Tag Archives: eBooks

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

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

Book Review: Cook County ICU by Cory Franklin

I am a big lover of medical memoirs and stories from doctors and other health care workers. A few weeks ago, I was browsing an eBook store I don’t normally go to, because Kobo has become harder to search and browse. I discovered Cook County ICU by Cory Franklin in the medical biographies and memoirs section. Because that eBook store doesn’t accept PayPal, I bought the book at Kobo anyway. I knew I wouldn’t be able to review it till today, because of the #Write31Days series, and I really had to keep myself from speeding through it. Of course, if I’d finished the book earlier, I could’ve scheduled my review, but in a way I was trying to keep myself from finishing the book too soon and getting bored afterwards. I just finished the book tonight.

Synopsis

An inside look at one of the nation’s most famous public hospitals, Cook County, as seen through the eyes of its longtime Director of Intensive Care, Dr. Cory Franklin.

 

Filled with stories of strange medical cases and unforgettable patients culled from a thirty-year career in medicine, Cook County ICU offers readers a peek into the inner workings of a hospital. Author Dr. Cory Franklin, who headed the hospital’s intensive care unit from the 1970s through the 1990s, shares his most unique and bizarre experiences, including the deadly Chicago heat wave of 1995, treating some of the first AIDS patients in the country before
the disease was diagnosed, the nurse with rare Munchausen syndrome, the first surviving ricin victim, and the famous professor whose Parkinson’s disease hid the effects of the wrong medication. Surprising, darkly humorous, heartwarming, and sometimes tragic, these stories provide a big-picture look at how the practice of medicine has changed over the years, making it an enjoyable read for patients, doctors, and anyone with an interest in medicine.

Review

Like the synopsis says, the stories in the book are mostly fascinating. I loved learning about the first surviving ricin poisoning victim and the suicidal biochemist. These obviously have got to be the first stories I mention, because I’m fascinated with (and deathly afraid of) poison. I grinned at the duke of Spain being mistaken for an alcoholic and the resident calling for a stat (as soon as possible) dermatology consult because “the rash might be gone tomorrow”. I almost cried with pity for the medical student asking a “stupid” question in a conference with some of the area’s top doctors (which turned out to be a really smart question later on). Most times, I felt eager to find out how each story unfolded. Even if the title explained some things already, as in the chapter on the disease that turned out to be AIDS, I found there were fascinating turns in the stories.

Dr. Franklin seems to intend his book to be a testament to the old-fashioned doctor-patient relationship. He ends the book by recounting some recent changes in the practice of medicine, like the change from covenant to contract in the doctor-patient relatiosnhip and the increased part money plays. He sounds a bit bitter at this point, because he considers the changes mostly negative but says we cannot go back. I have to mostly agree with him here, even though I am mostly a 21st-century patient so don’t know the era in which Dr. Franklin practised. Some things have improved. Like, when AIDS wasn’t known yet, doctors and nurses didn’t wear gloves when drawing blood, and Dr. Franklin is terribly lucky that none of his team treating the early patients were infected. In this sense, protocols help. That being said, things can go too far, and they probably have.

Despite HIPAA and similar laws, I know even today there are practitioners of “romantic medicine”, as 20th-century neurologist A.R. Lurija originally called it and as continued in the English language by Oliver Sacks. What I mean is, there are still doctors who will listen to their patients’ stories rather than just their immediate health concerns. That doesn’t mean all will publish books on their patients, but I’m sure some will. In this sense, medicine as a human-centered profession is not doomed. Cook County ICU is a great example of a fascinating book of interesting medical cases brought to life.

Book Details

Title: Cook County ICU: 30 Years of Unforgettable Patients and Odd Cases
Author: Cory Franklin
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Publication Date: September 2015

Mami 2 Five

A Reluctant Braille Reader’s Journey

A few days ago, I was contacted by Mary Hill from Mary-andering Creatively, whose blog is mostly on literacy. She asked me to write about autism and literacy, but I have little knowledge of this subject, partly because I wasn’t diagnosed with autism till age 20. I also do not know which of my difficulties learning to read were due to blindness and which were due to autism. I believe, in fact, that most of my difficulties were due to a lack of motivation.

I was a fairly early reader of print. When I was four or five, my mother made little books with large rub-on letters. Each page had one word on it and the books had a theme, such as “house” or “school”. In the Netherlands, at the time, kids didn’t learn to read till age six. I could read first-grade early reader books by the time I entered the special education equivalent of first grade.

By the time I had to learn Braille at age seven, however, I started to hate reading. It wasn’t that I didn’t like books, magazines or anything with letters in it. In fact, I’d listen to children’s books and magazines on tape all the time. I just didn’t like, or rather I hated, learning Braille. It was probably that learning Braille reminded me of the fact that I was rapidly losing my vision. After all, I did read print books till I’d lost so much vision that even giant print didn’t work for me anymore. This meant that, at age nine, I’d still be reading early learner books because of the large print. I had too little vision for low vision aids.

I continued to hate reading Braille till I got a computer at age eleven. Even then, I strained to read from the screen, magnifying the font six to eightfold. When I really needed to use another sense than vision, I rather used my text-to-speech software.

It was probably the annoying, robotical voice of the text-to-speech software that turned me into a Braille reader. By the time I entered mainstream secondary school at age thirteen, I could read computerized Braille with relative ease. I however still rarely touched Braille books. This may’ve been more a matter of convenience, as Braille books are bulky.

I did for a while read Braille books again through the UK’s national library service for the blind when I was nineteen. Unfortunately, some books were lost while being returned, so I was refused further library services. Now I enjoy a mixture of eBooks, which I read with Adobe Digital Editions and my screen reader, and DAISY digital talking books. I still hope to someday be able to subscribe to BookShare, the U.S.-based accessible book sharing site, but as I said before, my doctor still hasn’t filled out the proof of disability form.

Everyday Gyaan

Also linking up with Literacy Musings.

Physical Effects of My Eating Disorder

The first journaling question in Journaling in Eating Disorder Recovery is about body image. The author asks you to journal about what your eating disorder is doing to your body. She also asks you to contemplate whether your body image is worth these effects.

My eating disorder mostly involves bingeing, which is good for neither my body nor my body image. After all, it not only causes me to be nauseated after a binge and get acid reflux (I believe this is also triggered by bingeing and not just by purging), but above all it has caused me to gain about 40lbs in a two-year period. As a result, I am now about 30lbs overweight. This of course results in poor body image, because, you know, I don’t just think I am fat.

I just googled the physical effects of bulimia, and some I find are related to bingeing. For example, people who binge get a bloated stomach and stomach pains. The bloated stomach causes it to take longer before you feel full. A severe binge can even lead to a ruptured stomach.

I also purge on a semi-regular basis. While I don’t purge nearly as often as some bulimics, I do vomit significantly more than people who are sick every now and again with a stomach bug. Purging can have the following effects:


  • Tooth decay.

  • Erosion of dental enamel.

  • Dehydration.

  • Irritation of the esophagus.

  • Sore throat.

  • Acid reflux.


I have many of these symptoms.

Of some symptoms I found, it isn’t stated whether bingeing, purging or laxative use causes them, but I have them whichever is the cause. For example, one source listed acne as a possible effect. I use to think I’m too old for acne, but nonetheless I do get an eruption when my eating disorder is particularly severe.

Effects that aren’t mentioned, are the long-term consequences of obesity. Think, for example, type 2 diabetes. I don’t know where he found this so can’t check the source, but my husband says that eating lots of sweets is now thought to actually lead to type 2 diabetes because of leading to a chronically elevated blood glucose level.

Is my body image worth these consequences? Of course, my body image is damaged by my being obese, but what if purging actually causes weight loss? Note in this sense that in my case it hasn’t led to weight loss, but just suppose it did. Then, still, I would have to say that health is more important than outer beauty.

I do, however, sometimes believe that purging can’t hurt while obesity can. In this sense, I weigh the health risks rather than the effects on my body image. Or do I?

After all, people’s encouraging obese people to lose weight for health reasons is generally coupled with a lot of shaming of people’s fat status. Even if other people don’t say so, I tend to think that I need to lose weight to be good enough. I still tend to think my husband doesn’t find me attractive even though he’s stated a few times that his reason for encouraging me to lose weight is my health. Other people, like some staff, do more clearly fat-shame. For example, we get metabolic screenings, including waist measurements, every six months to a year. At my last screening, the nurse took my measurements and then commented I really need to lose weight. So far it could still be interpreted as pure concern for my health, but another patient was next. She took this woman’s measurements and then commented to me: “See, it can get worse.” That really was an unnecessary comment that instilled shame rather than motivation to get healthy.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Pros and Cons of My Eating Disorder

I have truly been relapsing in the eating disorder department lately. I don’t really know why, other than the fact that I’m quite irritable lately. This, though, seems to be a vicious cycle: I go from irritability to thinking about bingeing or purging to actually bingeing or purging and back to irritability.

In order to help myslef think clearer about my disordered eating habits, I bought the eBook Journaling in Eating Disorder Recovery by Laurie Glass. The book contains a multitude of suggestions for journaling yourself into recovery. One of the suggestions is to make lists, for example of feelings or thoughts. I really love list-making.

The book also contains journaling questions. I don’t know whether a pro/con list for your eating disorder is in them, but I made one recently. I made it for a pro-eating disorder site that I used to go to, but I left it. I might still be a member but don’t want to trigger myself by checking the list there. Let me make a new one.

Pros of my eating disorder:


  • Relieving stress.

  • Feeling something in my body rather than in my mind.

  • Being able to eat as much as I want of the foods I love. This one isn’t really true, as I’m not sure I want to eat till I’m nauseated. I however have the thought that if I recover, I need to adhere to a strict diet and can never have candy or pizza again.

  • Avoiding the physical and mental sensations of hunger.

  • Expressing that I’m not feeling well. This may be in the sense that eating disorder behaviors are a cry for attention, but also that they impress the reality of my struggles upon myself.

  • Avoiding pressures such as college or work or independent living.

Cons of my eating disorder:


  • Weight gain and the resulting obesity.

  • Acid reflux from purging. Possible esophagus damage as a result.

  • Not being able to engage in healthy social interactions because of having food on my mind all the time.

As you can see, I find I can think of far more pros for my eating disorder than cons. However, ultimately, these pros are based on the idea that I do not cycle from irritability to thoughts about disordered eating habits to eating disorder behaviors and back to irritability. In reality, the stress relief, for example, is very short-lived. For instance, I just binged terribly about an hour ago and have been feeling guilty and angry for the past thirty minutes at least.

Book Review: Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin

As I said when I wrote my summer reading list, I have been wanting to read Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin (2014) ever since I discovered it. I finally got down to finishing it this week.

Beyond Magenta is a series of interviews with transgender or genderqueer teens. There are interviews with two trans girls, two trans guys and two people who identify as something inbetween male and female (genderqueer, genderfluid or as one of them calls it, genderfuck). One of the genderqueer teens is also intersex. They have polycystic ovary syndrome, which I until reading their story didn’t know is an intersex condition, since most people with PCOS are thought of as female.

I think I know quite a bit about gender diversity for someone who is thought of as and identifies as female (cisgender). Even so, I learned some new things about trans and genderqueer issues, some of which I now see as quite basic. For example, as is apparent in many of the stories, gender identity has little to do with sexual orientation. It only has to do with it in that many trans people start out identifying as gay or lesbian before they realize they’re truly straight but trans. It is interesting in this sense that many of the people interviewd found that their parents or friends were okay with them being gay or lesbian, but not with them being trans.

The teens interviewed in this book faced a variety of reactions to their gender identity. Some were also totally cool with themselves from the start while others faced significant depression. Of course, in order to want to be interviewed for a book on trans issues, even anonymously, you need to have come to terms with your gender identity to an extent. For example, Mariah, who insisted on being pseudonymized, calls herself not a success story, but she still appears quite confident. This could of course be a façade.

Overall, I liked learning about teens’ trans and genderqueer experiences through Beyond Magenta. The book wasn’t written in some kind of inspirational, oh-look-at-that kind of way, or at least I didn’t perceive it as such. Kuklin did a nice job allowing each teen to express themselves as they wanted.

On My Summer Reading List

As a child, I hated reading. I was required to read at school and sometimes at home, but at least during summer vacation, the reading required by my teachers was gone for a few months. I wasn’t one to join summer reading clubs and maybe finished my library’s reading program – five books in three months or so – once.

It was, however, during the summer of 2000 that my love for reading took off. I discovered Caja Cazemier, a Dutch juvenile fiction writer, and read many of her books during the next two years. Since I went to a high level high school, however, we were required to read real adult literature from ninth grade on. I hated it! Still in all honesty, I’ve not read many works of adult fiction. Give me non-fiction, memoris and juvenile fiction instead.

I didn’t read much during the years following my high school graduation in 2005. Few books at least – I obviously did read blogs and magazines. In 2014, however, I rediscovered a love of reading when I learned how to work eBooks. This summer, I’m going to really make time for reading.

Since summer reading is the topic on the Spin Cycle this week, I browsed Kobo for a few books I want to read. Here goes.

1. Tressa – The 12-Year-Old Mum: My True Story by Tressa Middleton and Katy Weitz. I admit it, I love inspirational books about people who overcame adversity. Some people see this as bad, and I understand why, but well, yeah. Tressa Middleton became Britain’s youngest mother in 2006 at the age of twelve. The truth is she was raped and made pregnant by her brother, but she hid this truth for years. This must have been an awful experience, but, according to the cover, Tressa overcame this trauma. I just found this book today and really look forward to reading Tressa’s true story.

2. Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin. Since finally favoring my own opinions over others’, I can now admit I support transgender people and their rights. On the blog I kept in like 2010, I often used to call out transphobia and homophobia, but this has gone on the backburner since I wanted to belong with the Christian community. Being cisgender and straight, privilege affords me this luxury. Beyond Magenta is a book of stories from transgender teens. It was published in early 2014 and I’ve wanted to read it ever since. I can’t promise it won’t have any inspirational qualities to me, but I mostly like to educate myself about trans people’s lives. (Of course, if you’ve read about one trans person, you’ve read about one trans person.) I won’t be able to see the photographs the cover mentions, so I hope I won’t be missing out on them.

3. The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. This book is the June 2015 non-fiction read in the F-Word community on GoodReads. In this book, Wolf exposes the hidden body negativity and sexism of modern beauty ideals and the beauty industry. As a fat person who doesn’t conform to beauty norms (eg. I don’t usually wear make-u), I look forward to reading what Wolf has to say.

What will you be reading this summer? Any other recommendations for on my reading list?

Food

Food. I am addicted to it. Unfortunately, unlike other addictive substances, such as alcohol, cigarettes or drugs, food is something every living being needs. It isn’t like, when you become a part of Overeaters Anonymous or the like, you can abandon food like those in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous abandon their substance of abuse. I still fail to understand the twelve steps when applied to food.

Of course, I could abandon candy, chips, and other snacks. I bought a bag of candies twice this week and, each time, ate all of it within half an hour. In this sense, I’m not doing as well as I said on my blog that I was doing on Tuesday.

I tend to fall into the trap of believing that, since we need food, it doesn’t matter if I eat a bag of candies in half an hour. We don’t need those. Candies are addictive. Refined sugar wouldn’t have been approved by the FDA or similar organizations had it been first introduced today.

A few weeks ago, as I was panicking about some kind of poinsonous thing my husband was talking about, he said I ironically do not fear one of the worst poisons that we consume daily: refined sugar. I have to agree.

This afternoon, I knew that really I shouldn’t go to the store when I asked a nurse for a walk. And when I went to the store anyway, my first intention was to buy tomato soup only. Not terribly healthy, but there really isn’t anything healthy in this store. Fruit and veggies aren’t sold in my institution town’s only store, so well. I ended up buying a bag of my favorite candies too and genuinely promised myself I’d eat them mindfully and actually enjoy them. Not so.

Food. I really need to say the first step of the twelve steps of OA, which is that I’m powerless over it. I realize I truly am, but sometimes, I’m stuck in the trap of believing that you can’t be powerless over somethign that, well, everybody needs.

This post was inspired by one of Mari L. McCarthy’s journaling prompts in her free eBook Mari’s 143 Juicy Journaling Prompts. The prompt was to choose a four-letter word starting with “F”, and to journal about it.

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