Tag Archives: Books

What I’ve Been Up To Lately

I’ve been meaning to write a lot lately, but I didn’t. All that I started on were random ramblings that I didn’t finish. Today, I’m writing down these random ramblings in a kind of list, in hopes of finally finishing this post.

First, I had movement therpay on Tuesday. It was good in some ways but not good in a sense too. I dissociated a lot. Like the last time I had movement therapy, a part of me came out. This is good, in that it allowed me to express myself in a way I otherwise can’t. However, since my parts are not fully accepted by my mental health team, I’m not sure whether I’ll be taken out of movement therapy for it “not helping”.

Second, on Tuesday evening, my mother sent me and my sister a text message that she and my father were at my paternal grandma’s. She is being kept asleep for pain control and will soon die. This is terribly sad. I mean, yes, she’s 94 and in a lot of pain in addition to having long suffered significant cognitive decline. However, I cherish my grandma greatly. She was an official witness at my wedding in 2011. This was in th eearly stages of her cognitive decline, when she was still just able enough to fulfill this role. I am so glad I had her for this role, as I didn’t have the greatest relationship with my parents or sister at the time, so didn’t want to ask them.

Third, I started at yet another increased dose of citalopram last Monday. I told my psychiatrist on Friday what I’d written down here and she concluded that the medication is helping some but not enough, so she increased it to 40mg a day.

Fourth, yesterday I reached the recomended daily step goal of 10,000 steps despite the hot weather. This is only the second time since I bought my Fitbit activity tracker last February.

Fifth, I’ve been reading some good books lately. I finally finshed Angels with Dirty Faces by Casey Watson, a collection of five previously published mini eBooks. I may post a review soon. On Tuesday, I bought my first Kindle eBook. I wasn’t 100% sure whether it’d work with my screen reader, since it wasn’t mentioned explicitly that it would, but it did. It’s What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew by the Autism Women’s Network. So far, I’m really enjoying this book.

Rays of Sunlight – April 2018

It’s been months since I last posted a list of things I’ve liked and loved, otherwise known as my Rays of Sunlight post. In fact, it’s been over a year, although I did post some positive posts more recently.

April 2018 was really a mixed bag. I’ve been struggling a lot, but there were also lots of positives. Today, I’m sharing these positives.

1. The beautiful weather. Today is a cloudy day, but last week, I was actually able to wear a skirt for the first time this year. It was over 25 degrees Celsius and sunny. I loved it!

2. My mood improving. I mentioned this in my gratitude post as part of the #AtoZChallenge already. Now that I’ve been on the increased dose of my antidepressant for over three weeks, I think I can sincerely say it’s helping some. I am not over the moon happy, but then again I didn’t believe I’d be. Instead, I feel calmer and a little more able to handle stressors such as my husband being home late from work. It’s still hard, but I’m less likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors. Yesterday, for example, hubby wasn’t home till 8:30PM and I felt quite stressed. However, instead of doing something self-destructive, I called the on-call nurse at the mental hospital.

3. Cuddling with my stuffed animals. I have five stuffed animals in our bed. Until recently, I didn’t know how to arrange them cofortably and still have space for myself and my husband to sleep. Now I seem to have figured it out. I love to cuddle with my stuffies just before going to sleep.

4. Nice wax melt scents. I rediscovered my wax melts on Wednesday. I don’t know which I have in my warmer right now, as I opened it when my husband was at work so couldn’t ask him to read the packaging. I love the scent though.

5. Beautiful music. Thanks to My Inner MishMash, I rediscovered Cara Dillon. She is an Irish singer and I just love her music. It’s so relaxing.

6. Kindle. On Saturday, I had a meltdown because Adobe Digial Editions, which I use for reading eBooks from Kobo, was once again crashing on an eBook I had just bought. I tried out Kindle with some free eBooks then. Amazon only accepts credit cards as payment, which I don’t have, but my husband has said I can use his if I can make Kindle work. With my version of JAWS, my main screen reader software, it isn’t working that well, but with NVDA, a free screen reader, it is. Kindle also works on the iPhone. I am loving the free children’s stories I downloaded. I may write a full review soon.

A Cornish Mum

Book Review: A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold

Today, I was browsing Bookshare’s children’s book category. It used to be hard for me to browse books by category on the Bookshare website, because somehow my Internet browser would crash each time I tried. Today though, I succeeded. At first, books were automatically sorted by title and I didn’t know how to change the sort order. Eventually, I figured this out and sorted books by copyright date, because I like to read books that are relatively new. I found A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold on the first page, because the book was published in 2017 and the book title starts with a B according to Bookshare. Looking back, I must’ve come across this book a few times before when searching for the keyword “autism”. However, for whatever reason, I never decided to download, let alone read it. Now I did.

Synopsis

From acclaimed author Elana K. Arnold and with illustrations by Charles Santoso, A Boy Called Bat is the first book in a funny, heartfelt, and irresistible young middle grade series starring an unforgettable young boy on the autism spectrum.

For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises—some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.

But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.

Review

I adored Bat from almost the very beginning. He sounds a bit spoiled at first, but in a very relatable kind of way for me as an autistic person. For example, in the first chapter, Bat berates his sister Janie for having eaten the last vanilla yogurt, because it’s all he likes. I can tell though that Bat is really kind-hearted. Janie on the other hand sounds like a bossy big sister. I could see some things in her that reminded me of my own sister when we were growing up. Though she is my younger sister, she also had some “big sister complex” due to interacting with me. In the end though, I got to like Janie too. In fact, there are no mean characters in this book. The only negative about the characters I found is that all except for Bat are pretty flat. You get to see Bat’s perspecitve only.

I liked the way the story progresses. I must say here that I hadn’t read the summary before downloading the book so only knew the book is about a little boy with autism. Normally, I badly want to know what a book is about, but this time, I liked not knowing. The book follows a pretty predictable story line, but still there are some cool surprises in it too. It truly is a heartfelt little read. I liked the fact that the chapters are short, so even though there are 26 chapters, I, a slow reader, could finish the book within an afternoon.

As for the portrayal of Bat as an autistic character, some things are no doubt stereotypical. In this light, it’s a positive that we get to follow Bat’s perspective only. There is absolutely no judgment of Bat’s oddness except sometimes from Janie. Then again, Bat thinks Janie is weird too. Don’t all siblings? I definitely related to many of Bat’s idiosyncrasies.

This is not an inspirational read or even much of an informaitonal book about autism. In fact, I did not see the word “autism” in the book. This is mostly just a book about a boy who cares a lot about animals and wants to keep the baby skunk his mother found, because they bond so well. Of course, it’s a stereotype that autistic people are tuned into animals. However, I didn’t get the idea from this book that it was the author’s intention to perpetuate this stereotype. Don”t most kids love animals, after all?

Rating: five stars.

Book Details

Title: A Boy Called Bat
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Illustrator: Charles Santoso
Publisher: Walden Pond Press (an imprint of HarperCollins)
Publication Date: March 2017

Read With Me

Book Review: Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

Last June, I got a Bookshare membership after delaying it for years. The proof of disability form had literally been sitting in my drawer since like 2010. Granted, back then people who weren’t U.S. residents or citizens had only very limited access to books, so it was hardly worth it. Since the Marrakesh Treaty though, international distribution of books for the purposes of access for visually impaired people is much easier. Don’t ask me about the technicalities. I’m just happy that most books are now available to me.

I read My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult in like 2005, when I briefly used the UK’s National Library for the Blind. I was no longer able to use their services after some books were lost on the way back. Yes, they at least used to distribute Braille books to international members only. Anyway, since reading My Sister’s Keeper, I badly wanted to read more by Picoult. Partiuclarly, I wanted to read Handle With Care from the moment it came out. Now, with my Bookshare membership, I got a chance to read it. Because I started reading many other books too, I didn’t finish Handle With Care till yesterday. Here is my review of it. It contains spoilers!

Synopsis

When Willow is born with severe osteogenesis imperfecta, her parents are devastated–she will suffer hundreds of broken bones as she grows, a lifetime of pain. Every expectant parent will tell you that they don’t want a perfect baby, just a healthy one. Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe would have asked for a healthy baby, too, if they’d been given the choice. Instead, their lives are made up of sleepless nights, mounting bills, the pitying stares of “luckier” parents, and maybe worst of all, the what-ifs. What if their child had been born healthy? But it’s all worth it because Willow is, funny as it seems, perfect. She’s smart as a whip, on her way to being as pretty as her mother, kind, brave, and for a five-year-old an unexpectedly deep source of wisdom. Willow is Willow, in sickness and in health.

Everything changes, though, after a series of events forces Charlotte and her husband to confront the most serious what-ifs of all. What if Charlotte had known earlier of Willow’s illness? What if things could have been different? What if their beloved Willow had never been born? To do Willow justice, Charlotte must ask herself these questions and one more. What constitutes a valuable life?

Review

The book, like My Sister’s Keeper is written from every main character’s viewpoint alternatingly except for Willow’s. Throughout the book, the main characters tell the story as if addressed to Willow. In other words, she is referred to as “you” all the time. I like this. Even though Willow doesn’t get a voice till the near end of the book, the other main charactes do give the reader a great insight into her character.

All main characters are very well-formed. Because of this, a lot of other stories are interwoven with the main story of the wrongful birth lawsuit that Charlotte files against her obstetrician. For example, Piper, Charlotte’s obstetrician, is also her best friend. Marin, Charlotte’s lawyer, is dealing with the search for her birth mother. And Amelia, Willow’s sister, struggles with bulimia and self-injury.

Because each charater gives their own viewpoint, both sides of the wrongful birth lawsuit are equally described. Though I hoped most of the time that Charlotte would win, I also symapthized with the other party. I wasn’t sure of the outcome until it was spelled out in the book.

The fact that the book has a lot of twists and turns, so that you’re never sure of how it ends, is mostly a good thing. It ends up being a very bad thing though as I read the last few pages. The book ends with Willow dying, which in my opinion only spoiled the entire book. I mean, there was some point to Anna dying in My Sister’s Keeper. I didn’t see that this time. As such, the book definitely deserved a five-star rating before I’d completely finished it. Once I’d read those last few pages, not so.

Book Details

Title: Handle With Care
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: March 2009

Currently – September 2016

Wow, summer flew by! Even though the weather is quite summerlike, unlike in July and most of August, it’s already September. I have several posts I would still like to write, but I am rather unmotivated for blogging here lately. It could be because my Dutch blog is three months old and it looks like this is going to be a keeper. I do like to write there, although I don’t write nearly as often as I used to write here. Anyway, because I’m not motivated for a proper blog post, I’d like to write a “Currently” post once again. Currently is hosted this time by Beth and of course Anne.

Reading

I’ve been reading a lot of books and not finishing any lately. I still didn’t finish Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult, which I started in June. I also started Still Alice by Lisa Genova then, but have been leaving that for so long that I recently started over.

A few days ago, I bought Do No Harm by Herny Marsh. It’s a book of stories from a neurosurgeon. There doesn’t seem to be anything about hydrocephalus or pediatric surgery in general in it. Still, it’s quite interesting.

Trying

Lotion making. I didn’t do much in the way of soap making lately, but on Tuesday, I tried once again to make a body lotion. It failed again, this time for completely different reasons than the last time (I guess that means I’m learning!). The whole lotion making thing sounds a bit more complicated than I initially thought it would be. However, as I watched a video tutorial on it that was recommended to me by some Dutch lotion makers yesterday, I was reassured that it also probably isn’t as complicated as some other people make it sound. For example, I forgot the heat and hold phase, which means you need to heat your oil and water phases separately to 70 degrees Celsius and keep them at that temperature for twenty minutes. Well, that doesn’t seem to need to be dome as precisely. We’ll see next time.

Hoping

To be more motivated and inspired to get things done. Like finishing those books I started, making soap and blogging. I now spend most of my time on Facebook or in bed. Would really like to get more productve.

Decorating

Nothing really. The last decorative soap I made was already two weeks ago. I have another one planned, but need to get the motivaiton to actually go about it.

To-Do Listing

I don’t have much on my to-do list at this moment, except for the things I already mentioned I’m hoping to accomplish. On Monday, I did finally cross off the routine medical exam I’d been delaying for months.

What are you currently up to?

Currently – May 2016

I have seen people, particularly lifestyle bloggers, post a monthly Currently post before. This is a post in which you answer some prompts about what you’re currently up to. Today, I am embarking on the journey too. There are many variations on the theme. I chose to link up with the Currently linky provided by Anne of in residence and Jenna of Gold and Bloom.

Celebrating

It’s liberation day in the Netherlands today. The celebration started after World War II ended for the Netherlands on May 5, 1945. It is also the feast of the ascension of Jesus today. Ironically, though liberation day is much more important than Jesus’ ascension to the Dutch, even to many Christians, it’s a bank holiday because of the ascension. Liberation day only is a bank holiday once every five years. Quite odd if you ask me. I say this even as a progressive Jesus follower, but I want to point out that without liberty many people would not be able to express their faiths.

Official celebrations aside, we celebrated my mother’s and sister’s birthdays last Saturday. My mother’s birthday was on April 28th. My sistehr’s is the 13th of May. Yes, it’s a Friday the 13th this year and no, that’s not a bad omen. My sister was born on Friday the 13th, in fact.

Reading

Lots of blogs. After the April A to Z Challenge is over, I’m surprisingly motivated to read a variety of blogs. I was hardly motivated to check out other participants during the challenge, but now I’m again interested in reading other blogs.

Book-wise, a few new books are coming out this month that I’d love to read. I badly want to read The Genome Generation by Steven M. Lipkin and Jon Luoma, but it isn’t even out in hardcover yet. I saw it up for pre-order months ago on Kobo, but now the idea of an eBook publication seems to have vanished. Consumed, the new book by Abbie Rushton, is out as an eBOok and I badly want to get it. However, I’m not finished reading The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork yet and want to read that first.

Pondering

I just discovered Philosophy Experiments, a site full of philosophical games and challenges. I am in pretty good philosophical health according to the Philosophical Health Check. It found only one tension in my beliefs. I also made it through Battleground God with just one direct hit.

Sipping

Coffee, mostly. Oh, and a yucky type of fiber that I got prescribed to help with my chronic constipation. I can’t get used to it.

Going

I went to my parents’ on Saturday, like I said. This was jsut a day trip, as my father is doing construction on the upper floor, where we usually sleep.

This month, I’m not going anywhere, except to my and my husband’s home. I’m there right now because of the bank holiday and also because I had a meeting yesterday. I met with an independent client advocate, who’s going to help me through the process of getting care funding for once I’m living with my husband.

What have you been up to lately?

Book Review: Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern

Last January, when I’d just finished a few other books, I decided to look around for another young adult novel to read that’s about a subject I’m interested in. I stumbled upon Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern. The book sounded interesting enough, so I bought it and started reading. Due to some other interests demanding their time from me, I didn’t finish it till yesterday. This review may contain spoilers.

Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Rose Levenson has a decision to make: Does she want to know how she’s going to die? Because when Rose turns eighteen, she can take the test that tells her if she carries the genetic mutation for Huntington’s disease, the degenerative condition that is slowly killing her mother. With a fifty-fifty shot at inheriting her family’s genetic curse, Rose is skeptical about pursuing anything that presumes she’ll live to be a healthy adult-including her dream career in ballet and the possibility of falling in love. But when she meets a boy from a similarly flawed genetic pool and gets an audition for a dance scholarship across the country, Rose begins to question her carefully laid rules.

Review

Pretty early in the book, I found out who the boy from the similarly flawed genetic pool mentioned in the synopsis is. His mother and sisters have sickle cell disease, but he doesn’t carry “the gene”. There’s where McGovern puts a glaringly obvious medical inaccuracy in the book, that is, that sickle cell is a dominantly inherited disease. There is no mention of the boy’s father being a carrier of the disease and sickle cell is compared to recessive diseases at least once. For those who don’t know, sickle cell is a recessive disease, meaning you need two copies of the gene to get the disease. I happen to know because I once read that people who carry one copy of the gene don’t get sickle cell disease and have the added luck of not getting sick when infected with malaria. That’s why sickle cell is more common among Black people than among Whites or other races. Yes, I did look it up to be sure. This huge medical inaccuracy spoils the entire book for me. That’s probably me though, being autistic and having a special interest in medicne.

Now that we got this out of the way, I have to say the book is otherwise quite good. It is a little predictable at times, but there are still enough twists and turns for the book to remain interesting. The author goes into detail sometimes, which I like – but which is also why said medical inaccuracy annoys me. I love getting to know the main character really well. Rose is not just a girl whose mother has Huntington’s. She’s a true round character. I also got a glimpse into the world of Huntington’s (obviously), sickle cell, ballet, and as a added bonus, the California zephyr train ride. Love trains.

Book Details

Title: Rules for 50/50 Chances
Author: Kate McGovern
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: November 2015

Compensatory Narcissism

A few weeks ago, I was reading Believarexic by J.J. Johnson. Yes, I know I reviewed it already. I didn’t talk about one of the themes in it though, which is competitiveness, perfectionism, narcissism and how these are interrelated. As I just came across a journaling prompt on comparing yourself, I wanted to discuss this now.

I am not a perfectionist. At least, not a successful one. I make a lot of careless mistakes. I also used to send out cards and crafts for swaps that were mediocre at best and worse than a five-year-old could’ve done them at worst. In other words, I am not one to go to great lengths in order to achieve perfection. Of course, my disordered eating is also an example of this. If I attempt to keep control at all, I fail miserably at it. A psychologist who evaluated me when I was eleven, wrote in her report that I lacked self-criticism, in fact.

That being said, I do recognize what Dr. Prakash told Jennifer in the book about being on the head of a pin. If you’re on the head of a pin, you see yourself as great, expect yourself to be great, but once you fail, you hate yourself. I do expect myself to excel or I give up. In this sense, I’ve fallen off my own (and others’) head of a pin so many times that I may look like I don’t care about it anymore. But I do.

I may not show it, but deep down, I’m very sensitive to criticism. Like, I like to think of my English as great, but I definitely know that my pronunciation is an exception to this (and my written English isn’t excelletn either) My husband sometimes jokes, asking “What language is that?” when I speak English. His spoken English isn’t perfect – I’ve never seen his written English -, but it’s better than mine, so I don’t correct him or laugh about it. That being said, knowing that my spoken English is pretty bad, I hardly ever try to use it, so I don’t improve on it. I’d rather stay on my head of a pin and get people I meet online to compliment me on my (written) English.

In some areas, I am competitive and know that I will never win. Like with blogging. I am an okay’ish blogger, but I’ll never be a great blogger, no matter how hard I try. I feel deep down that this is a major weakness of mine, but I blame it on external factors (here comes the lack of self-criticism), or at least uncontrolable ones. For example, I tend to reason that I could be a great blogger if I could use images, which I can’t because I’m blind.

I once read about this type of narcissism called compensatory narcissism. It isn’t an official mental health diagnosis, of course. However, it shows that people with narcissistic traits commonly have low self-esteem. That’s what Dr. Prakash told Jennifer in Believarexic too: that loving yourself too much and hating yourself are sometimes pretty close. Like I said, compensatory narcissism isn’t a formal diagnosis, so I can safely say I fit a lot of the proposed criteria without looking like a hypochondriac, can’t I?

Mummascribbles

Book Review: Believarexic by J.J. Johnson

I have published a few posts that were inspired by my reading of the book Believarexic by J.J. Johnson already. I didn’t share many opinions on the book itself though. Early this morning, I finished the book, so I’d like to post a review. This review contains some spoilers.

Synopsis

Fifteen-year-old Jennifer has to force her family to admit she needs help for her eating disorder. But when her parents sign her into the Samuel Tuke Center,
she knows it’s a terrible mistake. The facility’s locked doors, cynical nurses, and punitive rules are a far cry from the peaceful, supportive environment
she’d imagined. In order to be discharged, Jennifer must make her way through the strict treatment program – as well as harrowing accusations, confusing half-truths, and startling insights. She is forced to examine her relationships, both inside and outside the hospital. She must relearn who to trust, and decide for herself
what “healthy” really means.

Punctuated by dark humor, gritty realism, and profound moments of self-discovery, Believarexic is a stereotype-defying exploration of belief and human connection.

Review

This book is an autobiographical novel. The author describes this quite poignantly at the end of the book as “true make-believe”. What this means is that the author did really get inpatient treatment for her eating disorder in 1988 and 1989, but the details and characters may’ve been changed or simplified. I haven’t yet checked the bonus material, so I cannot be sure whether some of the pretty intriguing events in the book did really happen. For instance, one of Jennifer’s fellow patients is signed out by her parents because they don’t believe the program is working. They decide instead to take her to an orthodontist to have her mouth wired shut. Even though this book takes place in the dark ages of the 1980s, I find it hard to believe such a procedure would be legal even then. I do still see the stark contrast between psychiatric treatment then versus now.

Sometimes, I find that characters have been oversimplified in terms of them being either good or bad. Dr. Prakash, Jennifer’s psychiatrist, is nice from the beginning to end, whereas nurse Sheryl aka Ratched is bitchy and controling throughout the book. Still, some characters make quite a transition through the book, and there are incredible twists and turns.

The book starts out a bit triggering with for example the hierarchy of eating disorders being quite extreme. Nonetheless, this book is clearly pro-recovery. At the end of the book, the author encourages people who even have an inkling of an idea that they might have an eating disorder to seek help. As may’ve become clear through some of my previous posts inspired by this book, Belieivarexic led me to some interesting insights.

Book Details

Title: Believarexic
Author: J.J. Johnson
PUlbisher: Peachtree Publishers (eBook by Open Road Media)
Publication Date: October 2015

For more information on the book and its author and for resources for people with eating disorders, go to Believarexic.com.

Book Review: Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton

Yay! I reached at least one of my goals for this month. I finished not just one, but two books I’d started reading earlier in the year. Already in January, before the book was published (or at least before the eBook was), I found out about Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton and decided I wanted to read it. Like with Girl in Glass, other things that seemed more interesting came in the way, so I didn’t finish the book till a few days ago.

Synopsis

Megan doesn’t speak. She hasn’t spoken in months. Pushing away the people she cares about is just a small price to pay. Because there are things locked inside Megan’s head – things that are screaming to
be heard – that she cannot, must not, let out. Then Jasmine starts at school: bubbly, beautiful, talkative Jasmine. And for reasons Megan can’t quite understand, life starts to look a bit brighter. Megan would love to speak again, and it seems like Jasmine might be the answer. But if she finds her voice, will she lose everything else?

My Review

This is a fascinating book and it doesn’t go as I’d expected it to go. When I first started reading this book, I thought it’d shed light on selective mutism, in which a peson (usually a child) is unable to speak because of severe social anxiety. Though technically Megan might meet the definition of selective mutism, much more is behind her silence than social anxiety. When reading the first few chapters, I was bored easily, because I had no way of making sense of the story. When I read on, however, this boredom turned into curiosity, then suspense and eventually I was completely captivated. The book has some fascinating twists and turns and some thrilling cliff-hanges, some almost literal. Once I got through the first few chapters, the story kept me thrilled until the very last page. That’s a rare occurrence with the type of fiction I usually read. With this book, Abbie Rushton tells a great story on friendship, love and crime. For those who, like me, are pretty faint-hearted, I’d like to disclose that the story ends on a good note. I can’t wait to read Rushton’s next book, which will be out in the spring of 2016.

Book Details

Title: Unspeakable
Author: Abbie Rushton
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publication Date: February 2015