Monday, July 6, 2015

July Quick Book Review- The Historian

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova 

Pages: 676 
Type: Fiction 

The Search:

When I first picked up this book in the cozy aisle at Barnes and Noble, I knew that my 2 hour search for the next great read was over. I read the book overview and looked at my partner with gleaming eyes. He was glad the search was over.

I imagined the book to be an adventure through history with a narrating historian. Yet, when I got home and read the front, which I had neglected to the store, my heart fell as I read "vampire". I instantly thought of the Twilight books and how the countless of TV vampires are portrayed. And I wanted to return it, but I decided to give it a shot. It is a bestseller after all.

The Book:

It took me past halfway to stop forcing myself to keep reading the book. I know that sounds disheartening to many but stay with me here. The writing is sophisticated and flowing. The character descriptions were intelligent and said no more than needed to be said about a person, leaving plenty for the reader to discover through the plot of the book.

 The description of the landscape is beautiful at times and I really appreciate the image Kostova gives us, since most of us havn't gone to those places in the book. Here is an example of what I am talking about:

"At one point where the ground levelled, we rode into a nave of silvery trunks, a beech grove of the sort one still stumbles upon -- but rarely -- in the most wooded of English manor grounds. You've seen them, no doubt. This one would have been a marriage hall for Robin Hood himself, with huge elephant trunks supporting a roof of millions of tiny green leaves, and last year's foliage lying in a fawn-colored carpet under our heels."
-The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (page 409)

To not give anything away I will not tell you the place she is talking about but I will give you a hint: It is not in England or the USA. Although, at other times Kostova describes a general landscape and leaves the rest to imagination. The book is long already with a lot of characters and quick plot development so the descriptions are balanced just right with action I would say. The first half of the book moved a lot slower than the second half. Most of the discovery of answers to the mystery happened at half and after. About 400 pages in, the story has really picked up sped up and many holes in the story are starting to be filled. So what it seems that Kostova has done is set up a huge puzzle spanning 3 generations in the first half of the book, which can captivate many but stretched me thin a bit, and then fill in vital pieces to the puzzle in the second half. It is captivating for sure. 

The Story:

Please believe me that this vampire story is unlike any you have read before. It is a sophisticated, well paced story that is based on real folklore. Kostova has really done her research about the folklore of Dracula and where that it has come from. She takes us to the birthplace and tomb of Vlad the Impaler of the 15th century, who was known as Dracula. She tells us a captivating lesser known history through the character's search for answers in the disappearance of another beloved character. The search through history and many great cities of Europe is also included in the story. Where there is romance, it explodes, but for the longest time it was barely elaborated upon to a point where I was questioning the character's emotions and the emotion that I should know to feel between those characters. It's almost like Kostova was leaving that as a mystery for the reader to figure out in the second half of the book along with everything else. Although, most of the situations where obvious in emotion and needed not be explained for the reader. 

The Rating:

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I thought it was a good balance of emotion, plot development, and physical travel. I thought it had a perfect amount of characters and well paced discovery. I would recommend this book to those who like this kind. 

I hope that I have written a spoiler-free, well-rounded, short and to the point review, and I hope that you have enjoyed reading it! Thanks for reading.

Till next time,

Monday, June 22, 2015

Teen Wolf is coming!

Hi All!

I am very excited to say that I just found out this morning that Teen Wolf Season 5 is premiering June 29th on MTV!! 

Even now I wonder how I can be so obsessed with this MTV show. It's really a bit awkward but the modern awesome music, inspiring great costumes and riveting, fast paced plot that sucks in your interest like no other cheesy high school wolf tv-series ever has, really makes for a pretty interesting show. 

Not to mention the kick-ass intro! I never fast forward through it, it's awesome. And it's below for your enjoyment, of course :)

Stiles is the best!!! Favorite character for sure. He's hilarious. And of course Dylan O'Brien is amazing as Stiles. I think he is perfect for that Stiles' character. Another thing I love about this show. Every character has a distinct personality. Props to the writers for not having empty characters. 

Some good news for those of you who havn't seen it yet: you're only 4 seasons behind, so you can binge watch like I know you can and get caught up in time for the 29th! Oh and the second episode of the 5th season is suppose to air the 30th, I don't know about how accurate that is though. 


Till next time,

P.S. For a little spoiler article click HERE

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Old Friends, New Memories

Hi All!

About a week ago my sweetie and I hosted our first guests at our Florida apartment. Being hosts was exciting in itself, but our good friends coming down from Chicago made the next 5 days so exhilarating and upbeat. It felt like I was reliving Daytona Beach, even though I have lived here for months and my sweetie even longer.

Most days we went to the beach. I absolutely love the low and high tides of Daytona Beach. I also love the flatness of the beach. Cars drive on it every day, except for when high tide comes in. I have become an avid shell collector too. The one below I found on the beach. It's huge! I couldn't believe it! We also found a sand dollar. I feel so lucky living by the ocean, finding shells that I have only ever seen in stores, and experiencing the salt and sand, not to mention being terrified by the sharks... And the water! It is so warm! I never expected such a huge body of water to be so warm by the shore. It's no Lake Michigan! 

 ^^^Photo courtesy of our lovely guests. It was taken during high tide and the waves came up to the "street". You can see the driving signs in the distance. (The cone is there to indicate no parking.)

We also went to Downtown Disney one of the days. I have never been to a Disney park before. Me and my mom made a promise we would go there together for the first time, since she hasn't been there either. But this doesn't count, it wasn't exactly a Disney park. The Florida summer heat is really climbing to a brutal temperature and I felt like passing out. But everything was too exciting, and I might as well get used to it. It was a great day! I turned into a 12 year old, hahaha.

 ^^^Photo courtesy of our lovely guests. HAWKS WIN!!!!

Saying goodbye to them was so much harder than I thought it would be. As soon as they left, I wish they hadn't. The next day I missed them at the beach and at dinner at home. But 4th of July is coming soon and we will all see each other in Chicago!

I love this Jeep commercial! It makes me want to travel cross country :)


Till next time,

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Due for an Update

Hi all!

I realized that I have not posted updates on my new college and new life in Florida. Sorry for that! As some of you may know, I left my previous university in Chicago to come to Stetson University this past semester (January 2015). My experience was a great deal better this past semester than the year and a half I spent at Loyola.

The Reason  
I made a huge gutsy jump when I decided to change schools, and I didn't know how important this change was until I got through my first 3 months here. When I was still at Loyola, I felt horribly boxed in, out of options, and completely unmotivated by the lack of departmental help, mediocre grades and an air of superiority most of the professors had to their students (apart from two wonderful professors who I had the pleasure of working with). I started to change my future plans because I didn't feel that I was smart enough to contribute to the world through biology and medicine. And I realized that the problem was not me, I knew I was smart. Was I? Am I? Am I smart enough to do something I would be proud of myself for?

It got to a point where I started to hate my position in life and I just wanted out. So I made the decision in a week, started looking for collages I could transfer to immediately, and then told my parents. Yes, yes, it was a surprise to them and my mommy didn't want me to leave the state but I couldn't be in Chicago anymore. I couldn't live in fear of being shot on my way to the bookstore and of course for the reasons I already said.

Choosing the Right One (Again)
I was surprised when a lot of people asked me why I chose Stetson. I'll tell you guys. It was a complete last minute find. I went home one weekend to get my high school transcripts. When I was there I ran into my counselor and we had a chat. I told him I wanted to transfer. What he said next surprised me. He knew that Loyola was not a good choice for me. Unfortunately, at the time it was my best choice. My  counselor, being always so helpful, gave me a list of schools that he made. These schools were known to have small class sizes, graduates had little loan debt compared to national colleges, and have a high percentage of med-school acceptance. The options that suited me where in New York, California, Texas, and Florida. New York was just another Chicago to me, California too far away, Texas too close to the border with crime rates like Chicago, so Florida was left. And the only good science school in Florida was Stetson University.

Making Stetson My Home
It wasn't too hard for me to start to love my new campus. It was wide open with lots of green. Lot's of palm trees, outdoor seating, and warm air. The biology and chemistry program and department were incredible too. I hadn't realize the wonderful environment I had transfered into until my first semester there was over. By the end of 3 months I knew the whole chemistry department, the biology department knew me for my good grades, and I set up a research project that will be ongoing for my remaining two years at Stetson. I also found after I was already there that Stetson's science program is top 10 in the nation. My point here is this: I found more opportunities and I found so much hope for the future in these 3 months than the 3 semesters at Loyola. I started to dream about my possibilities in life. It's a wonderful feeling. At the end of the semester I knew for certain that I could do IT. I could survive college because I'm not stupid. At Loyola my science GPA was 2.8 and an overall of 3.4. Now, thanks to the wonderful biology and chemistry Stetson professors, my science GPA is 3.9. I really needed that number as proof. Now I can dream. I can be anything I want. But most importantly, I can finally be someone who I WANT to be. And that's a feeling everyone deserves.

^^^The Fountain at my school in front of one of the oldest buildings on campus from the 1800's.

Well if you are still here, I thank you for reading and hopefully my story helped some of you. If you have any questions about the process I'd be glad to help out. Thanks for reading!

Till next time,

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Clinic Day 4: Selflessness

Hi everyone! Welcome to the Dominican Republic trip Day 8!

Wow I can't believe I'm ending day 8 already. It still feels unreal that I'm here and that I'm doing what I'm doing. It's surprising how I already feel completely comfterable with my living situation here, as if I've been living this way my whole life. It feels totally normal to be living with 12 other girls in one apartment and falling asleep with all the noise of the city. It's amazing how quickly someone can adjust to their situation.

Today we had another clinic day. I do not recall what city we were in today but it wasn't far at all. I worked in the vitals station again but his time I was measuring blood glucose levels. There was this one woman who was my favorite. She was in her mid-thirties and when I explained to her in my best broken Spanish what I was going to do she started laughing nervously and kept taking her hand and giving it back. She has never had her blood-glucose measured! At one point she, still laughing hysterically, took grab of my leg gently and said she was so scared. The translator and my other glucose partner were native speakers and they reassured her. She finally let herself be calm enough for me to prick her fingure with the little retractable machine we have, and she admited it wasn't bad at all. She really made me smile and laugh today. It was fun because of humorous people like her. 

There was also a very sweet middle aged man  who came in towards the end of the clinic. He didn't come in last. I took his blood glucose levels and directed him to the doctor. After there were no more people, my station closed and cleaned up after 20 minutes. We joined the doctors and the pharmacy in the next room. As I sat down next to the doctor I like to shadow for some more experience, I notice  him still siting waiting for his consultation.

When a doctor was free he walked up but was sent back because there were kids that had numbers before him that he didn't realize. So he went back and sat waiting in the little school room chair. He then gave up his spot next in line to a middle aged woman who had coughing fits. And he was the last one left waiting. I couldn't beleive it. This guy must have been there over an hour whereas most onl wait for at most a half hour.  When my doctor came back from checking something she took him to examine. Just as she was writing out the prescription, the the last of the medication that he needed was given to the woman he let go in front of him. He was clearly upset and I was too. 

Now some of you might think that this was his own fault. That he should have been more firm. 

These people are incredibly nice and selfless. This was just a greatly unfortunate situation. Again, I really wish I could have done more for him. It was just one bottle more I wish I would have magically had so I could give it to him. 

That's the worst part about clinic days. We only have a designated amount of medications per clinic day. Every single time we run out of the medications most of the patients need. We couldn't account for which medications those are each time. It changes. And it breaks my heart every time someone is sent home without the medication to help them be healthy. 

Tomorrow we have a free day. We are probobly going to plan our education day and hopefully horseback ride!!!!

I would love to know what you think about my trip and my opinions.

Till next time, 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Clinic Day 3: Learning from the Selfless

Hi everyone! Welcome to the Dominican Republic trip day 7. If you wish to skip the stories, scroll down to the few bottom paragraphs.

Today we went to the little village of La Joya. We set up all the supplies and stations in a school. I worked at the shadowing station, so I sat next to a doctor all day and took notes on the patients, their symptoms, the doctors diagnosis and the prescribed drugs! So cool!

It's safe to say that the same greatfullness and respect was given to us as all the other people we helped in previous clinics gave us. We helped about 120 people in 4-5 hours. I couldn't tel you the exact time. It just went by way to fast and I just don't keep track. Like always there were a few elderly with high blood pressures who were given special medication by the doctors that we didn't provide.

There were many kids. More than usual. And 9 out of 10 kids were sick with the flu. It's a good thing I got my flu shot and hopefully it's the right strain.

There was a little girl that was in the clinic area for about 20 minutes, like most who were waiting their turn. She had a little pink top on with a white tie that around around the front. While she was waiting she watched us and was really cheery walking around the room. She saw me smiling at her, and just as any kid does, she smiled a huge smile back and ran to me for a hug. I hugged her tightly back. You never know the situation these kids are in. Especially in these areas. So after making sure she had no apparent skin diseases I gave her a loving hug every child deserves.

The doctor I was shadowing atracted all the kids to her so I ended up observing the doctor's questioning and diognosing of this 6 year old girl. She was in for the flu like most, but what we learned about her was out of our hands. When she was much younger, she had a fever which caused a seizure. Because of this, she has hyperactivity and speach impediment. She was also supposed to be taking medication and vitamins to help her with this but that was not affordable to her.

There was this other kid who ran and plopped down on the chair with his friend on the other chair right next to him. He started grabbing everything. Pens, papers, hand sanitizer. The doctor asked him where his mom is. He said with a smile that she's dead. The doctor gave me a weird look. She kept questioning him in Spanish. Apperently, he was telling the truth. When the aunt came over finally with 2 other kids on her arm, she verified that both the mother and father died 4 months ago. The kid's smile is so unnerving. I can still see it in my mind.

And the last story I will share for today was one I did not experience directly. At our post-clinic meetings, the site manager told us of a woman who brought in 5 children to be seen. 3 where her own but 2, a boy and a girl, where not. When analyzing past history the doctor found out that the parents of the boy and girl found out the children's health problems, took their things and abandoned the children in their house. The neighbor took the kids in as her own and that's who brought the kids in to be seen.

So as you read my stories I hope you can learn about people as much as I have. Yes there are horrible people out there, but there are also great people out there. Ones who are incredibly greatful and respectful. And especially those who have so little but still give so much. Like that woman who took in those poor abandoned kids. She wasn't looking for compensation or pity. She was a strong woman with a big heart.

I hope everyone finds kindness for others in their hearts. This kind of love for kindness should transcend money. How is it that I have had more people genuinely smile at me in this clinic than I have a whole month back at home in Chicago? Why is it that the people who have so little are actually happier than many who have descent bank accounts? Money can never make you this kind of happy. Material things will never make you feel loved in this way. These people feel happiness because they hope to be healthy soon. And they know it's because of us.

Most of the problems we think are problems arn't even problems. And many of the problems that are actually problems to us are so trivial.

These people could care less about snapchats or nice sofas. I'm not saying it's a sin to indulge in these things. The problem occurs when these things prevent us from respecting and loving each other as human beings with the basic rights to happiness. You, YES YOU, are the source of happiness to more people than you may think.

I really hope this has made you think a bit. These topics have weighed down my heart greatly since the first clinic.

Till next time,

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ending 2014

Hi everyone! Welcome to the Dominican Republic trip day 5!

Today we had our 3rd free day. We woke up early in the morning at 7, loaded ourselves and lunch onto a tour bus and headed out on a 2 hour drive to 27 charcos (27 waterfalls!). We decided to hike up all the way to the top and experience all the 27 waterfalls. Overall the whole hike and waterfalls were 3 and a half hours. 

When we finally got to the top we jumped and hiked through the river to the next waterfall where we slid down the rock slide and then walked down the river to the next and the next. The highest jump was 20 feet into a deep blue green pool of water! And this way we decended down back to were we started hiking. I recommend this for everyone! And anyone can do it! There were elderly and 4-year olds.

Well I hope everyone has a wonderful night. I wish everyone a Happy New Year with much luck, health and happiness!

See you next year!