Thursday, October 31, 2019

October 2019 Wrap Up

Ah, October! The best month of the year!

As always, I prepared a long list of spooky reads to match the mood of the month. Here is a photo I shared of all of the books I had compiled. I did not actually intend to get around to reading all of them, which is good because I definitely didn't read all 10!



Here are brief reviews for the books I managed to finish:

Title: The Tyrant's Tomb
Author: Rick Riordan
Narrator: Robbie Daymond

Synopsis: Apollo and Meg have a detour on their journey: they must make it to Camp Jupiter and bring the camp bad news. While they are there, they must solve the communication problems the demigods are having and stop Caligula's fleet from destroying Camp Jupiter.

Thoughts: I am Rick Riordan trash and basically love all of his books. This series is probably my least favorite of all of his (so far), but that doesn't mean much because I still really enjoy them. I always recommend his books to anyone who likes mythology.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: The Vampyre
Author: John Polidori
Narrator: B.J. Harrison

Synopsis: This is one of the oldest vampire stories. It follows the journey of a young man, Aubrey, who is determined the make the acquaintance of mysterious Lord Ruthven. Having managed to secure some degree of familiarity, they agree to travel Europe together, but Aubrey might find that his mysterious companion hides some dark secrets.

Thoughts: I wanted to read this book for two reasons: 1, Ruthven is a great character in Vivian Shaw's  Dr. Greta Helsing novels and 2. this was written by a man who was an acquaintance of Mary Shelley! I read a book sometime last year that was all about Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley and he was discussed. And I guess the third reason is because it's one of the older vampire stories that has been published. It was short and pretty dark, but I rather enjoyed it. My one complaint was the narrator who made Ruthven sound vaguely Transylvanian, when he was meant to be from England.

Rating 3-31/2 stars out of 5 stars


Title: Grave Importance
Author: Vivian Shaw

Synopsis: Greta is called to a remote hospital and spa in France that specializes in the treatment of mummies. She takes the temporary position only to discover that many mummies are having some type of fit that weakens them and no one knows what is causing it. Meanwhile, Ruthven is afflicted with a mysterious curse and is sent to Hell to be treated. Oh, and the world might be ending.

Thoughts: I love these books. I think they are so fun. It almost feels like a guilty pleasure to read them. But I also enjoy them because there are other characters referenced, like Ruthven from Polidori's the Vampyre and Varney from the Victorian serial story Varney the Vampire. They can be a little spooky, but they are still entertaining. I hope she writes another one for me to read next October!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: First Grave on the Right
Author: Darynda Jones
Narrator: Lorelei King

Synopsis: Charley Davidson is a private investigator as far as most people know. But she is also a Grim Reaper. She can see the spirits of those who die and aren't able to move on right away. Using this handy skill, she can help solve crimes better than anyone else. Recently, a series of murders starts to shed light on a group that is kidnapping and selling kids. To make her life more complicated, the man she may or may not be starting to love is to be taken off life support if she can't figure out a way to save him.

Thoughts: So I had accidentally read the eighth book in this series several years ago because I did not realize it was part of a series. It was interesting enough for me to decide to pick this one up. If it hadn't been for her weird love life (I'm sorry, sex life since they basically never speak to each other), I would have enjoyed it much more. Her personal romance was (in my opinion) crap. But the rest of the story was good and often funny with several characters that I liked. But I do not plan to read any more. I just can't handle the romantic part of the story.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars


Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Narrator: Neil Gaiman

Synopsis: Nobody Owens walks a unique path between life and death. Raised by the ghosts and other denizens of the graveyard gives him a great appreciation of life and he grasps it with both hands.

Thoughts: I read this book (or listen to the audiobook) every year. That is how much I love this book. I love Bod and his adventures and the people he meets. And no matter what, I always cry at the end. This is definitely one of my very favorite books. It is beautifully written and I cannot recommend it more highly.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Title: A Madness so Discreet
Author: Mindy McGinnis

Synopsis: Grace has been institutionalized in an asylum in Boston for being mad. And maybe she is a bit mad, but for good reasons. Finding her past and horrible family secrets too much to bear, she locks away her voice. Following a series of mishaps, she ends up marked a trouble patient and is locked away in the cellars where she makes friends with another patient there who helps her find her voice again. Her sharp mind is discovered by a visiting doctor and he smuggles her away to be his assistant when he goes to solve murders. She ends up in a different institution in Ohio. For the first time, she feels that she has friends and a purpose. But she can't avoid her past forever.

Thoughts: OK, confession time. This was the very first Owlcrate book that I ever received. And I got that in the October box four years ago... I have not read all of my Owlcrate books, mostly because I have so many books to read that I can't get to them all right away. I'm not sure why I never got around to reading this one. The only reason I did was because someone suggested it as a sort of eerie October book that wasn't scary. And I'm glad I finally read it. I didn't really know what to expect, but I ended up really enjoying it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: The Bone Houses
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Narrator: Moira Quirk

Synopsis: Aderyn is trying to keep her family's home. Her uncle became indebted to the greedy local lord who is holding Ryn responsible for paying it when her uncle disappears. Her brother and sister help where they can, but they realize that Ryn's grave digging won't be enough to pay off their family's debts. Then she meets Ellis who wants to enter the mythical woods around the town to make maps and try to discover hints to his past. And he offers to pay Ryn to guide him. Seeing this as her way out, she willingly takes Ellis into the forest. But there are good reasons that everyone avoids the forest of the Other King.

Thoughts: This was a September Owlcrate book. But I ended up listening to it because I didn't have time to read the physical book. Overall I enjoyed it. I liked the names especially. Listening to it was a very good idea and I recommend the audio. I very much liked Ryn and Ellis. And while I guessed the outcome of a few things, the characters were likable and great. And there are zombies (essentially). I don't do zombies, so I was pretty worried, but it was actually interesting.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5 stars 


Favorite book read this month: Besides the Graveyard Book which is one of my favorites ever? Grave Importance
Least favorite book read this month: First Grave on the Right

I started Varney the Vampire, but that book is a huge undertaking that I wasn't prepared for. I will have another go at it next year. I also started The Hearts We Sold, but didn't manage to finish it by the end of the month. I will go ahead and finish it though since I am more than half way through. 

In other news this month, I lost my little Zosi. He hadn't been doing great health-wise and he was getting to be an old little rat. He died on the morning of his second birthday and he was the last of my Littles to go. It has made for a less-than-ideal October. I miss him (and his brothers) so much. But here is an adorable picture of him. He had the best face: the brightest eyes and cutest crooked ears. He was also super sweet and was always licking my hands and fingers. Kevin said that if people who didn't like rats could meet him, he would change their minds. He was a special little guy.


In good October news, my momma came to visit me in my new city. We had a nice weekend trying some restaurants and going on a Ghost Walk Tour! Very seasonal!

Kevin and I managed to get to a little local pumpkin patch that had lots of cute games and activities and farm animals to pet. And we got some of the coolest pumpkins! I had never seen a green pumpkin! Or one that is quite this shade of peach:


Sorry I didn't manage to get a disease post up this month. I had lots of internet problems at home (it kind of comes and goes much of the time) and I have been very busy with work. I will do my best to get a post up in November. I just have to decide which disease I want to do!

So that is about it for October! I'm sad that my favorite month is over, but I already have a list of possible October reads for next year!

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!

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?