So, What's Up With That Face Leash?

Us, being silly out on a movie date
Us, being silly out on a movie date

Today marks my one year anniversary of being on 24/7 supplemental oxygen. It’s been a frustrating, humbling, and boring year. At home, I have an oxygen concentrator (about the size of a large suitcase) with a 50+ foot tube that connects to the cannula on my face. When I’m out, I have a 2.5 ft oxygen cannister on a hand cart that I take everywhere. It is amazing what a short, fat woman on an oxygen cannister can get away with. No one turns you down. Everyone (except snippy medical personnel) helps you out, whether you want it or not. And that’s the humbling part. I’ve always been the one to help others but this past year and more I’ve been the one needing help, from my husband, from family, from friends, and from total strangers (like all the awesome medical personnel I have met this past year+).

The most exciting things to happen to me this past year have all been medical. Oh, and we finally got fiber optic internet which is so fucking amazing! It’s great to watch Netflix or Amazon movies without the internet stalling out. I can stream music, download an audiobook, and watch trashy TV all while checking email. I feel like I have truly entered the 21st century.

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before Bill and I travelled twice to Denver to the National Jewish Health Center (known for their expertise in respiratory ailments) earlier this year so that I could get properly diagnosed. My New Mexico doctors had thrown their hands up in the air back in March, essentially saying they didn’t know what the fuck I had. Turns out I have CTEPH which can be caused by a few different things. But for me, it means that my body had been throwing small blood clots towards my lungs for some time, piling up in (and partially blocking) the pulmonary arteries (the veins from heart to lungs). They then hardened, like blood will do to form a clot. A year ago, I thought I was simply fighting a bout of pneumonia and asthma. Turns out I don’t have asthma at all, tho the two illnesses share many of the same symptoms.

For me, the CTEPH has caused a moderately high degree of pulmonary hypertension, which will be fatal in 6-10 years if I don’t have this big surgery to remove the blood clots. Pulmonary hypertension is basically pressure within the heart. My heart is enlarged and the right side is pumping inefficiently (quaintly referred to as right-side heart failure). Essentially, my heart is a pump under back pressure, and like all pumps in that situation, my heart will eventually fail…. unless I remove the cause of the back pressure (those pesky clots).  There’s only a few places in the country that will perform the surgery. So later this month we travel to the nearest and supposedly the best medical center to have this PTE surgery – San Diego, California.

It’s a huge pain the ass but it must be done. Through family we have house sitters, having cats and dogs (we rehomed the goats, donkeys, and chickens back in September). I have to get all my medical equipment ready for the trip. There’s bits and bobs of paperwork to do as well. I have 4 days of pre-surgery testing, after which the medical staff will give me my own tailored mortality rate concerning this surgery. Yep. Never a phrase you want to hear.

If all is as we expect after the testing, I’ll have an 8-10 hour surgery on Ground Hog’s Day, February 2, 2017. My sternum (breast bone) will be cut in half, my heart and lungs will be put on bypass, and then my body temperature will be dropped to a chilly degree I wouldn’t want to experience naked even in the best of circumstances. Then, when they are ready to remove the blood clots, they will actually stop circulating my blood for 20 minutes at a time. I will need at least 2 such sessions to remove all the clots (they circulate my blood in between to keep my brain functioning).

If you watch the video above, then you get to see these whitened, hardened blood clots they remove. They look like weird sea creatures, don’t they? I hope they take pictures of mine and that I get copies of those photos.

Anyway, once they put me back together, I’ll have 10-20 days of in-hospital recovery before they will release me to some responsible-looking adult. I won’t be allowed to drive, lift more than 10 lbs, lift laundry, etc. for 6-8 weeks afterwards as my breast bone heals.

All my doctors have told me how fortunate I am to be alive. In fact, some are rather gleeful at having a CTEPH patient. I’m told we’re rare, especially in the lightly populated state of New Mexico. They say things like: CTEPH is very difficult to diagnose… in a living body; I was lucky the pulmonary emboli (blood clots) were small and didn’t kill me outright; we have this incredible surgery to remove the clots, curing me of CTEPH and pulmonary hypertension. It took me a while to realize how lucky I was because it took so long to decline to this state, and then even longer to be correctly diagnosed.

Bill making me laugh
Bill making me laugh

I’ve had to give up quite a bit due to this illness. All my volunteer activities. My home business. My social life. My physical well being. Yet more than all that, this illness and my inability to carry my load has affected those closest to me. Bill’s work schedule has suffered. Our house has been a perpetual mess. We’ve given up the farm animals to make life easier (and they deserved better from us). This surgery could give me the ability to get back to my life. With that, I look forward to it.

2017: In the Beginning, Challenges Were Made

Here we are in a brand new spanking year. My husband started it off with a kidney stone. Yeah. Poor dude. So we’ve been binge watching a lot of TV and I have been lazy about posting.

I’m sure some of you have noticed the new look. What do you all think? I’m loving it! Jess from The Audiobook Worm did all the grunt work and she did a fantastic job of interpreting my nebulous requests. Thanks Jess!

VintageScifiBadgeSo, 2017 holds many challenges for me. First, I want to participate in Vintage Sci-Fi Month which is hosted by The Little Red Reviewer. I love Vintage SF Month but I wasn’t a good player last year due to illness and this year may be the same but I’m going to give it a shot anyways. Anyone is welcome to join and the only requirement is that the SFF be 1979 or older (books, movies, TV, radio dramas, whatever).

I’m also going to try an audiobook challenge this year. 2017 Audiobook Challenge is hosted by Hot Listens and Caffeinated Book Reviewer. They also have a GoodReads group for this challenge or you can keep track of everything on your blog or both. I like this challenge because there’s only 2 check-ins throughout the year, so it’s pretty low maintenance but you can put as much effort and socializing into it as you want. I already know I listen to a lot of audiobooks, so I’m aiming for the Marathoner level (50+ audiobooks for the year).

Next, there’s going to be some year-long reading challenge on the Lazy Day Library Reviews FaceBook group. I didn’t participate in last year’s challenge since I was hospitalized in the first part of January 2016 and felt like crap for several weeks afterwards, so all sorts of stuff just got shoved to the side. But this year I hope to participate. The particulars aren’t set yet but the host is running a little contest, taking suggestions for goals for the challenge.

Clementine being cute.
Clementine being cute.

I hope to finish out the Terre D’Ange Cycle (by Jacqueline Carey) Read Along this year. We’re currently on Book 7, Naamah’s Kiss and will be wrapping that up this month. But then I have to go do this major surgery thing (PTE surgery for my CTEPH) in early February out in San Diego (two states away), so I’m not sure when we will resume with the next book as my in-hospital recovery could be up to 20 days. I have never read the final book in the series as I was saving it for something special. I expect other people have done this odd thing – you know, when you don’t want the adventure to be over so you put off reading that last book…. So, that’s what I’ve done and it’s finally time to read it and it would be great to do so with the on-line group that’s gone through this series with me. They have been wonderful folks and have provided so much insight for one of my favorite series of all time.

What are your bookish goals for the year?

The Best & Worst of 2016

2016 is finally over! It was a tough year for me, even right up to the end where I caught a nasty holiday bug. I did read a lot of great books last year. According to my Goodreads profile, I read 208 books, nearly 100 less than the year before. I blame my new found love of Netflix bingewatching for that. Here are my favorite 11 books of the year, in no particular order (no counting rereads).

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

BrownRedRising

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ClineReadyPlayerOne

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

ButcherSkinGame

Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave

Tofu will help me hide the bodies.
Tofu will help me hide the bodies.

Anne Manx on Amazonia by Larry Weiner

WeinerAnneManxOnAmazonia

Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

PriestChapelwood

The Green Children by Domino Finn

FinnTheGreenChildren

Dragon Gate by Gary Jonas (Jonathan Shade #3)

JonasDragonGate

Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword by Kiera Gillett

GillettZariaFierceAndTheEnchantedDrakelandSword

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Chupa being weird.
Chupa being weird.

Cthulhu Armageddon by C. T. Phipps

PhippsCthulhuArmageddon

I did some rereads this past year – The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (yep, from the beginning), Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (I’ve been reading with a great group of on-line friends and we’re up to Book 7 now), Dune by Frank Herbert (just because it’s awesome), Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney (I read this in paperback some years ago but now it’s available as an audiobook and it is incredibly well done).

Here are the top 3 books that didn’t do it for me:

Lover Eternal by J. R. Ward

WardLoverEternal

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

ColeAHungerLikeNoOther

Hair Power by Piers Anthony

AnthonyHairPower

I also joined a romance book club. I’ve never really enjoyed romance novels. I don’t mind if a book has romance in it but the main plot has to be something more than finding true love or getting laid for me to really enjoy it. So, I thought perhaps I was wrong in binning romance books all together and pretty much ignoring them. With that in mind, I joined this lovely group of people and gave the romance genre a real shot at winning my heart. We read several paranormal and urban fantasy romances, a few contemporary romances (some with suspense and one with BDSM), and 1 historical fiction romance. In general, I was underwhelmed. Some of the books did exceed my expectations and for romance novels they were good, but none of them made it into my top 50. Let me slightly amend that. I had the opportunity to host twice, which means I picked the book we read. Both times I picked books I had not previously read and one of them was Darkness Haunts by Susan Ilene. There is no romance in this novel. There’s a spattering of flirting, but that is all. While several people enjoyed it (including me), it does not count as a romance novel. Obviously, I’m not a good host for a romance book club but the group was great about it.

Also here are some of my notable firsts for 2016:

My first Stephen King novel – 11-22-63

King112263

My first Star Wars novel – Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Guess which side of the Force Chupacabr is on?
Guess which side of the Force Chupacabra is on?

My first Podiobooks audiobook – Marker Stone by Paul J. Joseph

JosephMarkerStone

My first Kurt Vonnegut novel – Cat’s Cradle

VonnegutCatsCradleTofu

As 2016 ends, I am looking forward to a better year in 2017. I spent all of 2016 sick and most of it on bed rest. It took quite some time and many doctors to get diagnosed. I now know that I have CTEPH and in February I will be in San Diego having PTE surgery to hopefully correct the issue. It’s a major surgery and I could be in the hospital recovering for up to 20 days. So if Dab of Darkness goes dark between Ground Hog’s Day and Valentine’s Day, it’s just me laid up in a hospital recovering. Life should get better after that surgery and I’m just really looking forward to being on the other side of it. 24/7 supplemental oxygen makes life rather boring, as I can now attest to.

The Beauty and the Beast Book Tag

Heya Everyone! I was recently tagged by The Audiobookworm in this fun book tag. Feel free to comment on my book choices or to add your own for each category in the comments. I’m going to tag a few people at the end, but if you want to throw up a post with your answers, leave me your link in the comments so I can swing by.

1. “Tale As Old As Time” – A popular theme, trope or setting you will never get bored of reading.

Theme – Underdog

BrownRedRisingThe Red Rising series by Pierce Brown was excellent. Can’t wait to see more from this author. If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s a mash up of Roman mythology/military command structure with terraforming of Mars and beyond. Be proud of your scars. You’ve earned them!

BernheimerConfessionsOfDListSupervillainD-List Supervillain series by Jim Bernheimer – which is just a lot of damn fun! Mostly, the supervillains in this series are just anti-organization. The various super-characters are imaginative and there’s plenty of humor.

Trope – Artificial Intelligence

DircksTheWrongUnitI recently read a whole bunch of AI stuff. The Wrong Unit by Rob Dircks was a delight. It had that right mix of humor and serious bits. The AI units are programmed to learn to care for their humans, so the anthropomorphizing of the AI units is realistically built into the story.

PerreaultProgenyRay Jay Perreault has written several stories that feature AI and I have been enjoying making my way through his audiobooks. Progeny is one of my favorite AI stories, though his AIs run the gamut of cold, calculating evil to human-like societal beings.

Heldig and Chupa being anything but helpful.

Serengeti by JB Rockwell was super intense in several ways. The story starts off with a space battle and the AIs are the ships, though they all have human crews. This space battle takes perhaps as much as half the book. Then the second half is the story of this one ship trying to limp home. The humans have to go into stasis, so that just leaves the ship’s AI and her little AI minion bots. The struggle to reach their goal, to stay sane over the lengthy years, to keep functioning just enough to keep the human crew alive – just an excellent tale.

Setting – Ancient Times

There’s plenty of stuff that happened in ancient times. Most of it is interesting, gritty, and dramatic. Here’s a list of some of the stuff I’ve read so far and have really enjoyed.

SmithRiseOfZenobiaConn Iggulden’s Emperor series – This series focuses on Julius Caesar, starting with his boyhood years and going all the way through his life to the dramatic, bitter end.

The Rise of Zenobia by JD Smith – set during the Roman empire in the Syrian city of Palmyra. I learned from this book and that always is a plus.

John Maddox Roberts’s SPQR murder mystery series – Set in 1st century ancient Rome during the time of Crassus and Pompey. Who could resist murder mystery and ancient Rome? Not me!

Patrick Bowman’s retelling of The Odyssey for young adults – The Odyssey of the Slave series. In this series, the focus is on a young lad who is taken as a slave when the famous city of Troy falls.

Colossus by Colin Falconer – This is a tale of Alexander the Great. Technically, it’s an alternate history, but if you don’t know much abut Alexander and the arc of his life, you wouldn’t know it. I really enjoyed this tale – elephants!

The Sekhmet Bed by LM Ironside – set in ancient Egypt. Ahmose was raised up to Great Royal Wife status. Political intrigue plays a big role in this story.

RobertsClaimedByTheEnemyRise to Power by Uvi Poznansky – set in the land of Israel in the 1st or 2nd century BCE. This is the first book in a series about David and his rise to power told from a secular point of view.

Claimed by the Enemy by Shauna Roberts – despite the title and the cover art, this book is pretty darn good. Set in ancient Mesopotamia during the time of King Sargon, the book focuses on two young individuals who were placed in difficult positions.

2. Belle – A book you bought for it’s beautiful cover that’s just as beautiful inside too

KayUnderHeavenGuy Gavriel Kay never fails to provide a beautiful story and his covers are always so well done. Recently, I read Children of Earth and Sky, and the cover is indeed just as beautiful as the tale inside. If you said I had to pick my favorite GGK novel, I would be hard-pressed to say which it was. His Sarantium duology is about the fall of an empire, so plenty of vast ideas going on there but with excellent pinpoint characters that do a great job of showing the human side. I also loved The Lions of Al-Rassan, which is based on Moorish Spain. There’s plenty of areas of conflict but also plenty of areas for commonality. I could go on and on, but you should just go pick up some GGK for yourself.

Slinky was chewing on my shoes so I gave her a book to look at.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear was one of my favorite reads of 2015. The cover did a great job of capturing the Wild West and Steampunk mix of the story. Karen was also a wonderful character, not being a stereotypical kick ass heroine that are so abundant lately. She does kick ass, she’s just also a real person who happens to be brave when backed into a corner.

3. Beast – A book you didn’t expect much from but pleasantly surprised you.

AllendeZorroZorro by Isabel Allende was a pleasant surprise. In essence, it was an origin story for Zorro. I loved watching the black & white TV show was a kid so it was pretty cool to read this book and get Allende’s take on how Zorro came to be. There was a lot more depth to this character than I expected, which, in retrospect, was silly of me. Zorro lived during a time of Spanish colonialism in the New World – there were plenty of cultures and conflicts. Allende did a great job of pulling those elements into this tale.

ClinesTheFoldThe Fold by Peter Clines was one of the best SF Thriller novels I have read. It was fun. It was intense. It had SF themes that I could get into. The characters were also interesting, especially the lead guy who has a true eidetic memory. This was both a help and a hindrance to him.

King11226311-22-63 by Stephen King is the first King novel I have read. It won’t be the last. King did a really great job with the characters in this book. I know some folks have labeled him as a horror novelist, and nothing more. However, this book shows that he has a lot more going on. It’s obvious he put quite a bit of research in to the time and location (1963, Texas) of the bulk of the book. While I do expect that as I explore King’s works, this novel won’t be my favorite but it certainly delivered more than I expected.

4. Gaston – A book everyone loves that you don’t.

Luxor looking for another human who will do his will.

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel – I was on the fence about this one. I liked that it was a post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel that wasn’t full of angst. However, I didn’t really care for the character Arthur Leander, who all the other characters are somehow connected with. He was boring and I wanted to know more about these other characters but the story kept coming back to him.

CoehloAlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo – it’s a young man’s adventure quest and it’s been done so many times before. All the ladies are in some subservient role, which is also a standard (unfortunately) in such adventure tales. Most of the men have a Personal Legend to find or to fullfill. Meanwhile, the 3 female characters lack any such ambition.

Grahame-SmithAbrahamLincolnVampireHunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith – The most exciting parts of this book were the dream sequences and even those were mean tricks. The reader enters each of the dream sequences as if they are the next part of the story and only at the end of the scene do you realize it’s a dream. I really liked Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and his Unholy Nights was pretty entertaining as well, so I was sad to say that I found this book to be a snoozer.

5. Lefou – A loyal sidekick you can’t help but love more than their counter part.

LynchTheLiesOfLockeLamoraJean Tannen from The Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch – This series is full of creative cursing, thievery, camaraderie, magic, death, romance, pirates, evil people getting their due, the good guys getting the crap beaten out of them, and more creative cursing.

PriestBloodshotHeldigAdrian from the Cheshire Red Reports by Cherie Priest – Adrian is still a bit of a mystery, since I have only read the first 2 books in this series (I hope there will be more in the series!). He’s ex-military on a search for his missing kid sister. He’s also a dragqueen, and his parents have disowned him because of this. He makes a great sidekick for Raylene, the vampire thief.

6. Mrs. Potts, Chip, Lumier & Cogsworth – A book that helped you through a difficult time or that taught you something valuable.

For over a year now, I have been going through this medical thing. I’ve basically been on bed rest for a year now and I was finally diagnosed in May with CTEPH – which is basically blood clots that have hardened in my pulmonary arteries, which has caused pulmonary hypertension to a moderately high degree, which will be fatal…. in perhaps 6-10 years, unless I have this big, kinda cool in a SF way, kinda scary in a mortality rate way, surgery. That’s scheduled for early February. So, these books have helped me cope with this lengthy process.

Good cat, good book, what else does one need?

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford – this is a coloring book for adults and it’s the first one I ever bought. It’s remarkably detailed and it’s pretty amazing how coloring really takes me out of my current situation. Also, it’s something I  can do while listening to audiobooks.

CareyKushiel'sDartTerre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey – This series has been awesome and I have been part of a group read along with several wonderful ladies on the blogosphere. I’ve read Book 1, Kushiel’s Dart, so many times but it was quite something to share it with others in this in-depth discussion of the book. We started the read along back in May 2015, and now we’re on Book 7, Naamah’s Kiss. We’ll have to finish the last two books after my surgery – so that gives me something to look forward to. If you haven’t checked this series out, then I highly recommend it for alternate history and epic fantasy fans. I know sometimes it gets panned because there is plenty of sex in it, but the amount sex doesn’t outweigh all the awesomeness – the political intrigue, the sword fights, the desperate straights of the heroes, the saving of the realm! Honestly, the sex enhances the characters instead of just being padding to up the page count.

7. “Something There” – A book or a series that you weren’t into at first but picked up towards the end.

JordanPathOfDaggersThe Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan – It took me about 4 books to really get into this series, but I’m very glad I read it as it is a touchstone for epic fantasy fans. The first book really took a lot from Tolkien’s works and I was bit insulted the first and second time I read it. However, I was encouraged by a great group of book bloggers, who were part of this big 2+ years-long read along of the series, to keep going. Also, in an interview, Jordan spoke about how he wanted to model Book 1 on Tolkien’s works to give readers something familiar. Eventually, starting at Book 4, Jordan’s genius really starts to show through. I am very much hoping they do make this series in to a quality TV series or a quality series of movies.

8. “Be Our Guest” – A fictional character you’d love to have over for dinner.

ButcherDeadBeatHarry Dresden & Bob the Skull from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files – This is one of my favorite urban fantasy series. The first few can be read in any order, but I think the series is best read in order since the larger story arc starts really building on itself around Book 4 or 5, though there are small things even in Book 1 that are tied into again later in the series. Bob would be a hoot at any dinner party. He doesn’t get much socializing, so he lacks all those hindrances that make most dinner conversations so dull.

HearneShatteredAtticus & Oberon from Kevin Hearne’s The Iron Druid Chronicles – this is yet another favorite urban fantasy series. Oberon would bring the appetite and the humor with his simple doggy demands. Atticus, being the 2000+ year old druid that he is, would be able to chat about several entertaining subjects.

Tagging Others

So now I would like to tag some other bookish folks, though please don’t feel obligated if this isn’t your cup of tea. Also, if I don’t tag you but you want to play along, please do! And leave me a comment with a link to your post so I can visit.

Lynn from Books and Travelling

Andrea from Little Red Reviewer

Julie from Oh, Julie!

Austine from Novel Knight

Book Wins from Novel Knight
Book Wins from Novel Knight

And I would like to smash into this long post a big thank you to Austine! I won a very fun book package from her recently. It was full of books and bookish things and fake tattoos and a red mask and nail art. And then she wrapped everything in gold paper! This box of goodies was such an upper, especially since I have been sick. I loved unwrapping everything and modeling the mask, tattoos, and nail art for my man. Thank you Austine!