I’ve been trying to incorporate more bookish posts in my blog to encourage myself (and others) to stick with it! I have taken questions from a few different reading tag posts to make my own post.

E-reader or book?

I have a newfound preference for e-reader (portability, doesn’t take up loads of space, saves paper), but I could go for a physical book every now and again.

Bookmark or dog-ear?

Bookmark, who the hell dog-ears?

Hardcover or paperback?

Paperback, but again, I’ll usually go for e-readers anyway.

Reading in silence or reading with noise?

I usually read in silence, although some natural background noise (e.g. on the bus or train) doesn’t bother me. I’ve tried the Ambient Mixer a few times and couldn’t get into it.

Reading one book or multiple books at a time?

I usually have one book I’m reading and one I’m listening to at the gym or while I’m driving.

Do you read the same genres or do you like to explore?

I really enjoy quite a few genres, but my favorites are popular science, historical fiction and thriller. But if a see something that sounds interesting on my GoodReads feed, I’ll consider it.

Reading at night or reading during the day?

Usually at night because that’s my time to wind down.

Which book should be required reading for everyone?

The Ethics of What We Eat or Animal Liberation. Everyone needs to know the horrors of industrial animal farming.

Which genre would you like to explore more?

Classics, biographies and adventure/ travel.

Multitasking: music or television while reading?

I don’t mind having the TV on if it’s something I’m not interested in like American football. Other than that I’d prefer silence.

Read by the chapter or stop anywhere in the book?

Typically by the chapter, but if I’m reading for bed and get really tired all of a sudden, I’ll stop myself.

Do you read ahead or even skip pages?

I might speed read a paragraph or two if I feel the scene is dragging.

Do you like audiobooks?

I only listen to them if I’m driving or at the gym. I can’t just sit down and listen, I need something to do with my hands and my eyes or I get bored and distracted.

Do you usually check out books from the library or buy them?

80% library, 20% purchased. Will usually only purchase if there’s a sale or the book I want isn’t available from my library’s e-reader service or the queue is massive.

Do you try to read a certain amount of books during a period of time?

Aside from my GoodReads challenge (25 books last year, 35 this year although I’m on track to read more than that), no.

Do you have a certain place at home for reading? 

Not particularly. My bed, a chair in my room or the couch.

Bookmark or random piece of paper? 

I’ve been using a Glacier National Park bookmark my auntie left in a book she loaned me. But when I can’t find that, I’ll use an old train ticket. Lord knows I’m always finding them at the bottom of my purse.

Do you eat or drink while reading? 

Sometimes a cup of tea, sometimes finger food like popcorn. Recently I haven’t bothered, though.

Reading at home or everywhere? 

Everywhere! Most commonly home but sometimes on the bus/ train/ plane.

Breaking the spine or keeping it like new? 

If I buy a book, the first thing I’ll do is break the spine. Sorry about it.

Do you agree with my answers?

Photo by Anthony Tran.

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First thing’s first… I got a job! Well, a part-time job. I now work at a movie theater as an usher (tearing tickets and cleaning theaters) about 20 hours a week. It’s nice to have something to do and some money trickling in while I apply for big girl jobs and get my life in order. So far, the work has been easy, my coworkers are pretty sound and the benefits are pretty cool (free movies and snacks).

This month, I also started volunteering at the animal shelter by working at an adoption event at a pet store. I helped set up and mind the dogs for a few hours before I had to go to my real job. The dogs are precious and I’m glad I can give up a few hours of my week to helping this amazing shelter.

This month has also seen some fun events. I saw one of my favorite comedians and celebrity crush Jack Whitehall live at The Laugh Factory. He was one of half a dozen comedians performing that night so he didn’t do a full set, but he was magnificent as always. I was probably one of the few people in there who actually knew what a legend he is with several British sitcoms and Netflix specials under his belt. I was also lucky enough to meet him for a moment afterwards and get a picture! He’s so lovely.

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I also made an evening out of seeing Senses Fail live again in downtown Los Angeles. I arrived a bit early to go to The Last Bookstore where I got a few used books and admired the other stock and have dinner at Veggie Grill (I was craving the fish tacos and there’s not one near my house). The show was great and if I’m not mistaken, I was recognized by the lead singer. I crowd surfed and when I was coming over the barricade he pointed at me and then made a comment after the song like, “We’re seeing a lot of familiar faces” and then when I crowd surfed during the next song he waved at me. To be fair, I have been seeing them about once a year since my first show in 2011, met them a few times and have been recognized even by other show goers before, so I wouldn’t be surprised!

After a few years of bring out of practice, I went skiing on Mountain High outside L.A. Long story short, I got in a few good runs before lunch when the rain started and the day was blown out. I got a full 8-hour refund and plan on going back in a few weeks and writing a full post about my outdoor adventures.

Other than that, I spend a lot of time with family and friends. In fact, my cousin, her husband and their four kids ages 2-11 have just arrived two days ago to spend the week with us. Needless to say, they’ve already worn me out.

February In Review 2018 || February In Review 2017

What I’m listening to: Acceptance Speech by Dance Gavin Dance, Vile Child by Milk Teeth, The Blackest Beautiful by letlive., Night Time, My Time by Sky Ferreira, Queen Zee by Queen Zee, Spring by Wallows, Relationship of Command by At the Drive In

What I’m watching: Fyre, Swiss Army Man

What I’m reading: Check out Reading Wrap-Up post #03 for what I’ve read this month.

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The story of the cane toad is a story every good ecologist can recite from the top of their heads, popularized by the documentary Cane Toads: an Unnatural History. It is a prime example of species introductions gone horribly wrong.

First thing’s first, what’s the difference between an introduced species and an invasive species like the cane toad? First, a native species is a species that occurs naturally in an area1. An introduced species is a non-native species occurs outside of its natural range caused by human activities, whether its on purpose or accident. There is a lot of debate over whether what period of time can an introduced species that has adapted well can be called native, but that’s for another time2. An introduced species becomes an invasive species when it spreads to a degree that causes damages to the environment, economy, human health or some combination of the three3.

Now that the boring vocabulary lesson is out of the way, what is the story with the cane toad?

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Photo by Jodi Rowley.

The cane toad (Rhinella marina) was introduced to northeast Australia in the 1930’s from the Americas with the idea of feeding on the destructive sugar cane beetle population4. However, the toads were unsuccessful at controlling the cane beetle population because the fields offered “insufficient shelter for the predators during the day” and because the beetles resided at the top of the sugar cane which are inaccessible to the toads5.

Moving forward, the cane toads ate most everything (including pet food) except the cane beetles, devastating flora and fauna food resources for native species. In addition to their generalist diet, lack of predators attributed to its toxic skin and quick breeding, the cane toad population exploded in Australia, now with more than 200 million toads4.

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The spread of cane toads from 1940 to 1980 (by Froggydarb)

With the population so high and the damage its causing, the cane toad is now considered a pest in Australia and population control methods are being tried and tested. Methods such as trapping, reproductive control6 and humane culling7 have been largely unsuccessful. There is even a bounty on the toad population with events such as Toad Day Out, where toads are caught alive with prizes for the catcher of the heaviest toads before the toads are… taken care of8.

The cane toad is one of the most studied introduced species and is considered one of the most important lessons of species introductions9. It is a cautionary tale that regardless of how much we think we know about these animals and their life histories, they can always surprise us and at the end of the day, humans are not above nature.

Bonus fun facts

  • The cane toad is the world’s largest toad10.
  • The cane toad situation is referenced several episodes of The Simpsons, including “Bart vs. Australia”, “Whacking Day” and “Bart the Mother”

Notes and sources

1 European Union (1979) Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats (Bern Convention). 19.IX.1979. The Council of Europe, Bern, Germany.

2 The honey bee was introduced to the U.S. in the 1600’s, but we don’t really think of it as non-native because it’s been here so long (Garvey, 2008).

3  Joan G. Ehrenfeld (2010), “Ecosystem Consequences of Biological Invasions”, Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics41: 59–80

4 National Geographic, “Cane Toad”

5 Tyler, Michael J. (1976). Frogs. William Collins (Australia).

6 Cane Toads in Oz

7 “Methods for the field euthanasia of cane toads”. Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Energy. 2011.

8 Penny Timms (25 March 2011). “Residents declare war on cane toads”ABC News Online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 11 April 2011.

9 Easteal, Simon (1981). “The history of introductions of Bufo marinus (Amphibia : Anura); a natural experiment in evolution”. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society16 (16): 93–113

10 Gone Froggin, “10 Largest Frogs and Toads in the World”

Photo by Chris Ison.

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I try to do a little get-to-know me post every six months for new comers and faithful followers itching to know more. But after two volumes of straight-up facts (you can read Vol. I here and Vol. II here), I decided to mix it up last time and do a random question generator (Vol. III here).

Now, I’m doing A-B-C’s of me with Q and Z omitted for obvious reasons. Some of these facts might be repeats from previous posts.

Across the Universe: One of my two all-time favorite movies! The other one is mentioned later in this post…

Bailey: My beloved Border collie mix. You can read all about him in this post.

Conservation biology: My degrees and life purpose.

Diego: My handsome boyfriend.

Elizabeth: My middle name.

Fear: My biggest fear used to be sharks. When I did a baited dive in South Africa for the first time, I was scared shitless (I had to come up before everybody else because I was guzzling air so fast). But now, I’ve come to realize they’re harmless (as long as you’re not an idiot), majestic creatures.

Great Britain: Where I’ve lived abroad for two years and where I’d love to live again if I can manage a visa.

Hair: I’ve recently dyed it half blonde (literally right down the middle) and cut it quite short (we don’t speak of it, I’m counting down the days until it’s a reasonable length again).

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: My all-time favorite T.V. show.

Job hunting: I’m currently looking for a job in conservation, somewhere in California preferably (Bay area, L.A. or San Diego). I recently got a part-time job at the movie theater so I have some money trickling in to get a head start on my student loans and fun things.

Katya: My all-time favorite drag queen and contestant on one of my other favorite T.V. shows RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Les Miserables: My all-time favorite musical. I’ve seen it in Phoenix, New York and London.

Multiple sclerosis: A disease my mom has had since I was a girl and a focal point of my life at home. Maybe I’ll speak more about it on this blog on day… maybe…

Norway: My most recent international trip. You can read about it here.

Old Boy: My other all-time favorite movie.

Percy Jackson: The book series I’m currently reading (I’m on book four along with The Firm and The Hate U Give).

Rise Against: My all-time favorite band. I can’t wait to see them again in May!

Siblings: I have two brothers, Kyle (22) and Ryan (20).

Thailand: My next holiday in June with mt brother Ryan, I’m so excited!

University of Sussex: My most recent alumna matter.

Vegetarian: I’ve been meat-free since 2011 and try to eat vegan when I can. It’s a lot harder in the U.S. than in the U.K.

Wilma: The name of my grandma, who I’ve moved in with a month ago. It’s been amazing!

X: One of my several tattoos is a simple “x” on my wrist. You can read all about my tattoos in this post.

YouTube: I watch a lot of YouTube, mostly commentary (comedy) and book channels.

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I want to get to know you, too! Drop a fun fact about yourself in the comments!

Photo by Ella Jardim.

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I’ll be publishing a few of these relatively close together as I play catch-up!

I have also edited my previous posts and current post to show how long it took me to read each book and when exactly I read it.

As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:

  • (★★★★★): Loved it
  • (★★★★): Really liked it
  • (★★★): Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it
  • (★★): Barely finished it

Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I also try to watch as many adaptations as I can, just to compare, so I will comment on all the ones I’ve seen.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

9780062457806_p0_v1_s550x406Rating: ★★★

Genre: Fiction, young adult, LGBT+

GoodReads rating: 4.15 / 5 (43,300 ratings)

Medium used: E-reader (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Date started/ finished: 20/1 – 27/1

Summary: Two young men due for an untimely death find each other to spend their Last Day with.

Thoughts: I was really attracted to the premise of this book; the idea that you’re told the day you’re going to die, stories of how people have tried to evade their fate and how this service has effected the society was a really interesting idea. But the story kind of fell flat for me. It wasn’t that memorable, the deaths could have been more climactic and (start spoiler) the romance seemed really forced. I was really excited to see two young men have a vulnerable platonic relationship, but I feel this just furthered the stereotype that men can’t be open with each other as women can unless they’re romantically involved. (end spoiler)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

9780061120084_p0_v4_s550x406Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Classic, historical fiction

GoodReads rating:  4.27 / 5 (3,800,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-reader (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Date started/ finished: 27/1 – 31/1

Summary: Scout and her family are the talk of town in their small Southern neighborhood when her father defends a black man for the alleged rape of a white woman.

Thoughts: Just like everyone else, I read this book in school but was too young to appreciate it, probably because it was forced down my throat. Luckily, I didn’t remember much so it was like reading it for the first time and I liked it a lot. I love historical fiction and a good legal thriller and this is the best of both worlds through the eyes of a young girl in a coming-of-age story. This classic is definitely one you shouldn’t skip over.

Other adaptations: The 1960’s movie is so gripping. I was particularly fond of Atticus, his character was so dignified and the actor did an incredible job. But I don’t need to tell you that, it’s gotten its fair share of critically acclaim and awards. Obviously, the movie is more streamlined, but nothing from the book that they didn’t include in the movie made me think twice.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

51vkcuypuXLRating: ★★★★

Genre: Classic, fiction, dystopia

GoodReads rating:  4.12 / 5 (1,500,000 ratings)

Medium used: Audio book and e-reader (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Date started/ finished: 1/2 – 2/2

Summary: In the perfect community of “sameness,” Jonas is assigned the task of bearing the memories of societies past.

Thoughts: Another great classic for the shelves. This is a short read but really thoughtful.

Other adaptations: The movie came out in 2014 and it was… okay. The book is really philosophical and a lot of the plot exists in the mind of the reader and has a real point of view that’s hard to portray in the movie. The screenwriters had a gargantuan task translating this adaptation and did the best they could, but fell short even with a stellar cast (I especially love the casting of Cameron Monaghan as Asher). The first half of the movie was good, but the pacing and diversions from the book plot (start spoiler) (making the mom a total bitch, a forced romantic plotline, etc.) (end spoiler) really lost me in the second half.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

81FX7MLN6RLRating: ★★★★

Genre: Fiction

GoodReads rating: 3.91 / 5 (328,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-reader (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Date started/ finished: 3/2 – 6/2

Summary: Eccentric mother and former architect Bernadette goes missing after stirring trouble amongst the private school moms and acting rashly in a way that made her husband fear for her safety.

Thoughts: This book is really unique in that the first 2/3 or so is written as different correspondences between the characters that develop the plot and characters really well. I think of this as Eleanor Oliphant, but actually good (sorry about it) with a more satisfying ending.

Other adaptations: I’m excited for the movie coming out later this year with Cate Blanchett!

Have you read any of these? Which did you enjoy most?

Photo by Radu Marcusu.

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