Third Term of the First Year

I am almost at the end of my first year of my masters program! Well, I say almost, but in reality, it’s the second week of the third term that ends the first week of June. Then I have the MCAT the third week of June. So, you know, everything is relative.

I have neuroscience and physiology this term, which are both harder and easier than my anatomy and embryology and micro anatomy courses last term. But it also means that I feel decent enough to start reading again. It’s been a struggle, but I can’t wait to start losing myself in text again. In the meantime, I’ll be catching up on posting the reviews I have written since last August (not too many, but a handful) and we’ll get this show on the road!

I do have a neuroscience exam on Monday, so I bid adieu as I go and study before classes tonight.

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Level Completed: Grad School Week 1

So I am finished with the first week of my biomedical sciences grad program. Well, four days of it. I get Friday off. Pretty much always. I do not question the extra free time they give me to study.

I have four classes. Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology (also lovingly referred to as BCMB), Scientific Communication (how to read scientific papers), Research Survey Seminar (how to write scientific papers), and Biomolecular modeling (a mix of BCMB and how to present to a scientific audience without looking like a bumbling idiot).

Classes are three to four hours a day from 4 pm to 7ish pm. The first day was a bit of a wash, mostly because it was tarnished by my standing up, the chair grabbing my foot, and promptly falling right back down on my poor knees in a very dramatic and painful manner. My knees were instantly numb (I probably made those nerves very upset) and even today I have two bruises the size of golf balls on either of my knees that are a deep purple. The bright side was only the girl sitting next to me saw me. The down side was that my knees were a tingling numb that was indicative of something Not Good.

Tuesday and Thursday of last week were BCMB. Apparently this is not the way it normally is. I think it’s Mondays and Wednesdays from now on. But the professor is pretty cool. She keeps us engaged for three hours straight (a harder feat than you might think) and taught us all about prokaryotes/eukaryotes and proteins.

Biomolecular modeling has probably one of my most favorite professors I’ve ever had. His name is Dr. M. He was the main reason I was so excited to go to my grad school. Dr. M really, truly believes in you in a very natural, “why shouldn’t I believe in you?” kind of way. He spent the entire class teaching us how to study and learn and why other ways aren’t effective long term. This was such a wonderful, amazing lecture. No one really teaches you how to properly learn. He didn’t speak at us, he spoke to us. I would go over the moon for that man. He expects a whole lot from you, but he gives you a way to help get you there if you put in the effort.

Wednesday resulted in myself being used as a human pincushion and getting boosters, antibody titers done, and a tuberculosis test. The TB test requires a needle, which I did know, but putting a glob of TB antigens right under my skin so it looks like I’ve just been inserted with a tracker which I was unaware of. It hurt. And bled a lot. But mostly it hurt. You’re not supposed to touch it, breathe on it, look at it funny, or even think about it because apparently it might result in a “positive result”. So, good little person I am, I avoided the fact that it was on my forearm and am officially negative for TB. What they don’t tell you is that after you’ve been tested, if you accidentally, say, happen to scratch it lightly, it’ll swell up, turn bright red like a mosquito bite, and hurt quite a bit. So just in case you ever have to have one, don’t touch it.

So now that I’m done gushing a bit, I had an assignment to “reverse outline” a chapter on proteins. No biggie, right? Well, let’s define “reverse outlining”. This means that you go in a chapter, take every paragraph, find the main point of the paragraph, and then come up with three to five supporting facts that establish the main fact. That seems fairly simple. But the chapter was 65 pages long. I read fairly quickly and I think I’m pretty smart, but that assignment took me 18 hours and was 18 pages long. I felt so rushed because I wasn’t able to be ahead in anything else with me trying to finish it before the deadline on Friday at noon.

But you know what? Despite all the grueling work, I am in love with my graduate school program. This isn’t the “I’ll love it as long as I’m good at it” type of relationship that most people have. This is a “I know I’ll sweat blood to make this work, but I’ll love it in a very small corner of my mind” type of relationship. I feel smart again, something my undergrad institution had me questioning for five years.

I’ve also gotten questions as to how I have time to read and maintain a review blog while carrying a full grad school load. The answer is, I reward myself with reading. Reading keeps me sane and grounded. Even if I read an entire book in two pages snatches and it takes me a month, I’m still going to choose that over clubbing with the med students or doing karaoke with my classmates. I’m not antisocial and I do have friends (though they are currently all up in Nashville and I miss them dearly) and I will make friends here again, but this is how I work.

Off to bed with me to prepare for another week of learning new things and feeling like I actually got a degree that’s useful!

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Review: THE DREAM THIEVES

ImageStars: 4.5/5

Format: Kindle ebook via NetGalley

Read: August 18, 2013

I have been in love with Maggie Stiefvater’s work for a long, long time. Not since the beginning, mind you, but since she published SHIVER. I’m lucky enough to have a casual acquaintance with her, I have a picture of her and my rabbit, and I have some doodles in my signed books from her especially to me.

Although this is true, I am not biased. To date, I have not met a book she has written that I haven’t liked. A lot. Her writing style is just so dry-humored and smooth like dark chocolate.

Okay. So back to the review at hand. THE DREAM THIEVES is a wonderful sequel to THE RAVEN BOYS. This book mostly focuses on Ronan with a good dose of Blue and little Adam, and Gansey. There’s an assassin in town that’s looking for a valuable thing that Gansey may or may not possess and will stop at nothing to get it. Plus, Cabeswater has disappeared into thin air and with it, any chance Gansey has to find the king he’s been looking his entire life for.

Maggie’s prose is lyrical, witty, sad, and rings with the truth of consciousness for every one of her characters. She breathes life into the pages seamlessly and grabs you along for the ride until the words run out. I was so, so pleased to get to read this second installment in The Raven Cycle a month early and I will definitely be buying the hardcover when it comes out!

I received a free ebook copy from NetGalley and did not receive any other recompense for this review.

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Review: THAT TIME I JOINED THE CIRCUS

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Stars: 4/5

Format: Kindle ebook via NetGalley

Read: August 24, 2013

This was a very light and fun read. I requested it simply because it mentioned the circus and I’m a bit of a shy carnie fan. The beginning was a bit weird, with chapters alternating “present” time and what happened in the past to get to where Lexi is currently.

So Lexi is a typical, quiet girl who likes her books as much as she likes her close-knit friends Eli and a girl she refers to as “Adventure Barbie”; one of those born perfectly and can do anything a man would like from rock-climbing to stunning a night club silent.

So one bad decision and a freak accident (not at the same time, of course), Lexi is homeless and cannot go back to her prepaid prep school without an adult legal guardian. So Lexi is swept to Florida on a Greyhound bus on a wild goose chase to try and find her mother who, when Lexi was eight, left her and her father to run off to the circus. Alright, I could live with that, cool. But when Lexi gets there, her mother isn’t even remembered by the ring master. However, he does give Lexi a job and a home and thus starts her adventure of living with a traveling circus.

I actually devoured this book in a day and a half. The half is because I fell asleep reading it. I think I was really drawn to the light heartedness of the book. Lexi was fairly independent and enjoyable to read, with enough depth to make her interesting. I loved her family dynamics with Lina and Lishka, the daughters of the ring master. It was the tiniest bit disjointed and I wished it flowed better with the change of chapters, but I really had a good time reading it!

I received a free ebook copy of this book from NetGalley and have received no other recompense other than the free text for my kindle.

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REVIEW: Water

StImagears: 3.5/5

Format: Kindle ebook via NetGalley

Read: August 12, 2013

Water is an interesting spin on a “fantasy/magic” book. It started out a bit stilted, with the main character Kaitlyn being kidnapped and held against her will in the span of a few pages. Read a few more pages, and she’s no longer there against her will. It all happened kind of fast, but at the same time I was hungering for answers, so this fact didn’t warrant much notice.

Pretty early on, the boundaries are set. Micah is the hot, older one that can calm Kaitlyn down with physical contact (preferably a kiss, obviously). Shawn is the evil-to-the-bone antagonist who would rather torture Kaitlyn and probably pulls the wings off of insects in his spare time. Micah, of course, is Kaitlyn’s “helper” with channeling her power. Shawn, of course, is the one who can put a damper on her powers. Okay, C- for originality, but characters don’t always make the storyline, so I kept going.

The book warns of sexual content before you start the book, so the fairly descriptive sex/nude/naughty scenes did not take me by surprise and I skimmed until the story continued. This happened maybe five or so times throughout the book. What was kind of a downer throughout the book was the fact that despite my consistent attempts, I just couldn’t connect with Kaitlyn. She lacked a “spark” and her emotions were… flat. She never seemed very bothered either way that she kept being kidnapped and held against her will for more than a year. There was no happiness but no frustration either. She was very disconnected with her surroundings. Whether or not this was intentional, I have no idea. It just didn’t seem to go very well with the story of a girl who is tough.

All in all, there was enough intriguing things in this book that I think there’s a good chance that I will pick up the sequel. I just really hope I’ll get hooked a bit more the second time around.

I only received a free ebook of this title in exchange for a review. No other recompense was received.

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August 18, 2013 · 5:55 PM

REVIEW: Delia’s Shadow

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Stars: 4/5

Format: Kindle ebook via NetGalley

Read: August 2, 2013

Delia’s Shadow caught my eye mostly because it combined two things I love to read about: ghosts and historical fiction. I was delighted when I received a copy to review.

The book was fairly well written, with Delia immediately being a fun character to read about. She’s very demure and down to earth, though pensive because of the perpetual companion, a ghost she christens “Shadow”. Add a brooding policeman who lost his wife and unborn child in the same earthquake in which Delia lost her parents, throw them together in a life or death situation, include a few decade old cold cases and a serial killer who has begun to kill again, and you’ve got a good start to a leisurely novel.

This novel was definitely leisurely. The plot was fairly well paced with a nice balance of supernatural, a deranged killer, and delightful characters. The main drawback was the fact that although Delia’s perspective is written in third person, the author switches to third person for the brooding policeman Gabe’s perspective. This really shook up the flow of the book. Plus, when the murderer is identified, it took a while before I realized the exact significance because although the main characters are independent and easily recognized, the sub characters blend together colorlessly.

I very much enjoyed the character building of the main cast and their developing relationships with one another. The apparition definitely gave the tale a unique twist, but not enough to really make this book shine like a newly minted coin. This mattered little to me, as it provided a very refreshing change of pace from the books I normally read. I did, however, wished the author had not wrapped up the book so abruptly.

All in all, Delia’s Shadow is a very nice read for anyone who likes hauntings and historical fiction, especially in the same novel!

I received a free ebook copy from NetGalley and have in no way received any other recompense other than the free copy for this review.

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The ‘Q’ Ghost

As the first year of my masters program looms in the near future, I just want to reassure you all that I will still be reading and reviewing. Normally I read about one hundred books per year, but the past two years have been, shall we say, unexpected in the way that life loves to be. That being said, I do think that reviews will happen.

In other news, my phone became possessed by what I am calling the ‘Q’ ghost. Not only was it not working properly, any chance the phone got to type the letter ‘Q’ over and over it would take. So instead of saving for a MacBook Pro for medical school, I was forced to get a new phone if I wanted to stay in touch with all my professional contacts and people that want to reach my mom (since she isn’t super reliable with having her cell phone with her).

Long story short, the ‘Q’ ghost has decided that a new phone was more important. What the ‘Q’ ghost did not take into account was that some of us (read: most everyone I know) are not independently wealthy patrons. Some of our parents are amazing school teachers that work with severely autistic children. But I do really love my new phone, so I guess I can’t be too bitter.

Thank you all for being supportive and loving towards myself and this blog! Even if it isn’t much of a blog and more of a compilation of reviews.

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