Top Ten YA Books I Want to Read While Social Distancing

Today, I am joining in with Top Ten Tuesday. When this COVID-19 crisis first unfolded, I originally expected to read a lot during it. I love reading. Now that we’re not under complete lockdown as of yet, I love going outside even more though. I love taking long’ish walks and seeing my Fitbit activity tracker stats rise.

Still, I do read more than I used to. I’m a slow reader and don’t devote nearly as much time to reading as I’d want to. There are only 24 hours in a day, after all. Then again, this crisis is probably going to last for another while still to come and I’m expecting a complete lockdown at some point.

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is a genre freebie. Young adult fiction about real-world issues is my favorite genre. For this reason, I’m listing ten YA books I’d like to read during this time of social distancing.

1. Heroine by Mindy McGinnis. I already started on this one and am loving it so far.

2. Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott. This title is fabulously appropriate for the time we’re living in now. Though this situation isn’t what the book is about (the author couldn’t predict it), I just have to smile to myself.

3. Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann. I am on the asexual spectrum myself, being demisexual, so I love it that there’s a contemporary YA novel out there about asexuality that’s also pretty popular. I’m curious to see how it unfolds.

4. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while, but so far never got down to it.

5. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. This is the only non-contemporary book on this list. It is set in a dystopian near future. I found it by looking for books featuring LGBTQ+ characters on Goodreads and it fascinates me.

6. Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg. Another queer-centric book, but who cares? I found this book on another Top Ten Tuesday participant’s list a few months back and it looks cool.

7. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This book was first published in 1999, but the twentieth-anniversary edition came out last year. I discovered it a few months ago on Goodreads I think.

8. Risking It All by Sm Koz. This book sounds so interesting.

9. The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais. Another book that was recommended by a book blogger (sorry, I can’t remember who). I love reading books about disability and this sounds like a really cool read.

10. Throwaway Girl by Kristine Scarrow. This book has literally been on my TBR list for years. I bought it back in like 2014 or 2015, but it crashed my Adobe Digital Editions and became unuseable then. Thankfully, I can now read it in Apple Books.

Have you read any of these? I’d love to hear your opinions.

Reading Wrap-Up (March 16, 2020)

Okay, so clearly I didn’t make a reading wrap-up a regular feature. In all honesty, I didn’t read much over the first two months of the year at all. Thankfully, I got back into the mood for reading just in time for the near-complete lockdown due to the coronavirus this week.

My day center is still open, but tomorrow will most likely be the last day for the duration of the lockdown. The staff and management need this day to be able to decide on staffing issues, as normally the homes aren’t staffed during the day. We’ll see where this goes.

I am linking up with #IMWAYR again, as well as Stacking the Shelves (hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and Reading Reality). Lastly I’m linking up with the Sunday Post.

What I’ve Been Reading

I started reading Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan in January, so it hasn’t made it into a reading wrap-up yet. I finally finished it on Friday and wrote a review on Saturday.

I finally moved along in Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. No, it’s not finished yet (no, still not!), but with the day center closing soon, I’ll have more time on my hands to read and should be able to finish the book this week.

I’ve also been reading Heroine by Mindy McGinnis, which so far I’m really enjoying.

Stacking the Shelves

Firstly, of course I’ve been stocking up on journaling books again lately. The ones I downloaded are free though. I’ve also been downloading a few books of quotations and Bible verses. Then come some handbooks on intellectual disability and autism that I only intend for reference.

With respect to fiction, I added two books to my shelves in the past week, both downloaded from Bookshare. The first is All the Water in the World by Karen Raney. I got interested in it looking for White Oleander by Janet Fitch, which I’ve been wanting to read ever since it came out some twenty years ago and was recently mentioned on another blogger’s reading list. I couldn’t find that one on Bookshare, so am considering buying it from Apple Books as either an audiobook or eBook. Then I saw All the Water in the World in the related books section.

The second is The Institute by Stephen King. I haven’t read any horror so far yet, but this title really intrigued me. I’m also still looking for horror stories about deadly viruses or pandemics or whatnot. I know, we’re living it now, but that’s exactly why I want to read some of this type of fiction. If anyone has any recommendations, please share them in the comments.

What have you been reading lately?

Book Review: Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

If there’s one good thing coming out of the COVID-19 thing, it’s that I have finally come to enjoy reading again. I wouldn’t know what to do otherwise, as it was recommended my husband do not visit me for the next two weeks. We are to have as little contact with people outside of the facility as possible. That way, it is hoped that the virus doesn’t enter here. I doubt it’ll work, but oh well.

I downloaded the middle grade novel Amina’s Voice already when it first became available on Bookshare a long while ago. I started reading it last January, after I finally finished Pictures of Me by Marilee Haynes and wasn’t done with middle grade yet. Then, adult and young adult novels caught my attention again. This past week, I’ve been reading a lot, so I finally finished this read. My review may contain spoilers.

Synopsis

A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this sweet and moving middle grade novel from the award-winning author of It’s Ramadan, Curious George and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin.

Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.

My Review

I am horrible where it comes to reading diverse books. I mean, I read some fiction featuring LGBTQ+ characters and of course I love books portraying disability. However, where it comes to ethnic and racial diversity, I’m clueless. I saw that some book bloggers were featuring books by authors of color for Black History Month, which was last month I think. Then I thought, how do I even have a clue which authors are Black? I obviously can’t tell by their names and, being blind, I cannot see their pictures. Then again, I guess I’m not particularly drawn to books featuring racially diverse characters either, and I can’t use my blindness as an excuse for that. OMG, I don’t want to use this book as a token diverse read and that’s exactly what I do now! And Hena Khan isn’t even African-American. Sorry.

Anyway, I’m saying all this to make the point that I was very clueless when I started reading this book about what it would be like being Amina. I didn’t understand some of the terminology at first, but I grew accustomed to it pretty soon. I actually loved learning more about Pakistani-American culture and Islam.

More importantly though, this book is about friendship. Amina at first isn’t sure about Soojin hanging out with Emily, but finally she learns that Emily is nice after all. I loved reading about the development of their friendship.

I also loved reading about the support Amina’s classmates and their family, including Emily, offer when the mosque is vandalized.

An aspect of the book that isn’t mentioned in the synopsis, is Amina’s uncle visiting from Pakistan. At first, he is critical of American culture and feels Amina is brought up un-Islamic. He too learns to accept differences of culture and religion eventually.

Overall, I loved this book! Its terminology, including the Islamic words, were understandable. It was an awesome way of learning about Pakistani-American culture. I also could relate to the identity issues Amina was facing. In this sense, it really is a cool read for everyone, whether you belong to an ethnic minority or not.

Book Details

Title: Amina’s Voice
Author: Hena Khan
Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: March 14, 2017

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Five of My Bookish Habits

I’m once again joining in with Top 5 Tuesday. This week, the topic is bookish habits. Some of these are probably rather common, but some might not be.

1. I tend to read multiple books at a time. It’s rare that I finish a book before another one captures my interest, so I usually have at least three books I’m in the process of reading at the same time.

2. I almost exclusively read eBooks. Okay, so to those who know me, this may be obvious. I am blind and Braille books are extremely clunky. Then again, I hardly ever listen to audiobooks either. The reason is my poor English listening skills. Oh yeah, I hardly ever read books in any language other than English. This may seem obvious to those who don’t know me, since then you might not know that Dutch is my native language. I don’t seem to like Dutch books though.

3. I can’t do anything else while reading. Can’t listen to music or have the TV on or the like. I’m trying to train myself to listen to whale sounds or other white noise while reading. Otherwise I’m unable to read at day activities and I’d love to be able to do that.

4. I’m a true book collector. Especially now that I am a Bookshare (U.S.-based accessible book service) member, I download a lot more books than I actually read. I mean, when I was younger, my parents or later I myself would have to manualy scan print books for me, so I had an incentive to read all books on my shelf. Now I have a ton of textbooks and self-help books I only ever page through. My fiction bookshelf also has a lot on it I haven’t read. Conversely though, my Goodreads TBR list is rather short. The reason is I hardly use Goodreads.

5. I’m obsessed with checking book length and my progress percentage once I decide to read a book. I’m a slow reader, so I often want to know if I’m progressing nicely.

What are some of your bookish habits?

Top Five Books That Exceeded My Expectations

I am once again in the mood for books and book blogging. Today I discovered a new to me bookish meme called Top 5 Tuesday. Today’s topic is about the books that exceeded your expectations. Now I must say that I don’t usually read books I don’t expect to really like. For this reason, last week’s topic of books that weren’t what I expected, is a lot easier for me. Still, particularly in the last few years, I’ve come to read a few books that are outside of my admittedly rather narrow comfort zone and that I did end up loving. Here they are.

1. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Well, let’s start with a book I read many years ago. I read this in high school for no other reason than it being in the public domain so easily accessible to me as a blind girl from a non-English-speaking country. I ended up really liking it, unlike the other books I read for English literature.

2. Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler. This was really outside of my comfort zone. I usually read YA and had never read a thriller before. The blurb spoke to me though. I ended up finishing this book in a few days, which is extremely rare for me.

3. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Though Fangirl has been on my TBR forever, I decided to read Attachments first. It is outside of my comfort zone too, as I rarely read romances or adult fiction in general. I really liked this one though.

4. Cruel to Be Kind by Cathy Glass. Of course, I need to include a memoir in this list, as that’s my favorite genre. I was told about Cathy Glass’ books many times by my trauma survivor friends in the UK and Ireland, but never got to read her books until I picked up this one in 2017. It isn’t the best book of hers I’ve read since, but it was the book that got me into Cathy Glass.

5. Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton. Will I ever have a top five list without this one on it? ☺️ This was a book I really expected to like, but it turned out even better. I loved the plot. It’s a shame I still haven’t read Consumed yet.

Five Books About Life as a Doctor #Connect5Books

I love reading books in which people share about their real life, including memoirs and diaries. I am also very interested in medicine. Today, I am joining in with Connect Five Books and sharing five books about life as a doctor.

1. For the Love of Babies by Sue Hall. This collection of stories from an American neonatologist is truly wonderful. I read it when it first came out in 2014 and it was one of my quickest reads at the time. As regular readers of my blog know, I was born prematurely and spent three months in the neonatal unit myself. However, in this book, Hall also shares about babies born with genetic syndromes or those born addicted to drugs their mothers used.

2. Cook County ICU by Cory Franklin. This book covers nearly fifty years of medical practice, from the author and his father, in an intensive care unit in Chicago. Franklin shares his experience becoming a doctor in the ICU very candidly, including how a supervisor tried to ruin his career because Franklin dared talk back to him. You’ll also read about some fascinating patients, such as some of the early cases of AIDS, before it was known to be AIDS.

3. Doctor’s Notes by Rosemary Leonard. This is a collection of stories by a south east London GP. I took a lot longer to read it than I did the above two books, but once I got into it, it was truly enjoyable.

4. Do No Harm by Henry Marsh. This is a book by a neurosurgeon. I have read a few chapters, but can’t seem to move along in it.

5. Tales From the Couch by Bob Wendorf. Okay, I’m cheating here, as Wendorf isn’t a medical doctor. He’s a clinical psychologist. However, psychologists in the United States are often referred to as doctors too. Each chapter in this book focuses on a particular psychiatric condition. I haven’t read much of this book either yet, but would like to.

Do you enjoy reading about people’s real life or about medicine?

Reading Wrap-Up (December 30, 2019)

It’s Monday again. Last week, I didn’t have much to share in the reading department, so I skipped my reading wrap-up. Then again, I’d never promised this would be a weekly feature. Today, I’m once again joining in with #IMWAYR, Stacking the Shelves and the Sunday Post.

This week was rather hectic. Of course it was, since it was Christmas time. I fully intended on spending a lot of my free time reading, but ended up sleeping some of it away instead. I also of course spent some time celebrating with family.

What I’ve Been Reading

First, I have to confess that I still, yes, still didn’t finish Left Neglected. I’m not even close, as my book app says I’ve read only 37%. I didn’t even read any further in Pictures of Me by Marilee Haynes. It probably proves how much of a mood reader I am, since this middle grade novel has been on my to-be-read list forever.

I did, after all, actually read an entire book. I finished A Baby’s Cry by Cathy Glass yesterday. It was a fascinating read! I have to say the more I read from Cathy’s fostering memoirs, the more I love them. This was an older book, having been published in 2014, so I’m not sure my readers would be interested in a review. I may post one anyway.

I’m really on the fence as to what should be my next read. Of course, I should be finishing Left Neglected, but I’m not sure I’m in the mood for adult fiction much right now. I could be starting one of the young adult books I added to my shelves recently, but I’m not sure I’m in the mood for fiction at all.

Stacking the Shelves

Like I said two weeks ago, I discovered Apple Books recently. The app has been behaving more or less as it should. Since I’m used to Kindle, I may still prefer that, but I am glad I have a choice now. Besides, Apple Books accepts payment through my Apple account, which makes it easier for me to buy books if I want to. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, will remain to be seen.

I added a bunch of free journaling books to my collection in Apple Books. Some of them cost money on Kindle, albeit only like €0,99, so I’m wondering what the catch is.

Then I added some books to my Bookshare collection. These include:


  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I got the twentieth-anniversary edition that was published this year. It’s somewhat humbling to see young adult books were published in English twenty years ago, when I was thirteen. Of course they were, but I was an avid reader of Dutch YA at the time and read English only when I had to.

  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. The Dutch translation was on my to-be-read list before I’d gotten on Bookshare or had even discovered accessible eBooks, but I’m really looking forward to reading the original English.

  • Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott. I saw this book among the Goodreads Choice Awards nominees in the YA section and thought I’d like it.

What have you been reading?

Reading Wrap-Up (December 16, 2019)

I am not primarily a book blogger, like I’ve said more than once. However, I do love reading and at any given time have a huge pile of books I still want to read. I have always loved sharing my love of reading, even though I don’t move fast. I mean, I usually take several weeks to complete a book. This may be due to the fact that I usually read more than one book at once.

I enjoy participating in book-related memes. I love to discover new books to add to my TBR pile and I’m sometimes even surprised at how many I know, given that like I said I’m a slow reader and don’t devote the majority of my time to books. Today, I’m joining in with a few book-related memes.

First, I discovered Stacking The Shelves just today. This is an awesome meme that lets you share what books you’ve added to your collection, whether digital or physical. It doesn’t require that you actually read them. Then, I’m joining in with It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR). I joined in with that linky last August intending to make my recent reads a monthly feature. I’m not promising I will this time. There’s a kidlit version of #IMWAYR too, but I can’t seem to link up there, so I’m just sharing my kidlit stuff here too. Finally, I’m joining in with the Sunday Post.

Life Update

This past week was hectic. I was triggered during most of it due to the phone conversation with my mother last Monday. I didn’t even share the most upsetting parts of it on my blog. Then over the week-end, my husband and I had several miscommunications, which led to the week-end being less enjoyable than it could’ve been. Then this morning, I had a brief but bad meltdown at day activities. I guess it’s time to retreat into books.

What I’ve Been Reading

Like I said, I tend to read several books at once. This past week, I finally moved past the first chapter in Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. I still think it’s a pretty boring read so far. Hoping it’ll get more interesting as I move along.

I added Pictures of Me by Marilee Haynes to my Bookshare collection a few weeks ago. This Christian middle grade novel has been on my to-be-read list forever and I finally started reading it last week. So far, its Christian focus doesn’t seem to be overdone and I like it.

Stacking the Shelves

Books I’ve added to my collection recently include:


  • Everyday Healing with Essential Oils by Jimm Harrison. I know, this one isn’t interesting for fiction lovers and I doubt I’ll even ever read it in full. I like it as my little reference guide though for when (if?) I’m going to create my own aromatherapy blends.
  • More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. I don’t know whether I’ll like the dystopian aspect to this one, but it’s also intriguing at the same time.

  • My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. This sounds like a truly fascinating story.

  • A Baby’s Cry by Cathy Glass. I still haven’t asked my husband if I can use his credit card details for my Amazon account. I was planning on it this week-end, but due to said communication mishaps, I didn’t. I instead bought the book on Apple Books.

What have you been reading lately?

Book Review: Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

I first heard of Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart (Goodreads) in the summer, when I was reading a lot. I couldn’t wait for the book to be released in October. However, when it was finally released, it took me a few weeks contemplating how to get ahold of the book before deciding to check if it was on Bookshare, the U.S.-based accessible book service. It was! I downloaded it and started to read it immediately.

Synopsis

Everyone has scars. Some are just easier to see … 16-year-old Ava Lee is heading back to school one year after a house fire left her severely disfigured. She’s used to the names, the stares, the discomfort, but there’s one name she hates most of all: Survivor. What do you call someone who didn’t mean to survive? Who sometimes wishes she hadn’t? When she meets a fellow survivor named Piper at therapy, Ava begins to feel like she’s not facing the nightmare alone. Piper helps Ava reclaim the pieces of Ava Before the Fire, a normal girl who kissed boys and sang on stage. But Piper is fighting her own battle, and when Ava almost loses her best friend, she must decide if the new normal she’s chasing has more to do with the girl in the mirror — or the people by her side. The beautiful, life-affirming debut from Erin Stewart that’s being called the YA answer to Wonder. Perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Nicola Yoon and John Green. “A heartfelt and unflinching look at the reality of being a burn survivor and at the scars we all carry. This book is for everyone, burned or not, who has ever searched for a light in the darkness.” – Stephanie Nielson, New York Times bestselling author of HEAVEN IS HERE and a burn survivor

My Review

I loved this book! The reason it took me longer to finish than I’d expected, had very little to do with the book. I mean, yes, the book is 352 pages, which is pretty much the most I can handle for a read that doesn’t take me forever. I’m just a slow reader.

The book isn’t as much of a page-turner as some other books I read, but that’s because it’s not a thriller or suspense novel. I loved the way this book meandered. What I mean by this is, there are a lot of plot twists, but they’re not breath-taking except for a few.

I found Ava to be a really relatable character. I mean, I’m not a burn survivor, but I did stick out like a sore thumb in high school and felt like making myself invisible. Piper should definitely be on my list of characters I’d wish were my best friends. And for those who’ve read the book and wonder, yes, I’d stick by her no matter what, just like Ava does.

I loved how well-developed each character was. This is definitely not a fast-moving book, but it’s one in which you’ll really get to know the characters. I like that.

I’ve previously read books where I thought the story should’ve ended a few pages before it did. The best example I can give is Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult, in which Willow dies at the end and it’s a true disappointment. In other books, the end drags on too long or is too thrilling even with a good outcome. This one was just right in the middle in that respect. I loved it.

Book Details

Title: Scars Like Wings
Author: Erin Stewart
Publisher: Delacorte
Publication Date: October 3, 2019

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Eight Ways in Which My Reading Life Has Changed Over the Years

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is all about ways you have changed, particularly as a reader, over the years. I am not a book blogger, since posts about books make up not even ten percent of my total posts. I don’t read nearly enough to be a book blogger. This may be one reason I haven’t participated in #TTT for a while. However, I loved this week’s theme. Here are some ways in which my reading life has changed over the years.

1. I read because I want to, not because I have to. As a child and teen, I didn’t like reading much. Especially not the assigned literature we were supposed to read for school. For this reason, in my young adult life, I didn’t read much at all. Over the years though, I discovered a love of reading and now read for pleasure. Sometimes I still feel like I have to finish a book, but then it’s me creating the pressure.

2. I read almost exclusively English-language books. The book famine, ie. the lack of accessible books to people who are blind or otherwise print disabled, is still pretty severe in Dutch-language literature. In English, almost every book I want to read is available in an accessible format nowadays. This is one reason I enjoy reading books in English far more than in Dutch.

Another is the fact that I blog in English and, to be honest, I don’t do much in life (except for peeing and sleeping and eating) without some motivation related to my blog. I love to venture out into the bookish blogosphere at times.

3. The way in which I read, has changed. As a child, I almost exclusively read audiobooks. Oh and the occasional large print book suited for children much younger than me, because with how poor my vision was, ordinary large print was too small for me. I hated reading Braille, so unless I was forced to, I didn’t touch a Braille book.

Now I read almost exclusively by touch. I recently bought a few audiobooks, but to be honest am quite a bit disappointed in the narrators.

4. I discovered eBooks. As a teen, I read books my parents scanned for me. Then I didn’t read much at all as a young adult. In 2013, I found out that Adobe Digital Editions, the main program at the time to read EPUB eBooks, had been made compatible with screen readers. I read EPUB from then on, although I no longer use Adobe Digital Editions. I use the iPhone’s book app instead.

5. I joined Bookshare. Bookshare is the U.S.-based online book service for the print disabled. In 2005 and 2006, when I first started reading English-language books for pleasure, I was a member of the UK’s National Library for the Blind. I for a short while read physical Braille books then. That didn’t work out due to shipping issues. Bookshare, though it existed back then, wasn’t available to international customers at the time. It became available to those outside of the U.S. sometime around 2015. I joined Bookshare in mid-2016.

6. I found out about Kindle. That’s another eBook format that didn’t use to be very accessible. Back in like 2015, there was the accessibility add-on to Kindle software, which would read the content of the book aloud. Like I said, I’m not a fan of audiobooks and I’m certainly not a fan of the robotic-sounding voice of the Kindle accessibility add-on. Sometime in 2018, I found out that the Kindle app for iPhone, and to a lesser degree Kindle for PC, now support screenreaders and most importantly Braille displays. I still don’t buy Kindle books very often, as Bookshare has a wide selection of books too, but I know that if I really want to read a book, I can.

7. A larger percentage of the books I read is fiction. Roughly ten years ago, I only read a bit of teen fiction and mostly read biographies and other nonfiction. Now about half of the books I read and the majority of the books I finish are fiction.

8. I read a wider variety of books. Though most of the fiction I read still belongs in the young adult category, over the past few years I’ve ventured out into other genres as well. I love reading a diverse selection of books now.

How has your reading life changed over the years?