Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review: Atlantia

by  Ally Condie
Date Read:  1/21/15
Rating: ★ ★ ★

I would really give this closer to 2.5 stars.  The concept of this book was great.  At first I was expecting mermaids – in my defense, other people did as well! When I re-read the description of the book, it’s a bit vague.  My history with sirens is that they have a tail, so my brain filled in the empty details from the description and made them mermaids.  Alas - it is just an underwater human city, similar to Atlantis.  As I started reading this book, I got very interested in seeing how it all turned out. What is the Above really like? How did the Divide really happen?  Why did Rio’s sister, Bay, make the decision she did?  How did the Siren's come to be? 

However, as I read further, I stared wondering, “Is this ever going to get interesting”? The book was really slow. It had the feel of being set up for a series in which the entire first book was setting the world and the conflict and the big revelation about the world.  But as the revelation and conflict were revealed, it wasn't nearly as big as I was expecting it to be. And then the book tied up a couple knots and it was over. There is even an epilogue that occurs at a later point in time.  It felt like this is going to be a stand alone book.  I wasn't satisfied.

Why wasn't I satisfied? Well, for starters, it was really hard to understand why it was so hard for Rio that Bay left her.  I never met her sister before she left, so it was really hard to buy in to the fact that she just loved her sister so much it was hard to be without her.  As my husband so eloquently stated, “There was no ‘Do you want to build a snowman’ scene”.  One of the many things that Disney does well is take 3-4 minutes and set up a relationship you adore.  The other one I think of is “UP”.  You watch an entire love story unfold within a matter of minutes and your heart just breaks.  But there was nothing setting up this relationship other than the fact that they were twins.  My mom is a twin. I know for a fact that just because they’re twins, it doesn't mean they’re going to have this unbreakable bond. They’re just siblings that may look like each other and were born the same day.  Unbreakable relationship this does not make.

A majority of the book was Rio complaining about missing her sister and complaining about wanting to go Above, complaining about not being able to use her “real voice”. Speaking of that (pun intended!): if I saw one more sentence saying “real voice” I was going to scream.  That’s the hard part with writing about Sirens – there was no way for her to get across when a siren voice was being used versus just a regular voice. If it was me, I would have italicized the text or something, just so I wouldn't have had to specifically state to the reader every time whether it was a real voice or a siren voice, on top of the fact that Rio was constantly "hiding" her real voice from the world.

About 75% of the book was Rio trying to get up to the Above.   She put together a master plan and worked toward it the whole book. Boring! [Spoiler: I was getting tired of watching her swim and try to increase the stakes at her swim sessions. The bombs outside the city seemed a little over the top – basically just creating a way that she couldn't swim up. But honestly, most people know you couldn't safely swim from the bottom of the ocean to the surface without incurring brain injury (have you seen Agents of Shield - see "Decompression Sickness"?!). So the bombs seemed unnecessary to me.  And in the end, none of that even mattered because that’s not how she reaches the surface.  All that build up and her plan was foiled within 2 pages of trying. What a giant waste of my time! End Spoiler]

There was one big reveal that I wasn't expecting which was refreshing.  It comes toward the end of the book, so it almost redeemed it.  However, the big conflict was over basically by talking to people.  What other book had such a big build up to the most anti-climactic end?  BREAKING DAWN.  I think that is still the biggest let down I've ever read in a book.  But this book was almost as anti-climactic.  At least in Atlantia, there wasn't a big build up to a massive fight. I just kept expecting something much bigger than it really was which is why I was let down.

So overall the concept was really good, but the execution was less than perfect.  I feel like this story needed to be edited a couple more times before it was published.  It had a lot of potential.  I enjoyed the Matched series much more than I did this book. The book isn't terrible.  I was just hoping for a lot more than I was given. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Miracle for Max - Praying for a friend's son

A little over a month ago I was heartbroken for an old friend when she posted a blog about her 10 month old son.  He had just been diagnosed with Krabbe Disease, something I had never even heard of.  Through her blog, A Mother's Hope for a Child, I have learned a lot about Krabbe, and I wanted to help her raise awareness about this disease and to help her get it added to the New Born Screening (NBS) tests here in Arizona.

Krabbe is a rare genetic disorder, in which a child has to inherit two copies of a mutated gene (one from both parents).  In the case of Krabbe, the mutated gene prevents the body from producing galactocerebrosidase (GALC) which helps maintain the protective coating of the nerve cell (myelin).  This means that it prevents the nervous system from sending and receiving messages.  Krabbe also transforms microglia cells into toxic globoid cells (see Mayo Clinic). Symptoms of the disease are loss in development, irritability, declined alertness, feeding difficulties, etc.  If both parents are carriers (meaning both have 1 copy of the mutated gene), then their children have a 25% of inheriting both copies and getting Krabbe, a 50% chance of inheriting 1 from either parents and being a carrier for Krabbe, and a 25% chance of not inheriting either copy and being Krabbe free.  For children of parents where only 1 parent have the gene, they can only become carriers.  So you can see it’s actually quite rare for a child to get Krabbe.

Currently, there is no cure for Krabbe and the life expectancy is only from age 2 -7 (depending on when the disease is diagnosed and how quickly it progresses).  However, if the disease is caught at birth, before any of the symptoms are seen, there is the possibility for a stem cell transplant, in which the donor stem cells can help the body produce healthy microglia which can deliver functioning GALC enzymes (Mayo Clinic).  This doesn’t mean it’s a cure; so far it is just improving the outcome, slowing the progression, and giving a longer life expectancy.

Here in Arizona though, Krabbe disease testing is not part of the NBS test.  In fact, New York and Missouri are the only states currently testing, and Illinois, New Jersey and New Mexico have passed legislation to add the testing to their NBS.  The remaining 45 states don’t even have Krabbe testing on the radar (including AZ).  Therefore, unless you are aware you are a carrier of the mutated gene for Krabbe, then you will not know if your child has it until the symptoms appear, as is the case for my friend.  To me, this is ridiculous. If we know the only successful treatment in helping the children and getting a longer life expectancy is before symptoms appear, why in the world are we not testing for it before symptoms arise?!  I’m heartbroken for my friend and her son.  She also has a very supportive husband and a 2.5 year old daughter.   I can’t even imagine how hard it is on all of them.  Not that it would make it easier on them to have known when he was born, but they would have at least had options that they could have decided between. Now they really have no options.  I’m not sure how to go about getting Krabbe on the NBS, but if she needs me to sign a petition, send letters or emails, make phone calls, I will do it.  No child should have to suffer so much and families should be given options to help treat the disease as best as we can currently.

I encourage you to follow her blog and facebook page to follow her story. They are trying to head to Pittsburgh to see THE Krabbe specialist.  We’re all praying for some hope in this.  Please join with me in praying for this family – praying for strength, financial support, and a #MiracleforMax.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Book Review: Crossroads: Decision

Crossroads: Decision
by  B.C. Ray
Date Read:  1/7/15
Rating: ★ ★ ★
 ★ ★

I have to admit that I am biased…my husband wrote this story. I’m still writing an honest review, but you have the right to know my relation to the author.

I would give this 4.5 stars simply for the fact that it didn't delve in to the world of vampires as much as I would have liked for a vampire book.

I have been a fan of vampires for a long time. I remember in middle school reading a vampire book (to this day I can’t remember the name of it), and really enjoying it. And then the Twilight fandom happened, and I got sucked in. Not necessarily for the sparkly vampires, but for Edward’s character. Ever since then, just about anything Vampire will suck me in. The Vampire Diaries television show is one of my favorites on TV.

With that background, you can understand why I was so happy when my husband said he was going to write a short story about vampires. His story is more adult than those YA books that are so popular right now, and if you’re easily offended by language, you may not want to read this. But if you enjoy vampires and want a more realistic approach, I highly recommend it.

This story also reminded me of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. At the very beginning I was a little confused as to what was going on, but quickly caught on that he’s a little depressed and crazy – he’s not happy with his life and you are shown that from the very beginning. Until he meets Layla. Then a whole new layer of crazy happens.

I wish that this story was actually longer. I would have liked to see more of Layla actually. She seemed pretty interesting but you don’t really get to know her until the end of the story. 

I was disappointed when the book ended. It left you wanting more. It didn't have much wrap up, but at the same time, it’s only a 23 page book…so how much wrap up can you expect?

I hope to get more from this universe…and I actually hope to get more from Hector and Layla.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014: In Review

Now that we've entered 2015, I thought it would be fun to look at everything that happened in 2014.  Here’s a quick recap of the big changes and accomplishments we had last year.

In January 2014, we  found out that we were pregnant again!  It was actually on the day of my sister-in-law’s baby shower (she had been due 3 weeks before us…before we miscarried).  It was so exciting.

In February 2014, we started packing up our house and moved in with my parents at the end of the month. We figured it would be best to not have us and our dogs living there while trying to sell the house. This way it stayed cleaned and didn't have cooking smells and such in it.

In March 2014, we officially put our house up for sale.  We accepted an offer after just 10 days on the market.  While it was very hard to think about giving my first home to someone else, we were offered what we were asking, and we knew we’d make new memories with our baby in the new house.  We experienced our original due date, which was hard. But we made a pact that every March 21 and September 18 (the day we lost Baby Boy Ray), we will go to Rubio’s for dinner (that’s where we went for dinner the night the miscarriage happened and thus has become a tradition) and light a candle in remembrance.

In April 2014, Brandon ran his second Tough Mudder on the same day his cousin got married.  He fared much better this year.  Even though they didn't finish much quicker, he was in much better shape afterwards.  The wedding was also beautiful and we were so happy to welcome her new husband to the family.  We also found out the Wednesday before Easter that we were having a girl!!

In May 2014, we took a trip to Williamsburg, VA.  We also drove up to Washington D.C. for a day and met up with an old friend of mine. He acted as a tour guide for D.C. for us, and it was great to catch up with him.

In June 2014, after many offers and probably a hundred showings, we placed an offer on the house that we ended up closing on…however it took over 2 months to close because there were renters in the house through the end of July.

In August 2014, we got the keys to our new house!  We had to replace the carpets and repaint because the renters were so dirty.  I also had my baby shower in August and we ended up with so many gifts that we had to store at our parents’ houses until we officially moved in to the house.

In September 2014, we officially moved in to the new house.  Brooklyn arrived toward the end of the month – and time almost feels like it’s stopped since then!  She was a beautiful little girl.  We brought Brooklyn home to our new house and it finally felt like home.

In October 2014, we just stayed home working on house work and yard work and learned how to be parents!  Brandon celebrated his 31st birthday.

In November 2014, we took our very first trip as a family to LA for coffee con.  Brooklyn is a great traveler, and it was nice to get away – even if it was just a turn around trip.  Brooklyn also celebrated her first Thanksgiving!  I celebrated my 29th birthday…and sadly, my grandma passed away on that day.  I now share my wedding with the day of her birth, and my birthday with the day of her death. My life will forever be entwined with my grandma’s.

In December 2014, Brooklyn was hostess to her first Christmas party, met Santa, saw her first boat light parade, and celebrated her first Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  We also went to the McCormick-Stillman railroad park where we rode the train around the park looking at all the lights they display. In future years we look forward to going to Zoo Lights and on the Polar Express!  I went back to work in the middle of the month, just in time for the holidays.

That was quite a year!  Sold our house, bought and new house, and had a baby --- all within 6 months!  Phew. No wonder I’m exhausted.  2014 was a great year for us, and I pray that we have just as happy and healthy a year in 2015. 

I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2015!
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