can be harder to treat because they like to hide in our cells.

Smallpox is a disease caused by a virus, namely Variola major. (There is a less common and less lethal virus that causes smallpox called Variola minor.) The variola viruses are double-stranded DNA viruses so their genetic material is like ours! They are very large viruses because they have to carry a bunch of machinery around due to the fact that they replicate their DNA in the cytoplasm of human cells. Since we, as humans, replicate out DNA in the nucleus of our cells, the virus can't hijack our own machinery to aid them. Therefore, they carry their tools with them!

Smallpox was common around the world for thousands of years. It was officially eradicated in 1980. Smallpox virus only has one host: humans. Which made it a good target for eradication because it cannot be hiding somewhere in the environment or in an animal host, waiting to re-establish itself in the human population. Once the vaccination programs spread, the virus had no where to go, and now its gone! The only smallpox left in the world are in a couple of laboratories (both in the US and in Russia because it is a great pick for bioterrorism and biowarfare--maybe an idea for a future post as I actually took a course on that very thing during my Master's).

While smallpox seems less relevant today, it is a historically important disease that killed loads of people. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control): "On average, 3 out of every 10 people who got it died. Those who survived were usually left with scars." It is also where vaccines started. I won't get too into all of the history here, but in the late 1700's Edward Jenner used a live vaccinia virus (which causes cowpox, a virus/disease related to smallpox) to inoculate or infect a patient. The reason for this was that he noticed that milkmaids often didn't get smallpox if they had contracted the much milder cowpox. His methods worked (luckily since he used human subjects in the days before scientific ethics was a thing). And the word "vaccine" comes from "vacca," which is latin for "cow!"

Edward Jenner vaccinating a child. Image from Wellcome Collection.


How is it spread? 

Smallpox initially infects the respiratory system and so it is usually transmitted in the air from one person to another. It can also be spread through touch because the scabs and sores contain live virus, but that is less common. Namely, it happened when the infected person sneezed or coughed virus into the air.

Once smallpox is in the body, it incubates (develops, multiplies) for several days, the CDC estimates between 7 and 19 days. During this time, there may not be any symptoms present and the person probably won't know he or she is sick.

Symptoms: 
  • First symptoms are pretty common for diseases: fever and body aches. Some patients may experience vomiting. The CDC states that this stage is not usually contagious, but it can be.
  • Next the patient will start to develop a rash in the mouth and tongue. This is when patients are most contagious! That is part of why this disease is dangerous and easy to spread: people around you don't know you have smallpox!
  • Following this stage, the sores in the mouth will begin to fade to be replaced by the signature skin sores. 
  • The sores become pustules (bumps filled with fluid) form that have a characteristic dent in the middle. 
  • The pustules will start to scab over and the scabs eventually fall off. This happens after about 3 weeks of obvious disease (from the mouth sores). And remember, the pustules and scabs are also contagious. Once the scabs are all gone, the person is not contagious anymore.
This highlights another reason this disease is important: if you got smallpox (and almost everyone did before vaccines), you were sick and contagious for about a month. If you survived. Remember the mortality rate was about 33%. Meaning that about a third of the people who were infected would die of the disease.

If the virus moved to the eye, the patient could become blind.

According to the WHO, "Between 65–80% of survivors are marked with deep pitted scars (pockmarks), most prominent on the face."

One upside: if you survived, you had life-long immunity! This means you cannot get smallpox twice!
Smallpox rash and pustules. Image from Wellcome Collection.


Prevention and Treatment:
These are not super important now that smallpox is eradicated, but there are still stocks of smallpox vaccine out there. Military personnel are the most common people vaccinated these days, and not even all of them receive the vaccine. I believe it is available to medical professionals in some places, but many never receive it. The main reason for this is that the vaccine is still a live virus (a weaker vaccinia virus that was developed in labs for the vaccine for many generations) and can cause people nearby to become infected by the vaccine strain. When a person gets the vaccine, they are supposed to avoid human contact for a while until the vaccine site heals. (I know the old vaccines gave a pox mark/pock mark and pustule, so you would have to wait for the scab to fall off, just like with smallpox. I'm unsure if the current vaccines are the same, but I know they are still contagious.)


As for treatment, there are a couple options, just in case! None of these antivirals (medication used to treat viruses) have been used to treat smallpox because there are no more cases, but they are: tecovirimat (TPOXX), cidofovir and brincidofovir.

That's about it for smallpox! I hope you liked it and learned something. And if I missed anything or got anything wrong, please, please let me know so that I can correct it! Feel free to reach out with questions or if something needs clarification. Thanks!

Sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization
Medical Microbiology, 6th edition by Patrick R. Murray, Ken S. Rosenthal, and Michael A. Pfaller
Mayo Clinic

Also, thanks so much to my friend, Veronica, for helping me edit this post!

Monday, June 3, 2019

May 2019 Wrap Up

May has been a pretty crazy month for me. I got to go to Disneyland at the beginning, which was amazing. About a week ago (or so), I was in Pittsburgh which was another new place for me. Then June 1st was the anniversary of Sprite's death and the day that I left to visit New Mexico. That's why this post is a little bit late, sorry!

However, I read several great books last month!

Title: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler
Author: Kelly Harms

Thoughts: I believe this was from the Amazon Prime First Reads. While on vacation I was craving some contemporary fiction so I picked this one out of my Kindle library. It is about a woman who has been abandoned by her husband and forced to find a way to be a single mom. But when he comes back years later, she's not sure she wants to share her life. Her friends help encourage her to allow her ex to take care of the kids while she goes to a conference in New York and re-discovers herself on her "Momspringa."

I wasn't sure how much I would like this book, but I found it surprisingly enjoyable. It's always good to remember that there is more to life than just the hard stuff!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: Leah on the Offbeat
Author: Becky Albertalli

Thoughts: A young adult contemporary this time by an author I have loved in the past. This is the story of high school student Leah and how she navigates her way through trying to be a friend, drummer, daughter, student, artist, and maybe girlfriend? As high school is drawing to an end, she knows her life will be changing forever, whether she likes it or not.

I really enjoyed her book the Upside of Unrequited and I liked Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and I liked this one, too. I was so heartbroken for her when she found her prom dress and her mom was less than enthusiastic. But I liked the story and it was a great vacation read.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: Aru Shah and the Song of Death
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Narrator: Soneela Nankani

Thoughts: Book two of the Pandava Quartet and I enjoyed it just as much as the first one. The adventures of Aru and Mini continue. They meet another Pandava sister, Brynne, and other allies and must recover the bow and arrow for the god of love before they are banned from the Otherworld forever.

I am generally a sucker for mythology and mythological re-tellings. While my knowledge of Hindu mythologies and the Pandava stories are not the strongest, this series has been great so far.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: There's Something About Sweetie
Author: Sandhya Menon

Thoughts: Another young adult contemporary that I ordered as soon as it came out. This is about Ashish who is still recovering from a bad breakup and allows his parents to arrange some dates with an Indian-American girl of their choosing. And they choose Sweetie who is an accomplished singer, great student, and a track star. And she is fat. She is ok with all of these things, but she is never sure if other people are. Like her mother. Despite everything, Sweetie and Ashish find love.

This was a sweet, feel-good book. I really liked her book From Twinkle, With Love (though I didn't enjoy When Dimple Met Rishi as much). I think Sandhya Menon's books just keep getting better. And this is a wonderful summer romantic read!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: I'm Fine and Neither Are You
Author: Camille Pagán

Thoughts: Penelope is left reeling from the death of her best friend, who seemed like she had the perfect life. As Penelope discovers that this is not the case, she decides it's time to fix things in her own hectic life. And she has a list and a husband who is willing to help work on their marriage and help encourage Penelope to be honest about what she needs and how she feels. While the tasks often seem insurmountable to her, she does start managing to make small changes and improvements to her life.

I got this for my Kindle on sale a while back and picked it up in the midst of my book hangover from The Overdue Life of Amy Byler (which was another book hangover pick from Matchmaking for Beginners that I read a few months ago and wanted more of). I'm starting to see weird patterns in my adult contemporary novel picks! But I did enjoy this one and I cried a few times. A lot of it felt like it could be very real and it made me think.

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


Did I give all of my reads this month 4 out of 5 stars (or nearly)? Yes. It was a good month for reading! Even if I didn't finish my Biology MCAT book like I promised myself. Sometimes that's just the way life goes. I didn't feel like studying while I was on my vacations and ultimately I am very happy with the books I got to read this month.

I also have an idea rolling around in my head for this blog. I am passionate about science and I have posted a couple little things in the past that are science related. I was listening to a podcast episode recently (the second half of the vaccine episode of This Podcast Will Kill You, which is an awesome podcast and you should totally listen to it). They talked some about science and how the general public doesn't understand science and how scientists make information inaccessible to people who aren't, well, scientists. It got me thinking that I might want to contribute to the science community. Maybe I can help make some of this knowledge more accessible? I wish I were an expert on all science (ie: global warming), but I'm not. I do know infectious diseases though. I'm not sure if there is much interest out there for this, but it is something I have been thinking about trying. I will try to start putting something together within the next month or two. Please let me know if you have questions or suggestions!

I can't recall any other big news or developments in my life. Except maybe that I got to see the new Aladdin movie and I recommend it!

Happy summer! Hope you read something amazing!

Friday, May 3, 2019

April 2019 Wrap Up

Sorry for the delay in posting this. I have been on vacation and lost track of my days!

I have to admit, April sort of got away from me. In many ways, it was a very rough month. Little family things and work being very demanding on my time and energies. Despite all of this, I did manage to get some books read. I also managed to participate in the Lol-a-thon reading challenge. Though I did not manage to post much about it. And I think I was the only one who participated (I'm not sure even the creator participated, to be honest). But that's ok. It was still fun and a way to get me to read things that I might not read normally.

Title: Foolish Hearts
Author: Emma Mills

Thoughts: This is a contemporary young adult book about a girl named Claudia whose life is going through some pretty big changes (as in many YA contemporary books). But she finds that, in the end, maybe some of those changes are good. She meets new people, makes new friends, and experiences new things by being forced to participate in the school's rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream. And while her relationships with some of her family and friends also change, that doesn't mean she loses them.
This was a book I received in an Owlcrate box ages ago (it seems). I'm not sure why I waited so long to read it. I found it very charming and enjoyed it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: Sal and Gabi Break the Universe
Author: Carlos Hernandez
Narrator: Anthony Rey Perez

Thoughts: A fun little story from Rick Riordan Presents (which all go on my must read, obviously). Admittedly, this one wasn't my favorite of the Rick Riordan Presents books, but I did like the Cuban spin and the magical aspects. Sal has a bad habit of breaking the universe (namely by bringing his dead mother back from alternate universes). He meets Gabi and together they find the ways that this power is bad and the ways it is good. Read to complete a Lol-a-thon challenge: Read a book with a fun cover.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars


Title: Gods Behaving Badly
Author: Marie Phillips
Narrator: Rosalyn Landor

Thoughts: There were parts of this book that I really enjoyed and thought were funny, but there were portions that I distinctly disliked. The premise is that the Greek gods are still around, but exist in a weakened state and live in a horrible house in London. They find that they need the help of a couple of mortals to restore their powers. I enjoyed the different gods and their modern "jobs." I distinctly did not care for the unsavory sex scenes and discussions. And there was a funny part about how you have to learn to feel guilty in order to be a Christian (Eros becomes a devout Christian and lectures Apollo on how guilt feels). Overall fairly funny and silly. Read for the Lol-a-thon challenge: Read a book with a non-human main character (if gods count).

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars


Title: How to Train Your Dragon
Author: Cressida Cowell
Narrator: David Tennant

Thoughts: A re-read for me, but I do enjoy this book. It's almost nothing like the movie (which I love), but I like the things that are different. Hiccup is supposed to be the next leader of the Hairy Hooligans, after his father, but he can't train his tiny dragon as well as the other boys can. But he has the secret knowledge of the dragon language and finds a way to be a different kind of hero to his tribe. Also read for the Lol-a-thon challenge: Read a book with a non-human main character (in this case, Toothless who is a dragon).

Rating: 4 of 5 stars


Title: The Princess and the Fangirl
Author: Ashley Poston
Narrators: Eileen Stevens, Emily Lawrence, and Caitlin Davies

Thoughts: A re-telling of the Prince and the Pauper tale that takes place in the Geekarella universe. Actress Jess Stone rises to fame in a film re-enactment of a series (Starfield) with a huge nerd fan-base (think Star Trek and the new movie re-creations level). She is both loved and hated by a fandom that she doesn't understand nor care for. She runs into her doppelganger, Imogen, at a Starfield convention and they switch places so that Jess can try to save her career and Imogen can try to save Jess's character, Princess Amara (who Jess does not want saved). They find out how things are on the other side. I rather liked this story, it was sweet and redeeming. I will read any other Geekarella books that Ashley Poston writes! Read for the Lol-a-thon challenge: Read a re-telling.

Rating: 4 of 5 stars


Title: Gin Tama, Volume 1
Author: Hideaki Sorachi

Thoughts: I needed a comic book or manga for the reading challenge. I was searching for one that was supposed to be funny that I hadn't read before and this series came across my radar. It takes place in a distant future where the samurais have been pushed aside by civilizations from other planets. However, a few samurais remain, trying to scrape a living and change the world in their own small ways. It was generally a pretty silly manga. I enjoyed it alright, but don't plan to read more of the series. Read for the Lol-a-thon challenge: Read a graphic novel/manga.

Rating: 2.5-3 stars out of 5

Title: The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2019
Authors: Seth Kubersky and Bob Schlinger
Thoughts: I'm not sure I really need to review this book, but I read it so it counts toward my yearly reading goal! It's probably pretty obvious that I read this in preparation for my Disneyland vacation. And I did find some of the information very useful. I appreciated the maps, some of the food information, and definitely the ride information. I think I avoided some of the longer lines and less exciting rides by reading this book. I read one of their books before a Disney World trip, too, and thought it was a good reference. I didn't really use any of their trip plans because I had five days in the park and more than enough time to spend waiting in lines without rushing around, but there was still plenty of good stuff in here.

Rating: 3.5-4 stars out of 5



Title: A Question of Holmes
Author: Brittany Cavallaro
Narrators: Julia Whelan and Graham Halstead

Thoughts: In the latest (and last?) installment of the Charlotte Holmes series, she and Jamie take on a case from the Oxford summer theater program. In the end, their story has its own wrap up. As far as the cases in this series went, the case itself was fairly tame in comparison to the other books, but it felt fitting to the end of Charlotte and Jamie's story. I enjoyed these books as fun, modern Sherlock Holmes re-tellings.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


Title: The Barkshire Lady's Garland
Author: Unknown

Thoughts: So I found a strange post about this poem from the booklr community on Tumblr and it sounded really funny. The post aptly called it "Wife or Knife" as it is an old poem about a wealthy woman who falls in love with a poor lawyer and puts on a mask to challenge him to a dual if he will not marry her. He agrees to the marriage at his friend's prodding, but she will not remove her mask and continues to mess with him for a bit before giving in a revealing herself and her story. It was very entertaining and a very quick read. I highly recommend it! Read for the Lol-a-thon challenge: Read a book written in an atypical format (sort of a short epic poem, which I almost never read).

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Unfortunately, I did not manage to finish an MCAT review book this month either. I focused too much energy on the reading challenge and work, but I am almost finished with the Biology review.

Fortunately, I am spending the last few days of this month (and the beginning of May) in Disneyland with my boyfriend! I have been in desperate need of a vacation and this one has been amazing so far!

Thanks for bearing with me. Anyone else read anything fun in April?

Monday, April 1, 2019

March 2019 Wrap Up

The beginning of March feels like so long ago and like it was just yesterday. Let's start with book reviews!

Title: Frontier Magic Trilogy (Thirteenth Child, Across the Great Barrier, and The Far West)
Author: Patricia Wrede
Narrator: Amanda Ronconni

Thoughts: I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed so I decided to re-listen to this trilogy. This series is an old favorite and I love the narration. These books make me very happy and feel like old friends.

Set in an alternative early America, they follow the journey of a girl named Eff, who is an unlucky thirteenth child (so they say). Her twin brother, however, is the seventh son of a seventh son and blessed with luck and strong magic. Due to her fear of her magic and of being an unlucky thirteenth, the development of her own magical abilities is unique, but she eventually finds her strengths.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, 4 out of 5 stars, and 5 out of 5 stars, respectively.

Title: Ruin and Rising
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang

Thoughts: Another re-read in preparation of King of Scars. I had forgotten several things about this book, so returning to it was very beneficial. I still love Nikolai. I did manage to find more sympathy and a better liking for Mal this time around. The first time through, I sort of hated him by the end. I like the way the story wraps up and feel like most characters had good endings.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: The Tea Dragon Society
Author: Katie O'Neill

Thoughts: This is a graphic novel I received in an Owlcrate box. It was the first thing I read after my book bail. I don't read graphic novels very often, but this looked cute and it definitely was! It was a nice little story and I plan to read the next one when it comes out. The main idea is that there are different kinds of dragons for different kinds of tea and they develop relationships with their caretakers and said caretakers form a society and good friendships and relationships. It is on the simple side, but a nice, quick read that left me feeling good!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



Title: The Steel Prince
Author: V.E. Schwab

Thoughts: Oddly enough, another graphic novel! But written by Victoria Schwab, who I love. This is a prequel to the Darker Shade of Magic trilogy which follows Maxim before he becomes king. I enjoyed it, though I thought some of the artwork was hard to follow. I did just fine reading the dialogue, though. I want to read more (partially because I want to know more about how he meets his wife and about her history and magic).

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars




Here is my book bail. I had been trying to read this book for nearly two months and was barely halfway through. I just wasn't interested and I didn't enjoy the writing much. Admittedly, it is below my reading level. I may have enjoyed it more if I'd read it at a younger age. As it was, it was really bogging down my reading progress because I felt so bad abandoning it and felt I couldn't start anything else until I finished this one. When I finally decided to stop and move on, I made much better progress and started feeling like reading was fun and not a chore. I almost never bail on a book, but it is a relief to feel like I can.


Least favorite book read this month: I am counting the Wind Singer, even though I didn't finish it.
Favorite book read this month: is it cheating to count the Frontier Magic trilogy?

I did not manage to complete a MCAT study guide. I stopped for a couple of weeks when I got sick at the end of last month and then for another week while I was still recovering. I am still working on it though and getting ready to (hopefully) take a class this summer.

I'm also still reading a Disneyland guide book in preparation for my trip next month! I'm very excited!

I don't have much other news this month. I've been applying for jobs down in New Mexico to prepare for moving this fall. I haven't heard back yet, but there are a few I've applied to that sound pretty great!

And lastly, next month I decided to try participating in a small reading challenge I found on Tumblr. It's all about finding fun and funny books in the month of April. Here is a link to the LOL-a-thon Challenge. I hope to post snippets and quotes on my Instagram and Tumblr, too. If anyone would like to get involved, please do! It should be fun!

Monday, March 4, 2019

February 2019 Wrap Up

The shortest month of the year is over, here's what I've got.

First, sorry for the delay, I lost my little Jeki rat this month and then proceeded to get pretty sick for the last week of the month. My reading has definitely fallen off with me trying to get through the MCAT books, but here is what I did get through:

Books finished this month:
Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Narrated by: Lauren Fortgang

Thoughts: This is a re-read for me. I wanted to read the Grisha trilogy again before diving into her new book, King of Scars. The universe that the author created is amazing and sometimes terrifying. I love the magic and different types of Grisha. I also enjoy the bit of foreshadowing that she does with the volcra in her dream. That part always sticks with me.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Title: MCAT General Chemistry Review
Author: Kaplan Test Prep

Thoughts: I'm not going to really give reviews on these books, but I am reading them cover to cover, so I am counting them toward my reading goals (at least the first time I read through them). But this was a good review of general chemistry and I found it helpful.

Rating: I'm not sure how to rate these, but 4 out of 5 stars



Title: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Narrated by: Lauren Fortgang

Thoughts: Another re-read to prepare for reading King of Scars and the continuation of Shadow and Bone. I do like this book because Nikolai is introduced and I do love him. This book is where I start to dislike Mal an awful lot. I'm on to re-reading the third one now and then I can move onto King of Scars!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Title: MCAT Behavioral Sciences Review
Author: Kaplan Test Prep

Thoughts: Another MCAT book and this one covers topics I am less familiar with. It contains mostly psychology and sociology as well as the biological aspects of the brain and how it works. I will definitely need to go back to this book and read it again.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



Favorite book read this month: Shadow and Bone
Least favorite book read this month: None really. If forced, I might pick the MCAT Behavioral Sciences Review. I think I'm allowed to count those.

Other things that happened this month:
Google + has been taken down. I'm not sure yet how that will be affecting my blog, as it is a Google owned company. I may need to find a new host for my domain name, but for now I will be staying here until I figure everything out. I mostly need to make sure that people can still comment without the Google+ comments. It looks like it will be reverting back to blogger comments, but I'm not positive. I will keep you posted and look into alternatives.

Kevin and I had our two year anniversary, which was nice and we both acknowledged it and sent cards to each other. It's so nice to know that it's as important to him as it is for me. We are starting to plan our Disneyland trip (well, he has to attend conferences for parts of the day while we are there, so I am planning for the times he can join me in Disney). Of course I started reading The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2019. For research.

I was also sent to Sacramento for some work training and that all happened at the last minute. Besides that, it was a nice trip and cool to see another, larger lab. It was a good experience and I am all trained to use our new machine and to train my coworkers!

I guess February was busier than I thought. Hopefully I can get more reading done in March! Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 1, 2019

January 2019 Wrap Up

We have reached the end of January 2019!

Here are the books I finished and brief reviews:
Title: Nancy Drew and The Secret of the Old Clock
Author: Carolyn Keene

Thoughts: I never read these growing up and I obtained this copy for free so I decided to give it a shot. I think the audience needs to be much younger than I am. It had it's old-time-y charm, but wasn't the best thing I've ever read.

Rating: 2 of 5 stars


Title: One Day in December
Author: Josie Silver
Narrated by: Eleanor Tomlinson and Charlie Anson

Thoughts: Several people I follow started this book in December, so I did, too. I expected to love it and definitely didn't. I liked the friendship between the main character, Laurie and her roommate and best friend, Sarah, but I couldn't stand the lead male. Also, why were almost all of his sections about/during/following sex? Seems to be the only thing that was important to him and I had zero tolerance for it. He needed more depth and more redemption, in my opinion.

Rating: 2 of 5 stars, and those only because I loved Laurie and Sarah (and Oscar).


Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Narrated by: Bahni Turpin and Robbie Daymond

Thoughts: Never saw the movie, but I knew the overall gist of the story. I wasn't sure I would like it, but I most definitely did. I like how Maddy came into her own and decided to take charge of her life.

     Rating: 4 of 5 stars


Title: Journal of the Plague Year
Author: Daniel Defoe
Narrated by: Andrew Cullum

Thoughts: I LOVE the plague. Yersinia pestis is my favorite microbe. This book was cool because it was written shortly after the plague in London in the 1600s. It was cool to see differing perspectives and what they knew and didn't know compared to what we know now.

     Rating: 4 of 5 stars


Title: Love Out of Order
Author: Ellie Spark

Thoughts: It is a sweet story about two women finding love. It was not super detailed and occasionally repetitive. I also found a couple of small errors. It was sweet, but not really well written which made it hard to be absorbed in the story. I don't plan to seek out more of her books.

Rating: 2 of 5 stars



Title: Matchmaking for Beginners
Author: Maddie Dawson

Thoughts: I thought this book was very charming and interesting. An eccentric lady leaves her house to Marnie and she has to meet the others who live there and nearby and decide what she wants for her life. I liked the "magical" aspect of the story and even though several of the characters weren't entirely likeable, I enjoyed it!
               
                                   Rating: 4 of 5 stars


Title: The One and Only Ivan
Author: Katherine Applegate
Narrated by: Adam Grupper

Thoughts: Beautiful and heartbreaking. I almost cried several times. It was touching and sometimes redeeming and other times hopeless. Definitely worth a read.

Rating: 4 of 5 stars



Title: Dragon Pearl
Author: Yoon Ha Lee
Narrated by: Kim Mai Guest

Thoughts: Sci fi is not my go-to genre, but it's part of Rick Riordan Presents, so I had to read it (the others have been great, too, in case you are wondering). I know very little about Korean mythology, but I loved the magical creatures and the ghosts. It wasn't very heavy on the typical sci fi stuff and the other worlds were interesting. Would recommend and looking forward to more!

    Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Title: Home: A Memoir of My Early Years
Author: Julie Andrews
Narrated by: Julie Andrews

Thoughts: I knew very little about Julie Andrews' life prior to Mary Poppins. I love her so much in Mary Poppins and Sound of Music. It was very interesting to see her family and the events that shaped her life. I enjoyed listening to her read it and there were plenty of emotional and amazing parts. If you like memoirs, I recommend it!

                                             Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Favorite book read this month: Tough one! Matchmaking for Beginners or Dragon Pearl
Least favorite book read this month: One Day in December

What else can I report? I started looking a bit more into medical school and the requirements. I ordered MCAT study materials and applied to a community college to take the three classes that I am missing: Organic Chemistry II, and two semesters of Anatomy and Physiology. I also need to find a way to review OChem I because that class was very rough for me and I'm not feeling very prepared for OChem II (but I would really prefer to not re-take OChem I).

Otherwise, my three little rats got sick, but seem to be recovering, though Jeki is on a second antibiotic. They are super cute, so here is a picture:
Zosi on the left, Jeki on the right, and sleepy Pye laying on top of/between them

That's about it for January! I hope everyone had a good, productive month and we can continue into February!

Anyone else have favorite reads from January?