BOOK REVIEW: A Taste for Poison: Eleven Deadly Molecules and the Killers Who Used Them by Neil Bradbury, Ph.D.

The second book I finished this year is A Taste for Poison: Eleven Deadly Molecules and the Killers Who Used them by Neil Bradbury, Ph.D.

I am an avid true crime fan so when this book crossed my desk at the library I work at, I immediately checked it out eager to learn about the chemicals and minerals that have been used to poisons in both fiction and real life. Bradbury breaks the book into two sections.

The first section focuses on biomolecules including: insulin, atropine, strychnine, aconite, ricin, digoxin, and cyanide. The second section discusses molecules from the earth such as: potassium, polonium, arsenic, and chlorine. Many of these will be familiar to those that read murder mysteries, are interested in true crime, or have an interest in history. While most readers likely have some knowledge of some of these poisons, especially arsenic and cyanide, I found it especially interesting that Bradbury was able to find some stories of how these have killed that I, and other readers, haven’t necessarily heard about, and then going into detail about how the molecule goes about bringing and end to its victims.

Another thing I enjoyed about the book was the positioning of an historical story of how a poison was used, and partnering that with a much more recent story of the poison. I think a lot of people might be surprised about people trying to get away with murders in the 2010s using the same methods as those in the 1800s, with much less success.

Poison as therapy was another section of many of the chapters that I enjoyed. I was fascinated to learn about how many of the poisons being discussed also can serve as medicine. One may think, sure it was used as a medicine before we knew better in modern times, but I was surprised to learn that several are still used today even.

Honestly, I could keep gushing about little things about this book that I enjoyed, but it would probably be easier for you to just go out and find yourself a copy to read.

What do you think about the molecules in this book? Are you surprised people still try to get away with murder with these poisons?

Happy Reading!

BOOK REVIEW: The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another by Ainissa Ramirez.

This post is going to take a look at The Alchemy of Us written by Ainissa Ramirez. I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book was released in April 2020, and I highly encourage you to get a copy and learn about everyday items we often take for granted in a new way!

It was really nice reading a nonfiction book for a change. I normally like to alternate between reading fiction and nonfiction to keep a decent balance between the two, but a majority of the eARCs I receive are fiction so sometimes I get off balance.

The Alchemy of Us discusses the importance of eight different inventions and how they changed the way humans interact with the world. Ramirez looks at clocks, steel rails, copper communication cables, photographic film, light bulbs, hard disks, scientific labware, and silicon chips. Ramirez’s goal was not only to be informative, but to write in an entertaining way so that the material in the book is accessible to the readers, and doesn’t scare them away like science classes often do.

The author did an excellent job of finding stories behind inventions that many might not have heard before. When I was in school I learned about how clocks helped with the Industrial Revolution, but I had never heard of the woman who sold time, or about how clocks affected our sleep patterns.

Not only does Ramirez do a good job teaching the reader about the invention in question in each chapter, but she also excels at bringing to light the unknown inventors behind these technologies. This includes highlighting the women and people of color that history often doesn’t talk about. To be honest, I found these stories of the little known people behind these inventions even more interesting than the stories of the inventors that everyone knows the names of.

Happy reading 🙂

BOOK REVIEW: Theodosia Burr: Teen Eyewitness to the Founding of the New Nation by Karen Cherro Quinones

This review will take a look at the YA nonfiction title Theodosia Burr: Teen Eyewitness to the Founding of the New Nation by Karen Cherro Quinones. I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book was released today, February 4th.

Theodosia Burr was the daughter of Aaron Burr, who served as Vice President to Thomas Jefferson. Many readers out there will have more knowledge of Aaron Burr because of his feud (and duel) with Alexander Hamilton that was a plot point in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s famed musical Hamilton.

I found it important that this book acknowledged the lack of information remaining surrounding the life of Theodosia, and other women during this age. Though I understand this, and that the lack of information makes it difficult to write authoritatively on the subject, I had a difficult time digesting this book as a biography of Theodosia. It is a short book, only just over 100 pages, and the author spent much of that time building up to the child’s birth. Because of this it seems much more a biography of Aaron Burr to me, focusing on his relationship with his daughter, which was unorthodox at the time.

The author also makes it clear that Aaron Burr had very different ideas than general society about educating women at the time. Theodosia was extremely well educated, like her mother, and received the same tutoring a boy her age would have had.

What was emphasized throughout the book was how exceptional Theodosia was. Caring for her ailing mother, while pursuing studies. Taking charge of a household at a very young age, hosting parties for politicians, the list can go on and on.

This book just skims the surface of Theodosia through research of the letters between her and her family, though many of the family papers were lost at sea, along with her. While reading, I found myself wishing for more information leading up to her marriage, the birth of her child, and her death. These seemed glossed over in comparison with her unique childhood. I think this book is a good starting block for a pre-teen looking to learn about strong women during colonial times, but not for anything looking to go more in depth.

Happy reading 🙂

BOOK REVIEW: My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams.

This review is going to take a look into My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams. I selected this book for my library’s leisure reading collection and decided to pick it up to take a break from fiction real quick knowing that many of my ARCs are fiction.

Rachel was living in New York City and was working as a photo editor for Vanity Fair when Anna Delvey aka Anna Delvey Sorokin appeared in her life. Rachel was out with friends and met the socialite, who took a liking to her. Once that happened Rachel and Anna were practically inseperable.

Anna would invite Rachel to fancy meals, share her personal trainer, use infrared saunas, and more. The whole time, she led Rachel to believe she was a German heiress living off a hefty allowance, until her trust money came through. That’s when she went all in, inviting Rachel, her personal trainer, and a videographer on a vacation to Morocco. One small problem, she didn’t have the money to cover the trip.

Anna left all the planning until the last second, believing it would all happen. But then she got Rachel to book the flights. And then in Morocco, her credit card wouldn’t work, so Rachel put her card down thinking she would either be reimbursed by Anna, or Anna would get it figured out before they left, and she wouldn’t be charged at all. But boy was she wrong. She ended up paying more than $62,000 for the trip.

Once home, Rachel continually tried to get Anna to reimburse her to no avail. So she decided to look deeper into Anna’s background. That’s when the puzzle started to come together. Rachel testified about all of this in court and opened up about all of the problems she has had since falling for this scam.

This book was eye opening to how easy it is to fall for something one might hope is true. At the same time, while reading I continually had feelings of did you really not pick up any red flags before this trip? Maybe I am just more skeptical about things that appear to be too good to be true.

I think those that like reading celebrity memoirs would enjoy this book. It would also serve as a good–don’t fall for this yourself warning read. My Friend Anna was released on July 23, 2019. Go pick up a copy so you don’t fall into a similar trap!

Happy reading 🙂

BOOK REVIEW: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

This review is going to focus on The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. I loaned this book from my local public library back when it came out in December 2017 and I have had a blog post draft sitting in my queue for ages.

This book dives into the question “How do I respond to expectations?” While researching an answer to this question Rubin found that people generally fit into four different groups, which she calls the Four Tendencies (Hello title!): Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Throughout the book she describes how one’s tendency influences one’s behavior and helps shed light on how to work around a tendency to be more effective in daily decisions.

The first book I read by Gretchen Rubin was The Happiness Project, and although I loved that book, I think this book is my new favorite by her because it helps me understand myself, and those around me in a different light. I am able to understand to some extent why my husband does things the way he does. I love that this book discusses how to best approach each tendency, and I think by keeping in mind our tendencies a lot of little squabbles can be avoided.

My review may be late to the game on this one, but I think this book needed to be covered. Will you grab a copy of the book and learn more about yourself? I also recommend taking her quiz to find out what tendency you are.

I am an obliger. This means that I respond to outer expectations, but avoid responding to inner expectations. It’s easy for me to respond to what others want me to do, but when I have a goal that I would like to pursue, i.e. go to the gym, it is much easier for me to put that on the back burner when something comes up instead of saying no to the outer expectation. Once I learned more about my tendency, I focused a lot on figuring out how I could learn to say no to outer expectations and reach some of my personal goals. It hasn’t been easy, but progress is better than nothing.

I truly hope you enjoy reading this book. Happy reading 🙂

BOOK REVIEW: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This review is going to focus on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks written by Rebecca Skloot. This book was published in 2010–which means it’s out there for you to read folks! I had heard many good things about this book and bought it several years ago. Then I went back to graduate school and reading for fun wasn’t at the top of my priority list so this book lived on my TBR shelf for quite a while.

This book is a non-fiction biography that tells the story of Henrietta Lacks and her legacy through science and her family’s story. If you’re into science you may have heard of HeLa cells–they came from Henrietta.

Henrietta was a tobacco farmer. She lived and worked on the same land that her ancestors did. Then she got sick. She went to Johns Hopkins for some tests and found out that she had cervical cancer. The cells that were taken for biopsy were also used to try and grow more cells for research, without her consent. These cells were the beginning of HeLa, and they are still alive today.

Although Henrietta succumbed to her disease, her cells were responsible for virus and cancer research, studying the aftermath of an atom bomb, and helping to develop the polio vaccine, in vitro ferilization and gene mapping to name a few uses.

Not only did Rebecca Skloot bring to light the scientific importance of the cells, but she highlights the wrong doing that the scientific community performed by taking human cells without permission, and also by not financially helping the Lacks family.

Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah is a large part of the research that Rebecca did to uncover the story behind HeLa. Deborah and her siblings did not handle learning about the cells well. Deborah didn’t understand how cells work, and had many health problems of her own.

This book was very interesting in that it talked in both science and emotion. I finished reading this book in just a couple days and would love to learn more about what HeLa has helped develop around the world. However, it is also an important work highlighting injustices against African Americans in this country and an example of how they were taken advantage of and experimented on.

Happy reading 🙂

BOOK REVIEW: This is Me by Chrissy Metz

This is Me by Chrissy Metz, of the TV show This is Us, is a heartfelt memoir that chronicles Chrissy’s life from the time she was a small child through to her major success as an actress on This is Us.

This book was quite the page turner! I picked it up and finished it in two days. To those of you who don’t know me, that’s really quick. Only fluffy fiction stories get finished that quickly usually. But this meaty, deep story hit home for me in many ways.

I found it beyond easy to connect with Chrissy, as someone who was bullied through school. I envied her courage to move across the country to follow her dreams. I also was beyond happy to see someone famous showing readers/followers that it isn’t easy to enter Hollywood. Although many actors didn’t have it easy, we don’t often hear such gut wrenching stories about the “before they were famous”. This is Me truly does this with vivid detail.

This is a super short review because I actually read this quite some time ago, but it was a beautiful book, and I hope that you pick it up to read this enlightening read.

Happy Reading 🙂

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Alright, let’s take a break from the Tracers series by Laura Griffin and post about some non-fiction. I recently read Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Before this, I didn’t know much of anything about astrophysics, or even just plain physics at that. I skipped taking physics in high school and focused on the liberal arts during my undergraduate days.

I didn’t really have an interest in reading this book when I heard it was coming out, but I work in a library. This book was insanely popular when it came out. There were so many hold requests that I felt I needed to know what everyone was so interested in.

I felt the book was somewhat hit or miss depending on the chapter I was reading. Some chapters bored me, while others inspired me to be in awe of our galaxy and universe, and even just the fact that life exists at all.

Tyson explained the subject well, which I would hope he would with his knowledge of the subject! I was surprised at the level the topic was covered at. I expected it to be a bit more for the layperson, and as someone who never took any physics classes I felt that I was missing some knowledge that I needed to fully understand some of the subject matter.

With all that said, I did find the book enjoyable, and I’m happy I read it. I’m not sure that it inspired me to go read more on the subject though. Have any of you read it? What were your thoughts?

Happy reading 🙂

Bored and Brilliant

I really enjoy reading books that will help me better myself in some way. For that reason I was really excited to hear about the book, “Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self,” by Manoush Zomorodi. Zomorodi is the host of WNYC’s podcast Note to Self, the podcast the launched the Bored and Brilliant experiment.

The experiment that was launched via the podcast was a series of challenges that listeners would follow in order to allow themselves to be bored. Many, if not most/all of the challenges included strategies that help you put down your devices and let your mind wander. However, Zomorodi is clear that she is not anti-tech and even shares a few apps that can help you make conscious decisions about your tech usage. One of these will tell you how many hours and minutes that you are using your phone. If you use certain settings it will break down how long you spend in each app through the week, which I have found very helpful to demonstrate where my weak points are so that I can avoid spending so much time on those apps the following week.

Some of the challenges are easier than others, and some aren’t new ideas either. I’ve heard from many places to delete ‘that’ app. ‘That’ app that causes you the most time suck to your day. Are you constantly scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with no end to the perma-scroll? Then that is going to be ‘that’ app for you. Always mindlessly playing Candy Crush, Sims Freeplay, or Home/Gardenscapes? There’s your app to delete. I’ll be honest, I have yet to delete ‘that’ app on my phone/tablet. But I have been more mindful of my time on those apps and find myself closing them down after shorter time periods than before.

However, one of the more interesting things I took out of this book were all the sections of research on boredom and how being bored can lead to being more productive/creative. I did not really expect to learn as much as I did. I expected more of a general overview, similar to the many other self-help/happiness books out there. As a librarian, one of the most intriguing tidbits I read in the book was about how our attention spans have decreased from reading on the Internet so much, leading to fewer literacy skills. Zomorodi interviewed a scholar that had to reteach herself how to read her own favorite (lengthy) novel by increasing the amount of time spent reading print books. I found that absolutely fascinating! In beginning this blog I have definitely been picking up my reading of print and I have noticed a pick up in my “reading endurance” of print materials.

I found this book very enlightening and think it could be a good tool for those looking for a way to put down those devices and to start daydreaming more.

Happy Reading 🙂

TFD–The Financial Diet

I’ve been on a kick of reading nonfiction books, mostly along the lines of self-help and learning about yourselves. Think books like The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin and You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. This review focuses on The Financial Diet, written by Chelsea Fagan. It’s by far the most recently published book that I’ve reviewed so far.

Fagan is the creator of the popular blog The Financial Diet, which the book is based on. It aims to help millennials (especially women) with their finances. A coworker recommended the book to me before it was even released, and I got really excited. And, although there are some nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout the book, I was fairly underwhelmed by the book as a whole.

Fagan got on my annoyed side before I even finished the introduction. She tanked her credit score as an irresponsible teenager. Yet, she tries to appeal to her millennial readers by talking about the many thousands of dollars of debt in student loans that many, if not most, millennials have. One is a personal choice to ignore debt and the other is an unfortunate side effect of trying to better educate yourself. I don’t want to get into the debate of whether or not everyone should go to college, and whether or not it’s a waste of money, but as one of those millennials that has quite a bit of student loan debt, I don’t appreciate being preached to from someone that doesn’t have it. I have yet to read one of these financial based books aimed at millennials that isn’t written by someone that was privileged in some way.

In this book I think I got more out of the guest interviews than from the bits written by Fagan. I didn’t really learn anything new–make a budget, don’t spend beyond your means, buy cheap foods that go further and can be frozen. How about you actually say how to make a budget? I wish one of the books would go deeper into the specifics of how to do the things necessary to get out of debt. And that one of these books would be written by someone that overcame their debt by doing something realistic, that isn’t a once in a million chance.

One guest interview in the book that I enjoyed specifically mentioned not even thinking that studying abroad was an option because she had to work while in college. That was a breath of fresh air to read in a book, and see that that person has worked hard all her life and gotten into relative financial success. That is motivational.

I hope that eventually I find a book that doesn’t preach and goes deeper into financial education.

Happy Reading!