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?

November 2019 To-Be-Read List

I haven’t read that much in the past few months, but this week, I’m enjoying reading again. I discovered a To-Be-Read list linky, so am linking up there. I still have a huge pile of books I’d like to read or am reading but haven’t finished. Here are a few I’m planning on reading this month.

1. Matilda by Roald Dahl. I think I said before that I read it a ton of times in Dutch as a child, but now I’d like to read it in English. I’m choosing the audiobook version narrated by Kate Winslet.

2. Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart. This one has been on the list of books I can’t wait to read for months. It was published last month and I fully intended on buying it on Kindle as soon as it came out. That didn’t work though, as I don’t have my husband’s current credit card details in my account yet. Just now, I had the amazing idea of checking whether the book is on Bookshare before I buy it once I do have my husband’s payment details. And guess what? It is! This sounds like such an amazing book.

3. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. I started this one a few months ago, but never got beyond the first chapter. Not because I didn’t like it, but because other activities got in the way of my actually reading.

4. Unthinkable by Helen Thomson. This month is somehow dedicated to nonfiction. I love the topic of this book. As you can see, medicine is my thing.

This is another book I’m partway through already. I really want to read some new stuff too, but can’t think of any right now. I mean, of course, I have a huge TBR pile, but I don’t want to up the pressure by forcing myself to read more than I comfortably can.

5. Preemie Voices by Saroj Saigal. This is a collection of letters from people born very prematurely in the late 1970s to early 1980s. They share their experiences and advice for parents of currrent day preemies. I was a preemie too, slightly younger but now at the average age the preemies in this book were when they wrote the letters. I feel there’s a lot I can relate to in this book. Even more than when I started reading it some five years ago when it was published.

What’s on your to-be-read list for this month?

Books I’d Add to My Personal Library

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is about books you’ve read that you’d add to your personal library. What is meant are books that you don’t own a physical copy of and wish you did. Well, I can’t quite use physical books, as I can’t read print and Braille books are very clunky. However, there are still books I wish I owned that I borrowed from the library. Here goes.

1. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I read it in its Dutch translation in one of my last years in primary school and, though I didn’t enjoy it that much at the time, I’d love to read the original English right now. My father read it in English at the same time that I read it in Dutch.

2. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne. My father read my sister and me the best Dutch translation by Nienke van Hichtum. This yet again isn’t a book I’d necessarily want a physical copy of, though that’d be nice, but I’d love to read it in its original language.

3. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I read this in my senior year of high school. Though I easily accessed it online back then, legally or not I’m not entirely sure, I would love to own a copy.

4. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Hannah Green. I borrowed this one from the UK’s National Library for the Blind and actually read it as a physical Braille book. Back then, you could send Braille books free of postage anywhere and the NLB offered its service to international customers. Bookshare, the U.S.-based online accessible book service, at the time didn’t, which was the main reason I used the NLB. I loved this book.

5. Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kusiisto. Another book I borrowed from the NLB. I loved how much I could relate to Kusiisto’s experienfce, going blind gradually from the same eye condition I suffer from.

6. Aspergirls by Rudy Simone. I had this book as an eBook, but lost it when I moved from Adobe Digital Editions to the iBooks app on my iPhone. I didn’t actually finnish this book, but would love to.

7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I read the first book in this series in its Dutch translation at age twelve. Though I really don’t think I’ll ever read the other books, as they get really weird or so I’m told, I’d love to have a copy of this one.

8. All of Astrid Lindgren’s books. I don’t know whether they’re available in English, so I’d go with the Dutch translations.

9. Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I read it in Dutch when I was about thirteen, but I borrowed it from the library back then. I’d love to own a physical copy of both the original Dutch and the English translation.

10. Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet. This was an intriguing autobiography by a man with Asperger’s. I read it in its Dutch translation before I had access to many English-language books and would love to own a copy of the original English.

Which books would you add to your personal library?

Recent Reads (August 2019)

I discovered the It’s Monday? What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR) linky a few weeks ago. I was at the time reading a lot, but not enough to make this a weekly theme, so instead, I chose to participate the last Monday of the month with my monthly reads. I was hoping they’d be more than a few, but no such luck.

I read only three books in the past month. That still is more than my average, I think. I did start a couple of other books, but didn’t get far enough into them to judge them.

First, I read Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. I was inspired to read it by a fellow blogger who confessed she hadn’t read Rainbow Rowell. Neither had I, even though Fangirl has been on my to-be-read list for years. I chose to read Attachments first though, because it seemed more geared towards my age group. Then again, at times I really love young adult fiction, so I don’t really know what I was thinking. The book definitely didn’t disappoint. Occasionally, it dragged on a little, but for the most part, it was hilarious.

Then I read Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler. This was the polar opposite of Attachments. Not hilarious at all and it definitely didn’t drag on. It was a true page-turner. I wrote a review about two weeks ago.

Then I didn’t read much for the next two weeks. I managed to finish one book, Angels in Our Hearts by Rosie Lewis and Casey Watson. This is a collection of moving short foster care memoirs. They definitely didn’t disappoint either, though I took some time to finish the book. I had never read anything by Rosie Lewis but had enjoyed reading Casey Watson for years.

For this reason, I decided to buy another book by Casey Watson, A Boy Without Hope as an audiobook. I had intended to read it in the ParaTransit bus to and from day activities, but the narrator’s voice is hard to understand and pretty much impossible to decipher in noisy environments. It was my first-ever English-language audiobook and will most likely not be followed by many more.

Next on my reading list is The Fault in Our Stars. It’s been on my TBR list forever and I was originally hoping I could finish it before today. Well, I’m not nearly finished, but I assume I will be next month.

Book Characters I’d Like to Be Best Friends With

I first discovered Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly book-related linky hosted by Jana from That Artsy Reader Girl, a few weeks ago, but didn’t feel like joining in then yet. Today, the theme is book characters I’d like to be best friends with. There are a ton of lovely characters in the books I’ve read. Of course for the YA books, let’s assume I’m at a similar age to the characters.

1. Jasmine from Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton. I can relate to Megan very much and would love to have had a best friend like Jasmine when I was her age.

2. Beth and Jennifer from Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. I just recently read this book and the characters are totally hilarious.

3. Katie from Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova. She’s in a lot of ways similar to me. I bet she could teach me some proper yoga.

4. Caleb from Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern. He’s so totally funny. He also sounds very caring and like he’ll do a lot for a friend.

5. Piper Reece from Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult. At least I’d be a lot more loyalthan Charlotte is. Then again, that’d destroy the storyline.

6. Mellie Baker from And She Was by Jessica Verdi. Someone I’d love to get to know beyond her gender identity.

7. Kate from My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I love her fighting spirit and her supporting Anna even if it may mean she’ll die.

8. Sophia from Believarexic by J.J. Johnson. I could also imagine myself befriending Jennifer herself, but I relate more to Sophia.

9. Alex Taylor from Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler. I can totally imagine myself being the only one to stand by her side, having myself often been accused of making up stuff for attention. Yes, even if it could cost me my life even earlier in the story than it did Fiona’s.

10. Allie Johnston from A Different Me by Deborah Blumenthal. I was going to choose a different character from that book, but I forgot his name. I’d want to get to know Ally too. She does sound a bit vain and not just because of her body dysmorphia, but I’m pretty sure we have some things in common.

What characters from books you’ve read would you like to befriend?

Book Review: Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler

Like I said before, I’m really enjoying reading a lot lately. I had a number of books on my TBR list for a while, but hadn’t gotten down to actually reading them. Now I found the time and energy to read. Some of the books I’ve been reading, have been out for many years, so I won’t bore you with a review. Though Don’t Wake Up was published two years ago already, I still think it’s worth reviewing.

Synopsis

Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table.
The man who stands over her isn’t a doctor.
The offer he makes her is utterly unspeakable.
But when Alex re-awakens, she’s unharmed – and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.
And then she meets the next victim.
So compulsive you can’t stop reading.
So chilling you won’t stop talking about it.
A pitch-black and devastatingly original psychological thriller.

My Review

This was actually the first-ever thriller I read, because the genre normally scares the crap out of me. This one, however, was so compelling I just had to check it out. And I must say, I wasn’t disappointed. Yes, the plot was very scary at times, but it also kept me wanting to read on.

The synopsis above only covers the first 25% of the book or so, so I wasn’t sure it’d be interesting enough to read on beyond that. But it was.

One of the reasons that I didn’t before like reading thrillers, is that I don’t like bad endings, in which the main character dies for no apparent reason at the last page. In this sense, Don’t Wake Up definitely didn’t disappoint. Of course, bad stuff happens to people in the book – several people die in it -, but the book didn’t make me feel sick to my stomach at the end.

The characters were really well-developed. The book is mostly written from Alex’s point of view, but several other characters get a viewpoint too. This was necessary to keep the thriller effect. I liked it.

Overall, I really loved this book and it has me longing for more thrillers. I just searched for Liz Lawler on GoodReads and found she had another book published earlier this year. I’m definitely going to want to read that one too.

Book Details

Title: Don’t Wake Up
Author: Liz Lawler
Publisher: Twenty7
Publication Date: May 18, 2017

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20 Questions Book Tag

I found the 20 Questions Book Tag when searching for interesting tags to fill out. I am not that much of a bookaholic, but I love to read a good book every once in a while. And I love talking books!

1. HOW MANY BOOKS ARE TOO MANY FOR A SERIES?
Two. I don’t like reading book series.

2. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT CLIFFHANGERS?
Love to hate them. I always get pretty tense when I find one, but they do keep abook interesting.

3. HARDCOVER OR PAPERBACK?
Neither, as I am blind. Give me an eBook instead. When I used to scan books to read them, I preferred hardcover.

4. FAVOURITE BOOK?
I don’t have one. There are quite a few that stick with me. My favorite genres are YA social issues books and memoirs.

5. LEAST FAVOURITE BOOK?
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. I had to read it for English in high school, but hated it.

6. LOVE TRIANGLES, YES OR NO?
I don’t mind to read about them, but I don’t really consider them a turn-on book-wise either and I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of one.

7. THE MOST RECENT BOOK YOU COULDN’T FINISH?
The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork. At least, that’s the most recent one I’ve given up on finishing. I tend to take forever to read some books, so I rarely consider a book unfinishable.

8. A BOOK YOU’RE CURRENTLY READING?
Angels in Our Hearts by Rosie Lewis and Casey Watson.

9. LAST BOOK YOU RECOMMENDED TO SOMEONE?
Same as above, although I haven’t actually finished it.

10. OLDEST BOOK YOU’VE READ BY PUBLICATION DATE?
Wuthering Heights, but I read a simplified version in eighth grade. Other than this one, I guess Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which was published in 1932.

11. NEWEST BOOK YOU’VE READ BY PUBLICATION DATE?
I’m not sure. I think it was Finding Stevie by Cathy Glass, which was published in February.

12. FAVOURITE AUTHOR?
If non-fiction/memoir authors count (and I’m deciding they do), Cathy Glass. Otherwise, Lisa Genova or Jodi Picoult.

13. BUYING BOOKS OR BORROWING BOOKS?
Both. I buy books on Amazon and borrow them on Bookshare and in the Dutch library for the blind, although rarely there nowadays.

14. A BOOK YOU DISLIKE THAT EVERYONE SEEMS TO LOVE?
Not anything I’ve actually read, but I can’t imagine I’d like the Harry Potter series. No, I haven’t read any of the books.

15. BOOKMARKS OR DOG EARS?
Bookmarks!

16. A BOOK YOU CAN ALWAYS RE-READ?
I rarely reread books, actually.

17. CAN YOU READ WHILE LISTENING TO MUSIC?
No. I can’t do much while listening to music anyway. I used to be able to though as a teen.

18. ONE POV OR MULTIPLE?
I like both, but the books I’ve most enjoyed have multiple.

19. DO YOU READ A BOOK IN ONE SITTING OR OVER MULTIPLE DAYS?
Always over multiple days. I mean, I’m a slow reader, so I can’t ever physically finish a book in one day.

20. WHO DO YOU TAG?
Carol Anne of Therapy Bits
and Emilia of My Inner MishMash. Others are free to consider themslves tagged.

Book Review: Finding Stevie by Cathy Glass

I bought Finding Stevie, Cathy Glass’ most recently published book, already shortly after it first came out in early March. However, I had a ton of books on my reading list, so I didn’t immediately start it. Then it took me a while to finish it, because I got distracted. Last Sunday I finally finished it, but didn’t feel like writing a review yet. I was having a bad cold and didn’t feel like writing much at all. Now my cold is gone, so I can write the review.

Synopsis

Finding Stevie is a dark and poignant true story that highlights the dangers lurking online.

When Stevie’s social worker tells Cathy, an experienced foster carer, that Stevie, 14, is gender fluid she isn’t sure what that term means and looks it up.

Stevie, together with his younger brother and sister, have been brought up by their grandparents as their mother is in prison. But the grandparents can no longer cope with Stevie’s behaviour so they place him in care.

Stevie is exploring his gender identity, and like many young people he spends time online. Cathy warns him about the dangers of talking to strangers online and advises him how to stay safe. When his younger siblings tell their grandmother that they have a secret they can’t tell, Cathy is worried. However, nothing could have prepared her for the truth when Stevie finally breaks down and confesses what he’s done.

My Review

I at first had some trouble getting through the first few chapters. I was curious what Stevie’s secret might be and didn’t find out till almost midway through the book. Then, I worried until nearly the end that the book might not end on a positive note. It seemed to drag on a bit, but eventually, I couldn’t help but love this book.

As the book carried on, I grew sympathetic towards every character. For example, Fred, Stevie’s grandfather, is very blunt and doesn’t accept Stevie’s gender identity at first. He reminded me of my own father, having very strong opinions that he wouldn’t let go of despite the evidence. However, in the end it is clear that Fred too loves his grandson.

Book Details

Title: Finding Stevie: A Dark Secret. A Child in Crisis.
Author: Cathy Glass
Publisher: HarperElement
Publication Date: February 21, 2019

Book Review: Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

I first heard of Lisa Genova in 2015, when Still Alice was made into a movie. I never saw the movie, but got the book as soon as I could. It sounded intriguing. However, I started the book but never got far into it. I got Left Neglected sometime in 2017, but never finished that either. I still intend to finish both. Then late last year, I heard of Every Note Played. I never even got that book, but it got me interested in checking out Lisa Genova again. This is how I found Inside the O’Briens. I was impressed. I had read a young adult novel called Rules for 50/50 Chances, about a girl whose mother has Huntington’s Disease, a few years back. That book had been grippling and hard to put down. I don’t know what it is about Huntington’s over Alzheimer’s or ALS that drew me to this book. I read this book and this time, I actually finished it. Here are my thoughts.

Synopsis

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

My Review

The book starts off with a rather grippling scene in which then 36-year-old Joe recognizes his mother in himself. Then, the book quickly skips over the next seven years and details Joe’s work as a police officer. As a reader, I got clues that something was amiss from the beginning and kept wondering when Joe would finally see it himself. Of course, I knew the reason from the book synopsis and Joe had probably never heard of Huntington’s. When Joe finally causes a riot control drill to be prolonged due to his inability to stay in line, his friend and coworker gets his wife involved. This is when they finally go to the doctor.

Once Joe finds out he has Huntington’s Disease, his four children face the question of whether to get tested for the gene themselves. They each have a 50/50 chance of having the gene too, in which case they’ll get the disease. I knew as much from Rules for 50/50 Chances, which centered on this chance. It was very intriguing to follow each child’s steps towards accepting their father’s fate and making a choice about knowing or not knowing their own.

Genova chooses to focus her attention on Katie, Joe’s youngest daughter. She is only 21 and as such, not much older than the main character in Rules for 50/50 Chances. However, Inside the O’Briens is clearly a novel intended for adults and not young people. This is clear when reading from Katie’s perspective too. I must say here that I generally prefer young adult to mature fiction, but this was truly a great read. It’s also not really fair to compare this book to a young adult book by a different author when their only similarity is Huntington’s.

I loved the detail with which Genova describes the scenes and her characters. Each character is truly well-rounded in a way I don’t see often. This book is about so much more than Huntington’s. It’s also about police work, because Joe is a police officer. That may’ve been another thing drawing me into this book rather than Genova’s other books: I just so love learning about cops’ lives.

Book Details

Title: Inside the O’Briens
Author: Lisa Genova
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: April 7, 2015

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