Random (but not really)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Parallels in Reading:Encephalitis Lethargica

I have read Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books more times than I can count, yet I feel like I discover something every re-read.

Because there is something timeless about the stories, I tend to forget they are, in fact, set in a specific place and time. In this case, 1930, between the two world wars.

‘Is he really ill?’ ‘There’s nothing radically wrong with him. You know, of course, that he’s had Encephalitis Lethargica, sleepy sickness, as it’s commonly called?’

Christie, Agatha. Miss Marple Bundle: The Murder at the Vicarage, The Body in the Library, and The Moving Finger (eBook Bundle) (Kindle Locations 1593-1594). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

This popped out at my because (for obvious reasons) I’ve been reading about the 1918 flu, and came across encephalitis lethargica as part of that story.

a new brain disease that appeared in Europe and North America between 1916 and 1926. The disease, a kind of sleeping sickness known as encephalitis lethargica, killed an estimated five million people before it abruptly disappeared.

other medical scientists in years since have argued that the sleeping sickness was a peculiar result of the 1918 flu. In 1982, R. T. Ravenholt and William H. Foege, two scientists at the Centers for Disease Control, made this case based on epidemiological data from Seattle, Washington, and the Samoa Islands.

Kolata, Gina. Flu (p. 292). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

Now, there is no definitive evidence for this, but as I said, it jumped out at me, and reminded me that those book was written little more than a decade after The Great War, and World War II was still on the horizon.

Written by Michelle at 8:39 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Monday, May 11, 2020

Hiking WV: Watters-Smith Memorial State Park

Really, more of a saunter than a hike.

Watters Smith Memorial State Park






Written by Michelle at 2:21 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Friday, May 8, 2020

Kid’s Books and Death and Illness

Last night during my bedtime reading about the flu epidemic of 1918, I came across a mention of cholera, which jolted loose in my brain The Velveteen Rabbit. And then I remembered The Secret Garden, which opens with the little girl’s family all dying of cholera. (The Velveteen Rabbit is scarlet fever). Which immediately brought to mind a scene from the Little House books, where they all suffer from some terrible illness on more than one occasion. (I was remembering a scene where everyone is sick and Laura (while dreadfully ill) has to go to the well to fetch everyone water.)

What struck me is that when I was reading these books, all of this seemed completely normal–people got sick and died. I mean, how many kids’ books centered around plucky orphans of unknown providence?

In retrospect, it seems weird to me, these deaths that all but casually happened in the background, but then it seemed normal. After all, my grandmother talked about family members who died as kids.

I’m sure there are other such books I read as a kid, but these came immediately to mind. I have memories of reading about a polio epidemic, and tuberculosis (consumption) but I can’t remember any specific books off the top of my head.

Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams- scarlet fever
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – cholera
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder – scarlet fever, malaria (Was the malaria in By The Banks of Plum Creek?)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – scarlet fever

Of course, I feel like I jumped immediately from kids books to Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple, so I guess all my childhood reading was full of death.

Epidemics in Children’s Literature

Written by Michelle at 7:32 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Bias in Books

Coming as a completely surprise to almost no women, an analysis of almost 200 bestselling fiction books by SuperSummary found that best-sellers were overwhelmingly written by men, and about men, and that those male authored, male-centric books frequently don’t past the Bechdel test.

As I said, this shouldn’t be a shock to any reader who has been paying attention.

But where the research got interesting was in the analysis of the language used to describe characters.

Female characters were most often described with words like beautiful and pretty and married, while men were most often described with words like big and great and rich.

Although they did a lot of research, the graphs are clear and concise, and it’s not a long read, so I highly recommend you browse the article.

And then consider the characteristics of the books you’ve been reading.

Strong Man; Beautiful Woman: Exploring Gender Differences in Literature

Written by Michelle at 6:19 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Hiking WV: Cranberry Wilderness

When we want to hike without seeing other people, we head to the Cranberry Wilderness.

Location: Cranberry Wilderness
Trail: Middle Fork Trail (partial)
Distance: 4.2 miles
Elevation: 2494 – 2664 ft (177 ft)

We’ve hiked eastern portions of this trail before, so we decided to find the western trail head and start there.

The trail starts with a creek crossing.


Then quickly goes to another creek crossing.


The trail runs beside (in) the creek for awhile.


Then we finally reached a crossing that was deeper than we capable of crossing while keeping our feet dry.


If it were warmer, I would have taken off my boots to cross, but it was a little too chilly for that, so we headed back.

So, we’ll go back when it hasn’t been raining for a month (and have water shoes, for the deepest crossings).

We then went to a different spot and were attacked by approximately ten billion flies, so we quickly gave up.



Despite rearranging our masks to cover not just our mouths but also our ears, and wearing glasses, the flies were just too irritating to deal with, when most of our walk was going to be along a creek.

But the views on the brief walk were pretty!

Written by Michelle at 10:49 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Friday, May 1, 2020

The Books of April (Reading in the Time of Covid)

Yup. Read a lot of books in April.

Small VicesHere are some of the best.

First up is a comfort listen, Small Vices, Audio Edition by Robert B. Parker narrated by Burt Reynolds. This was my first Spenser book and remains my favorite. Parker hit every note perfectly on this story, and Burt Reynolds managed to perfectly voice Hawk and Spenser for me.

I read quite a few comics last month. Best was finishing Check, Please! Book 2: Sticks & Scones by Ngozi Ukazu Y’ALL. This is SO ADORABLY CINNAMON BUN GOOD. At the other end of the spectrum is Heathen Volume 1 by Natasha Alterici, which is a young woman’s coming of age adventure.

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It by Gina Kolata. I’ve now started John Barry’s Influenza book.

I started re-reading Courtney Milan‘s Brothers Sinister so I could re-read The Countess Conspiracy and A Kiss for Midwinter.

Several new mysteries from series I’ve been reading came out last month, and shock of all shocks, I read them immediately. A Stroke of Malice by Anna Lee Huber (A Lady Darby Mystery) and Secret at Skull House by Josh Lanyon (Secrets and Scrabble)–there was also a CS Harris new release, which was good, but nowhere near as good as the earlier Sebastian books.

Family MattersSupernatural Fantasy, LGBT

Brandywine Investigations
Open for Business (2016) Angel Martinez 8/10
Family Matters (Brandywine Investigations (2018) Angel Martinez 8.5/10
Gumption & Gumshoes (2013) Alex Kidwell 7/10


Naked Once More (1989) Elizabeth Peters (Jacqueline Kirby Mysteries) 8/10

Mystery, Historical

A Stroke of Malice (2020) Anna Lee Huber (A Lady Darby Mystery) 8.5/10
The Guilt of Innocents (2006) Candace Robb (Owen Archer) 8/10
Who Speaks for the Damned (2020) C.S. Harris (Sebastian St. Cyr) 7.5/10

Mystery, LGBT

Secret at Skull House (2020) Josh Lanyon (Secrets and Scrabble) 8/10
P.S. I Spook You (2019) S.E. Harmon (The Spectral Files) 7/10
Grasmere Cottage Mystery
Dead in the Garden (2018) Dahlia Donovan 7/10
Dead in the Pond (2018) Dahlia Donovan 7/10
Dead in the Shop (2018) Dahlia Donovan 7/10

A Stroke of MaliceRomance, Historical

Brothers Sinister
The Duchess War (2012) Courtney Milan 8/10
A Kiss for Midwinter (2012) Courtney Milan 8.5/10
The Heiress Effect (2013) Courtney Milan 8/10
The Countess Conspiracy (2013) Courtney Milan 9/10

Romance, LGBT

Connection Error (2016) Annabeth Albert (#gaymers) 8/10
Goalie Interference (2019) Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn (Hat Trick) 5.5/10
Bookmarked (2015) Piper Vaughn (Heartsville) 5.5/10


Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It (1999) Gina Kolata 8.5/10


Check, Please! Book 2: Sticks & Scones (2020) Ngozi Ukazu 9.5/10
Lady Mechanika Vol 3: The Lost Boys of West Abbey (2017) Marcia Chen, Joe Benitez, Peter Steigerwald, Marcia Chen 7.5/10
Lady Mechanika Vol 4: Clockwork Assassin (2018) Joe Benitez, Peter Steigerwald, Mike Garcia 8/10
Check Please Sticks and SconesLady Mechanika, Vol. 5: La Belle Dame Sans Merci (2019) Joe Benitez, M. M. Chen, Martin Montiel 7/10
Heathen Volume 1 (2017) Natasha Alterici 8/10
Jessica Jones Vol. 1: Uncaged! (2017) Brian Michael Bendis, David W. Mack, Michael Gaydos 6.5/10
Rivers of London: The Fey and the Furious (2020) Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan 6/10

Audio Books

Small Vices, Audio Edition (1997) Robert B. Parker narrated by Burt Reynolds (Spenser) 10/10

There are some good books there, if you’re looking for something to read.

Now, the stats!

Format had actual paper books this month! (Because I generally dislike reading comics digitally.)

Trade Paperback: 6
eBook: 21
Audio: 1
Multiple Formats: 3
Re-read: 10

Genres were pretty evenly split.
Fantasy: 11
Mystery: 13
Romance: 15
Boinking: 11
Historical: 8
YA: 1
Comic: 7
Non-Fiction: 1

Authors have women leading the pack. As usual.
Male: 6
Female: 19
Initials: 2
Male Pseudonym: 1

Characters are male heavy, cuz I’ve been reading lots of M/M mysteries and fantasy.
Male: 15
Female: 8
Ensemble: 4
White: 15
Minority: 6
Minority 2ndary: 6
Straight: 13
LGBTQ 2ndary: 1

That’s it. The books of April. What have y’all been reading? ANy good escape recommendations?

Written by Michelle at 8:13 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Parallels: Tea from China

More parallels in recent books.

This time it’s just how hard the British empire was trying to steal tea plants so they could grow tea in India, which they controlled.

I knew about the opium trade, but it was never clear in history lessons that the British empire was flooding China with opium in an attempt to control the country (and thus make money)

Who Speaks for the Damned (2020) C.S. Harris set in England in 1818.

Here we have mention of just how hard the East India company was trying to steal the plants and processes from the Chinese–and the start of the use of opium to try and drug the Chinese into submission.

One of these days the company is going to get its hands on the secret process the Chinese use to make the stuff, along with some seedlings of their precious Camellia sinensis, and then we’ll be able to grow and produce tea ourselves in India.

They’re impossible people to deal with, you know— the Chinese, I mean. They insist we pay for their silks, porcelains, and tea with silver because they have no interest in anything Europe produces. And the one thing we could use to trade with them, opium, they refuse to allow into the country.”

Death in Kew Gardens (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #3) by Jennifer Ashley set in England in 1881

I borrowed this book, so I can’t grab any quotes, but the mystery centers on tea plants. The British empire is growing tea in India, but the finest, most expensive teas, are still controlled by the Chinese.

If an Englishman in China commits a blatant crime—whether against another Englishman or a Chinese—he is tried by a British court, not a Chinese one. If found guilty, he is sent home, out of our reach.”

In both quotes, you can see the blatant racism, and the disdain for the Chinese, and how the British government was overtly trying to subvert the Chinese government.

Written by Michelle at 8:17 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,History  
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