Friday, July 3, 2020

June 2020 Wrap Up

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

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

All that aside, here are book reviews for June!

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

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

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

Rating: 4-5 out of 5 stars


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

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

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

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


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

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

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

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5


Title: The Kingdom of Back
Author: Marie Lu

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

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

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.


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

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

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

Sunday, June 7, 2020

#BlackLivesMatter

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: @jane_mount

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support Black people.

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

And Love.

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


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

Sunday, May 31, 2020

May 2020 Wrap Up

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

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

Alright! Books read in May:

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

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

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

Rating: Overall, 4 out of 5 stars


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

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

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

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5


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

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

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

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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

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

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

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars


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

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

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

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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

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

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

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 2, 2020

April 2020 Wrap Up

I feel like April has been a long month. I'm sure there are many people who share that feeling. At least I am still working normally (if not overtime). Social distancing takes a toll on everyone though. Luckily I have had weekly video gatherings with some of my good friends, which cheers me up. I've been in contact with some other people who I haven't seen since I moved to New Mexico and it's een really nice to catch up with them. Maybe when things start to return to normal, some of these things will continue.

I'm still keeping my bullet journal and trying new things to help track my moods and motivation levels. Or track when/why I am most tired. I hope this will help me eventually.

On the plus-side, I have read several books this month. Lets go to that portion.

Title: Ouran High School Host Club Volumes 3-12
Author: Bisco Hatori

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

Thoughts: I needed something light, quick, and fun to read, still, during and after my reading of Made You Up. But these are fun and I want to finish the series.

Rating: Overall, 4 out of 5 stars



Title: The Starless Sea
Author: Erin Morgenstern

Synopsis: There are magical doors that lead from the ordinary world to a strange place underground where stories ebb and flow like the Starless Sea. If you are meant to find a door, you will. If you do not open it, your chance may be gone forever. Or not, in the case of Zachary Ezra Rawlins. He found his door as a kid, but was too afraid that the magic would let him down to open it. But he gets another chance after some strange encounters with other people who dwell in the harbor of the Starless Sea and other people who have traveled to these mysterious places. But the world of the Starless Sea is in trouble and it might be Zachary's job to fix it. Or change it. He's not sure, but he feels he must try.

Thoughts: I loved the Night Circus so I was excited when she finally wrote another book. And I have to say that I enjoyed it, but I just am not really sure what to think. What I mostly think is that I need to read it again. There were so many parts that changed and were tangled together that I think I spent more time thinking about that than what the actual story was supposed to be. But it was really interesting and kept me thinking. I liked all the different incarnations and tangles of the stories.

Rating: 3 1/2-4 out of 5



Title: Made You Up
Author: Francesca Zappia

Synopsis: Alex is a high school student just like any other. Except she has schizophrenia and can't always tell what is real and what isn't. She has lots of methods to help her keep the real world and the world in her head separate. After changing schools, she finally makes friends with some other kids and with Miles who might have been someone in her past, or not, or maybe possible past-Miles wasn't even real. But this Miles is real and as they become friends and start to fall in love, the real craziness of the world around them comes out. Alex doesn't think anyone will believe her.

Thoughts: Oh my goodness. This book was incredible. Alex is the ultimate unreliable narrator because even she doesn't always know what is real which means you can never know what is real. I was anxious while I read this book and I had so many feelings. After I finished the book, I closed it and then sat there crying for a while (even though, spoiler, the ending wasn't particularly sad. I was just so emotional). And I had a massive book hangover for WEEKS afterwards. That's why I read so much Ouran High School Host Club: it was easy and manageable. I still feel like I don't want to read another book because it could never live up to this one. It might be a new favorite. Even weeks later, I am trying not to cry about it. Generally, unreliable narrators aren't my thing, so I was a little hesitant to read this. But I am unimaginably glad that I did. I don't even have proper words for this book. But if you read it and love it, please come talk to me because I need someone to cry over this with me.

Rating: 4 1/2-5 out of 5 stars. And lots of hearts.



Title: The Lost Hero
Author: Rick Riordan
Narrator: Joshua Swanson

Synopsis: Jason shows up in the Wilderness School for Troubled Youth with no memory of who he is or how he got there. He meets (for the first time?) Leo and Piper and together, they end up at Camp Half-Blood. Piper and Leo have secrets of their own: Piper's father is missing and she is meant to betray her new friends to save him and Leo can summon fire and may have contributed to the death of his mother. But they end up on a quest together and discover friendship despite everything.

Thoughts: This was a re-read, mostly because I wanted something familiar and fun after Made You Up. So I decided to start re-reading this series because they are fun. And because I love Leo to pieces.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



Title: The Son of Neptune
Author: Rick Riordan
Narrator: Joshua Swanson

Synopsis: Percy arrives at Camp Jupiter with no idea who he is and no memories of his past life beyond Annabeth's name. There he meets Hazel, who has been given a second chance at life after dying in the 1940s, and Frank, who is told that he has great powers but mostly feels like a clumsy dolt. Together they go on a dangerous quest to Alaska, the land beyond the Gods, to defeat a giant and free Death.

Thoughts: Another re-read because I love these books and decided I would try to re-read the whole series. And also because I love Leo (though he isn't really in this book).

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



Title: Explosive Eighteen
Author: Janet Evanovich

Synopsis: After a vacation gone horribly wrong, Stephanie returns to New Jersey alone. Next thing she knows, the man next to her on the plane was found dead and many people are after her because they think that he planted an important photograph in her bag. Which he did. And which she threw away. On top of dealing with the FBI, fake FBI, and other assorted crazies on her tail, Joyce (her nemesis) is holed up in her apartment, she's having horrible man trouble, and she still has to pick up her skips with Lula.

Thoughts: These are some of my guilty pleasure books. I call them my "beach trash" novels. They are so easy to read and funny. And as I was still in severe book-hangover-mode from Made You Up, this sounded like something I could handle. This series of books has gotten me out of many a reading slump in the past, this one did not disappoint.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


Favorite book read this month: Made You Up (obviously)
Least favorite book read this month: None, I enjoyed all of them for different reasons

Reading challenge: I actually increased my reading goal for this year from 75 to 80 since I have been reading manga and they are much shorter and quicker to read. I might increase it to 85 later. But as of right now, I have read 37 of 80 books.

Alphabet reading challenge: L (The Lost Hero), M (Made You Up),  S (The Starless Sea), and X (Explosive Eighteen).

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Disease Post: COVID-19/SARS-2

As we are in the midst of a pandemic, I thought I would do a little post about this disease. I am not an expert on this topic, but I want to try to convey some information to people who are interested.

Background:

Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses. Their genome is RNA, which makes them more prone to mutations, much like the influenza virus. The surface of the envelope is covered with club-shaped spikes or projections which give it a "corona" or crown when looked at under a microscope.

Giant COVID-19 virus from Giant Microbes. Super cute. I want all of their plushy diseases!
Coronaviruses are broken down into four groups: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Mostly this helps differentiate the animals the virus originated in: rodents and bats for alpha and beta, birds for gamma and delta. Based on this you can probably gather that coronaviruses are present in several animal species. And you would be correct. Animals all over the world have coronaviruses which usually cause respiratory and/or gastrointestinal diseases. Humans have coronaviruses, too. Some do cause gastrointestinal infections, but many cause upper respiratory infections that are pretty mild. They are usually what we would call a chest cold or viral upper respiratory infection (ie: viral bronchitis). Most people don't have trouble clearing these infections.

But coronaviruses are good at mutating. That means that they have the potential to jump to humans from animal hosts, which is likely how we ended up with SARS, MERS, and SARS-2 (aka COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, nCoV-19). For the record, SARS stands for "severe acute respiratory syndrome" and MERS stands for "Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome." And real quick before we move on because I have seen bad information spread on social media: COVID stands for "coronavirus disease" and CoV is short for "coronavirus." The number 19 refers to the year 2019 when the first case emerged. SARS could also have been called COVID-02 (2002) and MERS could be called COVID-12 (2012).

The severe coronavirus infections that we hear about cause atypical pneumonia (generally less severe than typical pneumonia). Most coronaviruses do not establish infections deep in the lungs for various reasons (including cell receptors that they need to enter cells and temperature of the upper versus the lower respiratory system). But SARS, SARS-2, and MERS were able to establish infections in the lower respiratory tract which makes them much more dangerous.

According to the WHO, "SARS was more deadly but much less infectious than COVID-19. There have been no outbreaks of SARS anywhere in the world since 2003." But SARS-2 is genetically related to SARS so we might be able to learn more about SARS-2 by studying SARS.

How is it spread?

Respiratory coronaviruses are spread by droplets in the air, gastrointestinal coronaviruses are spread via the fecal-oral route (I know, gross). SARS, SARS-2, and MERS are respiratory and caused by inhaling the virus.

Image from the CDC
These infectious droplets of saliva  or nasal discharges (fluid) are in the air because people cough and sneeze. Even laughing and singing release droplets. This is why the CDC is now recommending that everyone in public wear a mask of some sort (preferably one that is thick enough to stop droplets). It isn't to protect the wearer, it is to protect the people around you. Also, cover your coughs and sneezes. The droplets are heavy, however, and usually settle pretty quickly, which can contaminate surfaces.

It has been thought that the virus can live for a time on surfaces. Here is what the WHO has to say:
It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces  for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).
If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

For those worried about catching SARS-2 from animals, the WHO also says, "While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly." So don't go dropping your pets off at shelters or (heaven forbid) outside somewhere to fend for themselves. Take care of your animals, they are not going to give you SARS-2. It might be possible for you to give your pet the disease, some animals have lungs much like humans--cats and ferrets for instance. There doesn't seem to be much official information about this and we might not know for a while. Just be cautious. Wash your hands.



Additionally, it appears that the virus does not transmit across the placenta according to an article by Fan et al. Obviously, pregnant and breast-feeding women who are exposed or experiencing symptoms should consult their doctor. More research on this topic is needed, but right now it seems hopeful.


Image from Harvard Coronavirus Resource Center

Symptoms: 

Keep in mind with SARS-2 that some people experience very mild symptoms while others do not. That's part of why this is so dangerous. What doesn't hurt you much could kill someone else. And there is some evidence that there are people who are asymptomatic carriers (they don't feel or appear sick even though they have the disease). However, since they are not showing symptoms (namely coughing) it is more difficult for them to actually spread the disease. Also more difficult to know who is infected. It is a good idea to act as though anyone and everyone might be infected, including yourself.

Within about 7-14 days of infection, people generally show fever, dry cough, tiredness, aches, sore throat and/or shortness of breath. Very few people have reported diarrhea, nausea, and runny nose.

If symptoms get more severe, you should seek medical attention. According to the CDC, if you experience the following: "trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face" then you should seek emergency medical attention.

I know this is all scary and its still so new that we don't have all of the details, but this is part of why it is important to take care of yourself and keep yourself (and others) healthy. And do keep in mind that many people have more mild infections and recover fine on their own. An article written by

Prevention and Treatment:

The WHO recommends the following for prevention:
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Maintain at least 1 metre distance between you and people coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell.
  • Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.
  • Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people. 
As of right now, there is not a vaccine or a proven treatment. And I do not want to get political, but Americans: do NOT follow the directions of our president. He is not a medical doctor or a medical professional of any kind. Just because he thinks or "feels" that something might be so, does not mean it is. Please listen to doctors and legitimate medical professionals. It has not been solidly proven that hydroxychloroquine will treat the disease and may cause more harm than good in some cases. There have been lab trials using cell cultures (in vitro) that show decreased levels of disease by SARS-2, but there have been very few good clinical trials. Most have had too small a sampling group to give accurate representation (see Gautret et al.).

I'm not sure what sort of mechanism azithromycin is supposed to use to treat a viral infection. But azithromycin is an antibiotic, meaning it is meant to treat bacterial infections. It could help treat secondary infections people may see with SARS-2 infections, but to my knowledge, will not treat the virus. Please only use antibiotics at the direction of your doctor.

Also, please be aware that development of vaccines and treatments are a long process, usually at least a year if rushed. So scientists are trying to find these things, but please know that it will be a while before these things exist.

As of right now, treatment consists of supportive care.

Extras:

Here is an informational video that has some good information and breakdowns of COVID-19 that might interest you: Ninja Nerd Science: COVID-19 | Coronavirus: Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, Diagnostics and Ninja Nerd Science: COVID-19 | Coronavirus: Treatment, Prognosis, Precautions.

I also highly recommend checking out This Podcast Will Kill You. About two months ago they did a general coronavirus episode and more recently they have done a series all about COVID-19. They are knowledgeable and work with other professionals to get good information out there.

Here is a page that is very important: WHO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters. Take a look at the information and graphics. I would also like to add a rumor I heard a couple of times: that darker skinned people are less prone (they aren't and also tend to be at a lower socioeconomic status and therefore have less access to treatment and can be more prone to severe disease) and that wearing sunscreen will help protect you from COVID. The virus does not and will not absorb through your skin. Even if there is a break in the skin, I am not sure that coronavirus could properly establish an infection. Covering your skin or having darker skin will not prevent coronoavirus infection.

And I'm sure you know this, but many people have been negatively infected by this pandemic. People have lost friends and family, people have been laid off of work and struggle to make ends meet, our health care professionals and other necessary personnel are worked to the bone. Please keep these people in mind. If it is within your power and means to donate to organizations dedicated to helping these people, please do. Here are a couple of suggestions: your local food banks (like Food Bank of the Rockies), Give Directly, No Kid Hungry, local COVID relief funds, United Way, and many others.

There are local people everywhere doing things to try to help their communities, doing things like delivering food/supplies, giving gift cards to families, and so forth. Also, please keep in mind the homeless populations who also need extra help during these times. Most shelters take food and monetary donations and may need supplies or volunteers. There are people doing good deeds for our health care workers and essential personnel. Remember that many of these people are not being treated well or paid well despite the fact that we actually need them to keep going as a society.

If you can't donate or volunteer, there are still things that you can do: stay home, stay away from people as much as possible, don't travel, and be kind. Kindness doesn't cost anything and empathy is going to help people much more than anger and bitterness. This is difficult for everyone, but please do your part.

Disclaimer: This information is bound to change. We won't know all of the information including complete statistics of infection rates, death rates, and more until this is all over. Scientists and doctors are working all of the time to add to our knowledge of this disease. If any of this changed/changes, feel free to let me know.

Sources: 
Centers for Disease Control: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
World Health Organization: Coronavirus disease 2019
Cascella et al. Features, evaluation and treatment coronavirus.
Gautret et al. Hydroxycholoroquine and azithromycin as a treatment of COVID-19: results of an open-label non-randomized clinical trial.
Omer et al. The COVID-19 Pandemic in the US: A Clinical Update.
Bao et al. Reinfection could notoccur in SARS-CoV-2 infected rhesus macaques. (Please forgive this link, this is the article but the site it was posted on was having problems opening  by the time I was writing this post.) 
Fan et al. Perinatal Transmission of COVID-19 Associated SARS-CoV-2: Should We Worry? 
Emerging Infectious Diseases by Lisa A. Beltz
Medical Microbiology 6th edition by Patrick R. Murray, Ken S. Rosenthal, and Michael A Pfaller

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March 2020 Wrap Up

Alright! Book reviews!

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

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

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

Rating: 4 stars out of 5



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

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

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

Rating: 3-31/2 stars out of 5



Title: Daughter of the Pirate King
Author: Tricia Levenseller

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

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

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



Title: Daughter of the Siren Queen
Author: Tricia Levenseller

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

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

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars




Title: Tweet Cute
Author: Emma Lord

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

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

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars


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

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

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

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


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

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

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

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars




Title: Ouran High School Host Club
Author: Bisco Hatori

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

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

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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

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

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

If you are interested in seeing the results, check out my Instagram and follow the hashtags!

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

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

Saturday, February 29, 2020

February 2020 Wrap Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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

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

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars





Title: The Gilded Wolves
Author: Roshani Chokshi

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



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

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

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

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars


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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Disease Post: Brucellosis

This is one of my favorite "bugs!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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