Friday, October 16, 2020

Disease Post: Plague

OK, I am going to try for this post. I hope you are ready for a long one.

The plague is my very favorite infectious disease. It is so interesting and the history of it is devastating and fascinating. And what better way to celebrate the month of Halloween than talking about the Black Death? I mean, have you seen plague doctor outfits? They are terrifying (and I LOVE them). And yes, I do have a plague doctor costume, thanks for asking. 

It also helps me be a crazy rat lady since rat fleas (and/or other rodent fleas) are the primary carriers of plague. My rats do not have plague or fleas though, don't worry.

Plague of Marseilles- costumes for plague doctors. Credit- Wellcome Collection and Attribution 4.0 International

Background:
Plague is caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis. Y. pestis is a gram-negative (does not have peptidoglycan in its cell walls) rod or coccobacillus (round rod). It is a facultative anaerobe, which means that it "prefers" to have oxygen, but can survive without it by switching to fermentation for energy. This makes them fairly resilient little bugs.
Plague plush from Giant Microbes.
Historically, the plague has caused massive amounts of devastation worldwide and is still present all over the world. I will include a brief history later. 
 
Yersinia pestis is a zoonotic disease, meaning humans get it from animals and/or insects. In this case, the carriers are fleas.
Plague infographic from the WHO

How is it spread?
The infectious dose (or how many bacteria are needed to establish an infection) is not known, but is suspected to be quite low.
 
There are three different forms of plague: pneumonic (respiratory), septicemic, and (the famous) bubonic.
 
Let's start with bubonic plague and septicemic plague because they are similar. People get these by being bitten by an infected flea or by contact with contaminated animal tissue and/or fluid (like skinning or handling a plague-infected animal). Bubonic plague can turn into septicemic plague as the bacteria infiltrates the body and, therefore, the blood stream. And it can become pneumonic plague, too, if the bacteria spread to the lungs. Bubonic and septicemic forms do not spread from person to person.

Pneumonic plague can develop as mentioned above, or can be caught directly through respiratory droplets in the air. If a sick person or animal is coughing (or even just breathing), they release infectious bacteria into the air in tiny respiratory droplets. These can be inhaled by another person or animal, establishing an infection in the lungs. This form can be transmitted person-to-person, but usually requires close contact. You can find more detailed information about transmission from the CDC.

Image from the CDC

Symptoms:
As I mentioned above, there are three forms which will present with different symptoms, though all three will present with a fever, chills, weakness, and (often) headaches. Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are seen in some cases, too.

Bubonic plague has an incubation time of seven days or less from infection until the time a person shows symptoms. This form is characterized by the presence of one or more bubos. A bubo is a lymph node that  becomes inflamed, swelling enough to be visible. These are usually located in the neck, armpit, and/or groin. The bubos are tender and painful. From here, the infection can start to infect the bloodstream to develop into septicemic and/or pneumonic plague. Without treatment, estimated death rates are between 50%-70%.

Septicemic plague is the infection of the blood. It is not generally the initial infection that is established, but there are many records of people getting the plague this way. Once the bacteria is in the blood stream it can get just about anywhere. The CDC also notes that people may bleed into the skin or other organs and tissues will start to die and possibly develop gangrene (and turn black=the Black Death). One of my text books (Medical Microbiology by Murray et al.) estimates that 75% of people who have or develop septicemic plague die without treatment.

Pneumonic plague is generally the most worrisome. The incubation is shorter, generally 2-3 days. After the initial symptoms, patients will develop respiratory symptoms within a day or so. According to the CDC, the respiratory symptoms include: shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, and possibly bloody mucous. This is the only form of plague that can spread person-to-person and it is highly infectious. Most sources estimate that the death rate of pneumonic plague is 90% or more if not treated quickly (within 18-24 hours, according to the WHO).
 
Prevention and Treatment:
The good news is that plague is easily treated with a few common antibiotics! However, it needs to be caught as early as possible, especially for pneumonic plague. People do die even with treatment, especially if treatment is too late.

But plague, if there are no bubos, looks like lots of other illnesses. Diagnosis is helped if your doctor knows you have been exposed to fleas or wild rodents, especially in endemic areas (meaning it is "native" to those areas, like much of Asia, Africa--especially Madagascar, and the Southwest United States). 
 
Your pets can also become infected by the same means people can and your pets can spread it to you. Flea control is important and it is best to avoid wild rodents, especially ones that appear ill or have died. Wear gloves while handling dead animals that may be infected.

There is not great prevention besides that. There was a vaccine available in the United States, but not anymore. It did not protect against pneumonic plague. I'm sure there are groups working toward a vaccine, but no one knows if/when one will be available.
The plague of Florence, 1348; a scene from Boccaccio's Decameron. Etching by L. Sabatelli the elder after G. Boccaccio. Credit: the Wellcome Collection and Attribution 4.0 International

Extras 
History:  
The plague has been around for centuries. It was also used in early biological warfare (bodies of plague victims catapulted into cities or enemy camps). Italian Gabriele de'Mussi gave an account of the Black Death origin in 1346: the Mongol army hurled plague-infected cadavers into the city of Caffa. This transmitted plague to the inhabitants, and those who fled took the plague with them towards Europe. This is explained by Mark Wheelis in his paper Biological warfare at the 1346 Siege of Caffa. Ultimately, it is suspected that the Black Death originated somewhere in Asia, though theories of exactly where differ.

There are three main plague pandemics (Perry et al). The first was in the early middle ages (the Plague of Justinian from 541 CE until the mid-700s) and is one of the earliest records we have of the plague. It is suspected to have originated in China and spread to Egypt and then to Constantinople. At the peak of the first pandemic, it is suspected to have killed 10,000 people per day and killed about 40% of citizens. A bit later, in 588 CE, there was another wave that spread it through the Mediterranean and about 100 million people died.

The second pandemic was the one most people are familiar with, from the 14th century to the 19th century. What is known as the Black Death started in this time period. The plague spread from China or somewhere in Asia along the Silk Road, infecting Asia, Europe, and Africa. China lost about half of its population, Europe lost a third to a half of its population, and Africa lost about an eighth of its population. For the record, people at the time did not call the plague the "Black Death," that is a more modern term. They called it the "great pestilence" or the "great mortality" mostly.

The third pandemic was in the 19th and 20th centuries. A wave began in China in 1855 which spread through China, to India, killing more than 12 million people in the two countries. From there, the plague traveled to Russia, causing a large outbreak in Siberia in 1910. It was during this pandemic, in the late 1800s, that the plague bacterium was identified and isolated. Alexandre Yersin is credited with the discovery and the bacteria was eventually named after him.
 
Bioterrorism:
Part of the fear of plague has to do with its potential as a bioterrorism agent. This is part of what keeps this on the select agent list in the United States.

As mentioned above, cadavers of plague victims were intentionally thrown into the city of Caffa, causing an outbreak and causing the disease to spread. This is not the only time that this was done in the history of warfare.

I remember learning about this in history and in my biodefense class. This sentence sums it up fairly well, though it does not go into all the cruel experiments that the Japanese performed on the Chinese. "In World War II, the Japanese military experimented with plague in human subjects at their clandestine biological research facilities in Manchuria, and on several occasions dropped Y. pestis-infested fleas from low-flying planes on Chinese civilian populations, causing limited outbreaks of bubonic plague and initiating cycles of infection in rats" (Dennis, David T. Plague as a Biological Weapon).

The end-goal with Y. pestis as a biological weapon was to successfully aerosolize it, to cause pneumonic plague. I have in my old class notes that "aerosol release of Y. pestis would be odorless, colorless, and likely to be unnoticed until the first victims fell ill," but I have not been able to locate a source yet, so take it with a grain of salt. 
 
It was estimated by a committee of experts that "intentional release of 50 kg of aerosolized Y. pestis over a city of 5 million would... cause 150,000 cases of pneumonic plague and 36,000 deaths...[and] without adequate precautions, an initial outbreak of pneumonic plague involving 50% of a population could result in infection of 90% of the rest of the population in 20–30 days and could cause a case fatality ratio of 60–70%" (Dennis, David T. Plague as a Biological Weapon).

About the bacteria:
I was always interested in the bacteria itself and its interactions with flea and animal hosts. That isn't talked about much because people are concerned with the diseases of people. The flea is initially infected by taking blood from an infected host. I won't get into technical details, but so you know, it does affect the flea by blocking digestion until the flea regurgitates the bacteria when they bite another host. The blocked gut of the flea will eventually kill it. Animal carriers are often symptomatic and can also die of the plague.

There are some genes that the bacteria has that they can switch between based on which host it is in to help it adapt to either the temperature and environment (like pH) of the flea versus animal hosts

The bacteria switches between gene expressions based on the host and the host temperatures. Generally, the bacteria grows best at lower temperatures but can switch gene expression to help them survive and grow at normal human temperatures.

Fun Facts:
The plague doctor mask had the beak which was to be stuffed with flowers, spices, and/or herbs--anything that smelled nice because the belief was that disease traveled through bad smells or miasma.

The plague doctor outfit did actually afford them protection, but not because of the potpourri in the mask. The mask protected their faces from respiratory droplets. They also covered themselves from head to toe in mostly leather, which fleas could not bite through.

Books and Media:
There are several books and such concerning the plague that are great.

For educational purposes, The Black Death: The World's Most Devastating Plague by Dorsey Armstrong from Great Courses is amazing. It goes into details of spread and impacts of the plague (during and after) on society, art, economics, and more. You can get it through Great Courses or through Audible. 
 
This Podcast Will Kill You did a two-part episode on the plague that is very good.

The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time by John Kelly is said to be good. I have not read it yet, but I would like to.

The Black Death by Philip Ziegler sounds great, but is another one that I have not read.

Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe. Arguably, this account is not entirely credible as the author wrote it 57 years after the fact. But he did experience the plague and it is considered to be an accurate account of the time. It was good either way.

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. This is a historical fiction novel, but it is based on a real town in England that isolated themselves when they found that the plague had reached them. A friend gifted this book to me years ago and it was enjoyable.

The Plague by Albert Camus. I am embarrassed to admit that I have not read this book yet, though I want to, obviously.
 
Crow Boy by Philip Caveney is a fictional story about a modern boy in Edinburgh who travels back in time to 1645, during a plague outbreak. I enjoyed this one, even though the plague doctor was fake and kind of evil.

This is a silly video that will get the original song stuck in your head forever, but it's funny. We watched it at some point during my Masters program: Black Death (Hollaback Girl) aka Fleas on Rats.

There are so many more books that I have not yet read. If anyone has a particularly good suggestion, please drop it in the comments. And if you know of anything about plague doctors, I definitely need to know!

I hope you enjoyed my plague post. If you made it this far, thanks for reading!
 
Sources: 
Perry, Robert D and Fetherston, Jaqueline D. Yersinia pestis--etiologic agent of plague. 1997.
Medical Microbiology sixth edition by Patrick R. Murray, Ken S. Rosenthal, and Michael A. Pfaller
Armstrong, Dorsey. The Black Death: The World's Most Devastating Plague. 2016. Great Courses.
Dennis, David T. Plague as a Biological Weapon. 2009.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

September 2020 Wrap Up

 So I finally, FINALLY got my diphtheria post up. I don't think it is one of my best because I wrote it in fits and starts. But it's alright. I need to do more, but I'm not sure what disease I want to do next. I would love to do a special plague post, but plague is my very favorite and I want to do it justice. But October and Halloween time (my favorite time of the year) would be a great time to do it. I will have to think on it and see if I can pull something together in time. If work doesn't keep drowning me.

Speaking of October and Halloween, it is about that time of year! I have been working on my October reading list (and I read the Night Circus this month to prepare). And the Graveyard Book is always on my list, but I ended up starting and finishing that this month, also. A bit early, but it made it feel more like autumn so it's OK. I will post my list at the end of this post. Quick book reviews first.

 

Title: The Princess and the Fangirl
Author: Ashley Poston
Narrators: Eileen Stevens, Emily Lawrence, and Caitlin Davies
 
Synopsis: This is the second book in the Once Upon a Con series. Jess Stone was a popular Indie film actress until she was cast as Princess Amara in the new Starfield movie. But she hates Amara and is afraid this part has put an early end to her career. But when someone starts leaking the script for the next Starfield, it might be her fault and she has to stop it. Enter Imogen, normal person and president of the #SaveAmara movement. And when her pink pixie cut is covered, she looks just like Jess Stone. And Jess hatches a plan to have Imogen pose as her while Jess poses as Imogen to try to track down the missing script.

Thoughts: This was a re-read since I read Bookish and the Beast and re-read Geekerella. This one may be my favorite in the series (so far? Will there be more? I hope so). It's just fun and cute and fluffy and nerdy, so obviously I can't resist.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
 
Synopsis: Starr is a sixteen year old girl who attends a higher class, predominantly white high school, but she lives in a poor, Black neighborhood. She feels like her two worlds do not mesh together. And when she witnesses the shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, and the aftermath, she finds she may be right. Her family and friends get dragged in with her and we follow her journey to find her voice.
 
Thoughts: This book needs to be required reading for everyone. I have had it on my reading list for a long time now, and I'm glad I finally picked it up. I should not have waited so long. It was heartbreaking and touching. It's hard not to fall in love with Starr's family and be sucked into her world. And because she is torn between worlds, it makes it more accessible to white readers. We learn to see and love her family and her home. And because she is still figuring out how to navigate the aftermath of Khalil's death, it gives us white readers (who know little to nothing of these situations) to learn and grow with her. I cried SOOOO much during this book, but sometimes they were tears because I was so touched. It was heartbreaking, and redeeming, and very educational. Seriously, everyone should read this book.
 
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
 
 
Title: The Shadow Crosser
Author: J.C. Cervantes
Narrator: Ozzie Rodriguez
 
Synopsis: In the third book, Zane's adventures continue. He and the other godborns are meant to get training at a special camp arranged by some of the gods. But two of the other gods are trying to kill all of the (arguably) "good" gods and make them sacrifices. The godborn are called in to save them, even if they have to go through space and time to do so.
 
Thoughts: I'm not sure if this is a trilogy or not, but I believe it is. I have enjoyed these books a lot. They are good stories, informative because they are all about the Mayan gods, and they are fun. I definitely recommend the whole trilogy.
 
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 
 
Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Narrator: Jim Dale

Synopsis: This mysterious circus appears overnight without warning and it is only open at night. The circus itself is magical and builds a fan following. But there is more going on in the circus than most people are aware of.

Thoughts: I have read this book a few times. I just love it. I love the writing and most of the story (I'm not the biggest fan of Marco and his romance(s)). It is magical. I want to go to this circus so badly. And to the midnight dinners.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Title: Star Daughter
Author: Shveta Thakrar
 
Synopsis: Sheetal has a secret that she must keep from most of the people around her: her mother is a star and Sheetal is part star. Her father, aunt, and best friend know, and it is starting to become harder to keep it hidden. Her powers start to burst out of control, driving her to join her mother in the sky to solve her problems. Once in the sky with her star family, she becomes entangled in family dramas and a competition that she must win.
 
Thoughts: This was a recent Owlcrate book. It just sounded so good and I love Roshani Chokshi's books, so I was excited to read this one. I will say that it was a bit more lack-luster for me than I was hoping. But I still enjoyed the story and the magic. It is a bit reminiscent of some of Roshani Chokshi's books, so if you like her books, you may like this one. But it was pretty good and the book is really pretty!
 
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
 
 
 
Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Narrator: Neil Gaiman
 
Synopsis: The story of Nobody Owens who 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 while his story is sad and sometimes very lonely, he grasps life with both hands, knowing he will see his family in death. I suppose he never really misses out on anything.

Thoughts: How many times have I read this book? Every year for the last seven maybe? Anyway, I always love it so much. And no matter what, I always find myself thinking about it and about the characters. And I always cry at the end. One of my favorite books.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
 
 
Favorite book read this month: New book? The Hate U Give, but I always love the Graveyard Book and the Night Circus.
Least favorite book read this month: Star Daughter. Not because it was bad, it just wasn't my favorite.
 
I have read 72 books out of my goal of 80. So I am well ahead of schedule, which is awesome. After last year, I am glad to be doing better!
 
I didn't make any progress on my alphabet reading challenge. I still have six letters to complete, but hope to complete two in October. I'm not sure I will quite finish, but that's OK, it is just for fun.

Here is my reading list for October (after taking out the Graveyard Book). And I doubt I will be able to read all of these, but I will select all of my reads from these:


I have already started the Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein and I am nearly finished with the Sundial (a book club selection that we are discussing next week). There is another book club book to read in October for November, but I don't plan on reading it because priorities, obviously. I need to read Jackaby and Varney the Vampire to help with my alphabet reading challenge. Some would be re-reads. And I am looking forward to reading Horrid. It might be more scary than my usual, but it sounds good.

I'm excited for my favorite month of the year!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Disease Post: Diphtheria

This is a disease that I have always found interesting and horrifying.

Image credit: CDC/Sarah Bailey Cutchin

Background:
The disease diphtheria is caused by a bacteria called Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The part that causes the most problems is the toxin that the bacteria produces (diphtheria toxin). However, not all C. diphtheriae actually have the toxin gene (but this is still infectious and dangerous without the toxin). There are also other Corynebacterium species that can carry the diphtheria toxin, but they cause infections in animals (CDC).

The bacteria is a gram positive (it has a peptidoglycan cell wall) bacillus (rod-shaped bacteria). It is an aerobic bacteria, meaning that it requires oxygen to live.

How is it spread?
There are two different types of diphtheria infection: cutaneous and respiratory.

The cutaneous infection can occur when the bacteria gets in the skin. This can happen if a person comes into physical contact with someone else who has a cutaneous infection, which causes infectious ulcers on the skin. It is also possible to catch it from a surface that has been touched by someone who is infected.

The respiratory infection is the most worrisome type of diphtheria infection. People catch this from inhaling the bacteria via respiratory droplets in the air.

C. diphtheriae is present worldwide. Humans are the only known reservoir, but vaccine non-compliance and the presence of asymptomatic carriers keeps the bacteria around.

Symptoms:
The cutaneous infection is less deadly. The bacteria colonizes the skin and gets deeper into the skin through breaks or cuts. A papule develops and then becomes an ulcer that is usually chronic and slow or non-healing. There can be redness, pain, and swelling according to the Mayo Clinic. The ulcer may be covered with a grayish membrane and is infectious. According to the CDC, this form rarely results in more serious disease.
Diphtheria ulcer on a patient's leg. Image credit: CDC
 
The respiratory infection is the one most people talk and worry about. Symptoms usually start within two to five days of exposure and generally begins with a sore throat, malaise, and low-grade fever (WHO, CDC). The toxin (more on that shortly) causes dead tissue to build up in the throat, eventually forming a "pseudomembrane." According to the CDC, "[The pseudomemebrane] can cover tissues in the nose, tonsils, voice box, and throat, making it very hard to breathe and swallow." As you can imagine, difficulty breathing can lead to many other issues. According to the CDC, without treatment up to half of patients will die of the disease. Even with treatment, the CDC states that one in ten will still die of the disease. And just for the gross out factor: the pseudomembrane can start to slough off and further block your airway. Yuck!
Child with a swollen neck due to diphtheria. Image credit: CDC.
 
The toxin, diphtheria toxin, causes the most problems. The toxin inhibits protein synthesis (keeps cells from making proteins, which are needed for just about everything that happens in your body). "If the toxin gets into the blood stream, it can cause heart, nerve, and kidney damage," according to the CDC. Some of this damage can be long-lasting, even after the infection is cleared.

Prevention and Treatment:
The best prevention for this disease is the vaccine. Keeping up immunization and getting booster shots are the most important ways to keep diphtheria infections to a minimum. The vaccine is a toxoid vaccine, meaning it is actually a vaccine for the toxin, not to the bacteria itself. It is often included with the vaccine for tetanus and/or pertussis: Tdap, DTaP,  DT, and Td vaccines.

For treatment, antibiotics like penicillin or erythromycin can help get rid of the bacteria. But it is important to neutralize the toxin. There is a diphtheria antitoxin available for this and sometimes people will get injections made from the blood of people who have cleared the infection in order to stimulate antibody production to the toxin and bacteria.

So that's C. diphtheriae! I always liked to use diphtheria as a supporting argument for vaccination. Along the lines of: "Do you know what happens to you when you get diphtheria? The skin in your throat sloughs off and then you die."

Sources:
Medical Microbiology sixth edition by Patrick R. Murray, Ken S. Rosenthal, and Michael A. Pfaller

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

August 2020 Wrap Up

 Hello everyone!

Well, I feel like the worst blogger in the world. I still have not completed the next disease post and I delayed this one until basically the last minute and am posting it late.

Work is still killing me. I've had to take on a bunch more responsibility lately because we had someone higher up leave for a new job and the rest of us are still pretty new and trying to figure things out. I'm still working overtime every week and having to go in on most weekends. It is a lot. And I'm always so tired when I get home that I'm not even reading as much as I normally would. Or I just re-read books because it reduces my anxiety levels.

My anxiety has been pretty high lately and I'm still adjusting and figuring out how to cope. It just make life a litte more difficult than I would like and I feel like life is just waaaay to hard to keep up with right now. Hence, late blog posts. Sorry. Thanks to those of you who stick around anyway.

So here is what I have read in August:

Title: Dark Lord of Derkholm
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Narrator: Gildart Jackson
 
Synopsis: In a magical world in which all residents (wizards, kings, and so on) must cater to the man who runs their world: Mr. Chesney. But the residents are tired of Mr. Chesney and his pilgrim parties laying waste to their world. According to the oracles, Mr. Chesney can only be stopped if Derk plays the part of the Dark Lord and his son, Blade, acts as a wizard guide. With the help of the rest of their family (including Blade's griffin siblings), they try to bring an end to Mr. Chesney's control.
 
Thoughts: I wanted to read more books by Diana Wynne Jones and this one and its sequel were pretty highly recommended. I'm really glad I read this one, I really enjoyed it. It was sort of strange and took me a while to really understand the world, but it was great. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 

Title: You Should See Me in a Crown
Author: Leah Johnson
 
Synopsis: Liz Lighty has always felt awkward at school. After she fails to get a scholarship into her chosen college, she has to find another way to get the money she needs. So she decides to run for prom queen. Her friends are doing their best to support her, but they think she needs to stay away from the new girl at school, Mack. But Liz isn't sure she wants to stay away from Mack.
 
Thoughts: This book was a bit of a slow start for me. I don't know if I wasn't paying enough attention right at first or if the writing style is really that different. But at first, I felt like I couldn't keep track of what was happening. It was just a phase (or just me), because once it got going, it was very enjoyable!
 
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 

Title: Bookish and the Beast
Author: Ashley Poston
Narrators: Caitlin Kelly and Curry Whitmire
 
Synopsis: A beauty and the beast retelling in modern times. Rosie is busy between school, work, friends, and college application essays. Meanwhile, Vance has been banished to a small town as punishment following a tabloid scandal. Their paths collide as Rosie finds herself in debt to Vance and his caretaker. Rosie and Vance can't stand one another, so what will happen when they are thrown together so much.
 
Thoughts: I like these books. They are cute and sweet and sometimes very silly. It has been a while since I read the first two, so I didn't quite remember everything, but this is a new story so that isn't very important. Vance was a total jerk generally, but I kind of liked him. Overall, it was a fun, sweet story.
 
Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5


Title: The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly
Author: Jamie Pacton
Narrator: Jess Nahikian
 
Synopsis: Kit Sweetly has dreams of becoming a knight at the medieval-themed restaurant that she works at, but only men are allowed to be made into knights. But being a knight comes with a pay raise that Kit needs to help her mom and brother make ends meet. She rounds up a group of people who "can't" be knights and gets her brother (who is a knight at the restaurant) to train them. They intend to hijack the show to show what the Girl Knight and her friends can do.
 
Thoughts: Maybe my expectations were too high for this one. I thought it would be so good, but it fell a bit short for me. I'm not quite sure what it was that put me off. Overall, the story was alright, but I felt like it could have been better.
 
Rating: 2 1/2 stars out of 5


Title: Year of the Griffin
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Narrator: Gemma Dawson

Synopsis: Eight years after the pilgrim tours have stopped, the Wizard University has been trying to re-learn how to teach more than just how to cater to Mr. Chesney and the pilgrims, but they are having a tough time. Derk's griffin daughter, Elda, starts at the university. She and her friends end up trying to help their teacher, Wizard Corkoran reach the moon.

Thoughts: This is the sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm. Diana Wynne Jones has a unique writing style in that you are sort of dropped into the lives of these characters. You don't get all the backstory right away because the characters' lives have been going on. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but I think it is a unique and interesting way to write stories.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5


Title: Geekerella
Author: Ashley Poston
Narrators: Eileen Stevens and Tristan Morris
 
Synopsis: A Cinderella re-telling in modern times. Elle has been in love with the old show, Starfield, all her life. But they are making a re-boot movie and the guy chosen to play the main character, Carmindor, is a teen heartthrob. Darian, the aforementioned heartthrob, is a true Starfield fan, too, but has been told by his agent (and father) not to let on. But he wants the fans to accept him.
 
Thoughts: This was a re-read for me. Once I finished Bookish and the Beast, I wanted to go back and re-read the first two. I enjoyed this one just as much the second time. It was fun and cute and a pretty creative re-telling.
 
Rating:  3 out of 5 stars


Favorite book read this month: Dark Lord of Derkholm or You Should See Me in a Crown
Least favorite book read this month: The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly

I did not make any progress on my alphabet reading challenge in August. Luckily I only have J, Q, U, V, and Z to finish and I already have a couple of titles planned.

I have read 66 books towards my goal of 80. I think I'm doing pretty well.

Unfortunately, nothing much else has been going on. Just work and trying to play with my rats. And starting to prepare for Halloween! September 1st is day one of Halloween, after all!

One fun thing for Halloween: my mom and I are doing Halloween advent calendars. We found wooden ones at Michael's and we are each painting one and putting treasures in the drawers. Then we are going to mail them to each other! Long distance Halloween celebrations! I am still finding some small treasures that will fit in the drawers, but I am excited! I will post pictures in October (if I remember).

I hope everyone had a good August and I hope September will be even better!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

July 2020 Wrap Up

Guys, July has been absolutely insane. I have been working almost every day nearly all month. And working strange shifts, as early as 5 or 6 am and as late as midnight. And working some 10, 11 hour days. I am glad that I have this position and that my work is so needed. But I am also tired. I will get a little break next weekend, thankfully. Well-earned if I do say so myself.

I have had next to no time to work on my next disease post, though I did start it in June. One day I will finish a post about Diphtheria!

I have also been comforting myself with book-related (mostly) retail therapy. I have bought lots of books and pins and washi tape and candles. Oops. Good thing I have been working so many extra hours. But I've bought several books and haven't had as much time to read them. And I haven't had it in me to read much. I re-read some books which helped. I did not finish my book club book for this month (in fact, I barely even started it).

Speaking of books, here is what I did read this month!

Title: The Near Witch
Author: V.E. Schwab
Narrator: Heather Wilds

Synopsis: The town of Near is small. No one visits or leaves. And the tales of the Near Witch are told to scare children. But one day a stranger shows up and then children start to disappear from their beds.

Thoughts: This was Victoria Schwab's debut novel. It felt a little like a first book and was occasionally repetitive. Overall, I liked the story alright, though it didn't stick out to me like most of her other books have.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


Title: 10 Things I Hate About Pinky
Author: Sandhya Menon

Synopsis: Pinky is a rebel always fighting for a cause. During the summer, feeling her mother's very critical eye on her, she told her parents that she had a boyfriend that even her mom would approve of. And then she needed a fake boyfriend. Samir's summer internship fell through and left his summer open. That works out perfectly for Pinky: Samir is proper and polite and can be her fake boyfriend. In return, she will line up another internship for him with her mother's law firm.

Thoughts: I'm so glad I got this book when I did. I picked it up immediately and ended up loving it. I read her book From Twinkle, With Love a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. So I read When Dimple Met Rishi, which I enjoyed less. The companion novel to that came out about a year ago: There's Something About Sweetie,  I liked much more. But this one tops them all. It was the perfect summer read.

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


Title: The Woman Who Rides Like a Man and Lioness Rampant
Author: Tamora Pierce

Synopsis: Alanna has won her shield and revealed her true gender to the people of Tortall. Now a knight, she searches for adventure. Her travels take her to the Great Southern Desert and then to the Roof of the World.

Thoughts: Re-reads and comfort reads. I always love these books. The Song of the Lioness quartet will always hold a special place in my heart, I think.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars





Title: Aru Shah and the End of Time, Aru Shah and the Song of Death, and Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Narrator: Soneela Nankani

Synopsis: These books follow the tale of twelve-year-old Aru Shah, reincarnated Pandava and tale spinner extraordinaire. After freeing the Sleeper from his prison, she must gather the other Pandavas and defeat him.

Thoughts: Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes came out recently so I listened to it. But it's been a while since I read the last two, so then I re-read Aru Shah and the End of Time and Aru Shah and the Song of Death. These are fun and informative. Rick Riordan-esque but with Hindu mythology. They are great!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Favorite book read this month: 10 Things I Hate About Pinky
Least favorite book read this month: The Near Witch

And that's about it for this month. I have now read 60 books toward my goal of 80. And for the alphabet challenge, I completed N.

Thanks for reading! I hope my life will be a little less insane in August.

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).