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

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.

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."

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!