Tag Archives: Books

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

Read With Me

Book Review: And She Was by Jessica Verdi

Man, #JusJoJan is getting nowhere. That is, I’ve been jotting stuff down everyday, but none of it was blog-worthy. I felt a little uninspired. Then, reading a book seemed more interesting than writing a blog post. I chose the book called And She Was by Jessica Verdi. Then, once I finished the book, I wanted to write a review for my blog, but didn’t get round to doing it. Then on Thursday, I fell and suffered a small but painful collarbone fracture. Now it’s Monday and typing with that hand still hurts like crazy, but I so badly want to finally write the review. Here goes.

Synopsis

Dara’s lived a sheltered life with her single mom, Mellie. Now, at eighteen, she’s dreaming of more. When Dara digs up her never-before-seen birth certificate, her world implodes. Why are two strangers listed as her parents?

Dara confronts her mother, and is stunned by what she learns: Mellie is transgender. The unfamiliar name listed under “father”? That’s Mellie. She transitioned when Dara was a baby, after Dara’s birth mother died. She changed her name, started over.

But Dara still has more questions than answers. Reeling, she sets off on an impromptu road trip with her best guy friend, Sam, in tow. She is determined to find the extended family she’s never even met. What she does discover — and what her mother reveals, piece by piece, over emails — will challenge and change Dara more than she can imagine.

This is a gorgeous, timely, and essential novel about the importance of being our true selves. The backmatter includes an author’s note and resources for readers.

My Review

I already started reading this book a month or two ago. It felt a little slow-moving at first. However, once I picked up the book where I left off again last week, it was really good.

At the beginning of the book, you get to empathize mostly with Dara. This may be one reason people consider the book transphobic, since Dara first decides that her mother’s transition is selfish. Throufh Mellie’s E-mails to her though, you get to understand her perspective too. It takes a long time for Dara to understand Mellie’s point of view and, as such, it takes the reader some time too.

All characters in the book are really well-developed. With some, like the Pembrokes – the grandparents Dara meets -, I got an uneasy inkling of what was coming when they were first introduced. Still, their character was really well-painted.

Some people have pointed out that Mellie is constantly misgendered by the Pembrokes and some others. They feel this is negative. It is, of course, but it serves to illustrate these people’s character. Nowhere is the misgendering condoned by Dara.

There weren’t many truly surprising twists and turns in the book, but the plot wasn’t predictable either. Overall, I liked it. I got stuck on some details, like how could a trans person change their legal name without bottom surgery (this is not possible here), but I assume Verdi did her research.

Overall, I really liked the book. I am cisgender, so cannot say for sure whether this book isn’t transphobic. However, even though some characters are, this is probably real life for trans people everyday, sad as it may be.

Book Details

Title: And She Was
Author: Jessica Verdi
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date: March 27, 2018

#WeekendCoffeeShare (December 2, 2018)

I wanted to write a post yesterday, but I spent the entire day at my in-laws, so I didn’t have the time to write. Today, I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare again. I didn’t have coffee today, but green tea counts too. Otherwise, I did have coffee yesterday.

If we were having coffee, I’d ask how you’ve been. I’ve missed the Weekend Coffee Share linkup, not having participated in months, and I haven’t checked out the participants’ blogs much either. I really hope to read more blogs soon.

If we were having coffee, I’d share about my week at day activities. As regular readers of my blog know, I spent three full days at day activities this past week. It was lovely. I particularly enjoyed music. I’ve also been able to relax more in the sensory room there and not see staying in it as punishment. The sensory room is supposed to be for relaxation, but at my old day activities, I was often sent there for having a meltdown.

I’d also share about the week-end. As I said, we spent yesterday at my in-laws. Thankfully, my mother-in-law and I were able to walk the dog while it wasn’t raining for a change. Of course, with the drought of the past few months, nature needs rain, but that doesn’t mean I like it.

Today, I spent the morning in bed. In the afternoon, I mostly read a book. I’ve been enjoying reading young adult fiction lately, but don’t let myself take the time to read much. Today I did. I also went on the elliptical for 25 minutes. Unfortunately, my Fitbit activity tracker didn’t record it as exercise.

This week has been a pretty good one. I hope it’s been the same for you.

As a side note, i just realized it’s December already! Wow, how time flies! I was planning on checking out advent calendars, only to realize the first day of Advent already passed yesterday. Can you believe it’s almost 2019? I can’t!

Gratitude List (November 23, 2018) #TToT

It’s been forever since I last shared a gratitude list. Since yesterday was Thanksgiving in the United States, I felt it’d be about time again that I post one. Here goes. As usual, I’m linking up with #TToT.

1. An extra afternoon at day activities. In fact, I started writingg this post while there. As of last week, I go to day activities each Tuesday and Friday for the whole day (and Monday and Wednesday mornings). I am loving it.

2. Horseback riding. I had to shift my riding lessons to another day to be able to go to day activities for the whole day on Friday. The only day off I now still have is Thursday. The riding instructor didn’t have a volunteer then to help me, but my support worker offered to help me. Yesterday was the first time I went riding on a Thursday. It was great!

3. A long walk with my support coordinator. Normally, we walk to the ferry at the end of my road and back. This is about 2.5km total. On Wednesday, I asked her to walk in the other direction. We walked all the way to the next village and back. This totals over 3km.

4. Chinese takeaway. On Sunday, my father-in-law came to our house to watch soccer and other men’s programs (that I secretly do like) with my husband. Usually, he “cooks” for us on these days and this time, it was Chinese. I loved it. I did suffer bowel cramps and bloating for several days after it, but who cares?

5. French fries for lunch. To continue on the food track, we had French fries for lunch at day activities on Wednesday. The reason was they still had some money that needed to be spent by the end of the year. The staff were initially worried that we wouldn’t have a full meal, but we definitely did! It was so tasty! I was a little scared that my husband would be angry because of my weight gain, but he wasn’t.

6. My new stuffed bear. I already got it two weeks ago, but am still so grateful for it. My mother-in-law won it at an event she went to for the animal shelter she works for. I’m calling it Little Bear, because my husband has a big bear too. That one is a little damaged and the littles not-so-secretly want another one, so that we have both little and big bear for ourselves.

7. Swimming. I went swimming with day activities again on Tuesday. This time, I swam a record 52 pool lengths.

8. Getting my hair done. On Friday, the support coordinator at my day activities group braided my hair. I didn’t even know I had long enough hair for that, but apparently I do. On Tuesday, a staff at another group made an even more beautiful braid.

9. New books to read. Last week, I moved all my eBooks and Bookshare books from my computer to my iPhone, because I could no longer read them on my computer. I have since been greatly enjoying reading. I haven’t bought any new books as of yet, but I did download several books off Bookshare.

10. My mood still being pretty good. I can’t say it’s great, but it’s not bad either.

What have you been thankful for in the past week?

Book Review: Where Has Mummy Gone? by Cathy Glass

I bought Where Has Mummy Gone? by Cathy Glass on Kindle right when it came out early last month, but didn’t finish it till yesterday. Not because it wasn’t a good book, but because I struggled to make time for reading. Today, I’m reviewing this foster care memoir.

Synopsis

The true story of Melody, aged 8, the last of five siblings to be taken from her drug dependent single mother and brought into care.

When Cathy is told about Melody’s terrible childhood, she is sure she’s heard it all before. But it isn’t long before she feels there is more going on than she or the social services are aware of. Although Melody is angry at having to leave her mother, as many children coming into care are, she also worries about her obsessively – far more than is usual. Amanda, Melody’s mother, is also angry and takes it out on Cathy at contact, which again is something Cathy has experienced before. Yet there is a lost and vulnerable look about Amanda, and Cathy starts to see why Melody worries about her and feels she needs looking after.

When Amanda misses contact, it is assumed she has forgotten, but nothing could have been further from the truth…

My Review

The subtitle listed on Amazon for this book is “A Young Girl and a Mother Who No Longer Knoews Her”. From this subtitle, I already guessed that Amanda, Melody’s mother, might’ve suffered some form of brain damage. Perhaps she was in an accident and had gone into a persistent vegetative state? The thought of dementia also crossed my mind, but I dismissed this when I found out early in the book that Amanda was only 42.

Despite the fact that I had some inkling of where this book might be headed, the twists and turns did surprise me. It was heartbreaking to read about Amanda’s decline. The book ended on a really bittersweet note.

I loved Cathy Glass’ narrative style. I deveoped a liking for each of the characters. Amanda, of course, elicited pity with her illness, but I also got to appreciate the attempts she’d made at caring for Melody before she was taken into foster care. Cathy maintains a mostly unbiased yet positive attitude throughout the book. I thoroguhly enjoyed the book, despite its emotive subject matter.

Book Details

Title: Where Has Mummy Gone?: A Young Girl and a Mother Who No Longer Knows Her
Author: Cathy Glass
Publisher: Harper Element
Publication Date: September 6, 2018

Belated Weekly Gratitude List (September 29, 2018) #TToT

I didn’t participate in #TToT last week. Yesterday, I was going to write just when I realized it was time to go off to bed, since my husband would need to get up at 5AM this morning. I for this reason didn’t write my #TToT post then. I’m feeling slightly less depressed than I was over the past couple of weeks, but my depression is still there. I am therefore going to attempt to write a list of things I’m grateful for again.

1. Exercise. I had a pretty hard time exercsing regularly last week. This week was better. I managed around 3 1/2 hours of exercise this past week according to my Fitbit and reached my five-day goal. It does count walking as exercise, but I also managed to go on the elliptical twice.

2. Swimming. Last Tuesday, I went swimming at day activities again. I hadn’t been going the previous time two weeks ago, because I had a cold then. This time, there was no extra staff for me. The volunteer watching me however complimented me on my independence. By the way, my Fitbit is water-proof so it did record my swimming activity.

3. An afternoon at my in-laws. On Tuesday, I didn’t have support after day activities, so I asked whether I could stay at my in-laws. My mother-in-law picked me up at 3PM and I was home again by 7:30.

4. Possibly extending my day activities hours. This we discussed on Thursday, when my support coordinator and assigned day activities staff came to my home. Hopefully come October 9, I’ll stay at day activities Tuesday afternoons. I hope to eventually be able to go four full days, but that has yet to be determined.

5. A good session with my nurse practitioner. We did continue to work the DBT manual, but I felt more able to contribute my own thoughts than I was before. Before, it felt like he was just reading the manual to me and I was unable to make sense of it.

6. Buying nice things at the wholesale store today. My mother-in-law has a customer card for them and I went with her. I got a pair of warm slippers, a night gown, two bras and a chocolate bar.

7. Browsing Amazon for Kindle books. It seems as though Adobe Digital Editions eventually decided no longer to work with at least my rather outdated version of the JAWS screen reader. That’s sad, as I have a lot of DRM-proteced EPUB books in there. However, it gave me a reason to browse the Amazon Kindle store too. I haven’t bought any books, since I still haven’t finished those in my library. Still, browsing the store is already a lot of fun.

8. Being at least a little inspired to write. I didn’t write everyday this past month. Not nearly. However, since having this blog, I never fell into as much of a rut as I did with my other blog regularly. That is, there haven’t been two consecutive days that I haven’t written at all since starting this blog. I should be proud of this! This really gives me hope. I will be participating in #Write31Days in October and am positive I will finish the challenge this year. Yesterday, a ton of ideas to write about started popping up into my mind again.

I notice I’m having a little bit of a hard time finding things to be thankful for this week. I wanted to mention horseback riding or the long walk on Monday, but those are on my list almost every week. I felt this’d get boring. However, I mention them here anyway to make a point out of being grateful for my everyday experiences.

Weekly Gratitude List (September 7, 2018) #TToT

I’m extremely tired and don’t feel like writing. I’m also falling into the trap that killed my other blog, taking it too seriously. That is, I can’t keep from comparing myself to “influencers”, which I am not and will never be. It’s a sad truth, but to be truly influential these days you need to be able to create visual content, which I, being blind, can’t do.

As a result of all this, I’m feeling a bit sad today. This makes me even more unmotivated to look at the bright side and create a gratitude list, but I’m going to try anyway. Here, hence, is my weekly gratitude list.

1. A nice walk with my husband on Sunday. I’ve had trouble sticking to an exercise routine over the past week. In other words, I’ve not been on the elliptical at all. For this reason, I’m extra glad my husband offered to go on a walk with me.

2. The new intern at day activities. She’s nice and seems very competent.

3. A good visit with my in-laws on Tuesday. We had a power outage, so I texted my mother-in-law whether I could stay with them to do some computer work. My husband’s 16-year-old cousin was staying at my in-laws and she was delighted to see me.

4. Nice food. We didn’t have the most high-class meals this past week, but I don’t like those anyway. My husband makes delicious pasta – very simple but so good. I also have been eating a ton of fruit lately.

5. Still another day that the weather was good enough to wear a skirt. I wrote a few weeks ago that we’d probably passed the last day for the year that I could wear a skirt, but Wednesday was a surprisingly warm day. I loved it. Thursday was chilly and rainy, but today has been okay too.

6. My home support and mental health staff. I wasn’t feeling very well yesterday – very tired, confusd and dissociated. My support worker noticed and was trying to help me as much as she could. I rang my mental health team eventually. The on-call nurse didn’t know how to help me, but offered to leave a message with my nurse rpactitioner to call me back. He did and he helped me find ways to snap out of the downward spiral.

7. Eating a delicous macaroon today. Because the weather was still nice and we didn’t know whether it’d stay that way (it didn’t), one of the day activities staff took us to the marketplace early this morning. We bought a delicious cookie for everyone and I chose a macaroon. It was sweet, but oh so delicious!

8. Horseback riding again. The weather was okay again in the afternoon, so we actually went outside. It was so lovely. Angie, my horse, did a very good job and the trotting was so much fun.

9. Books. I bought the new Cathy Glass book yesterday and have been greatly enjoying it. For those not familiar with her, Glass is a UK foster carer and writer of memoirs about the children she’s fostered. This new book is really sad so far, but it’s good.

10. Getting so many things I’m thankful for listed even though I originally wasn’t motivated for it. I just had to write that as a separate item to get to ten things. Not that we’re required to do ten things, but it just looked so cool.

Linking up with Ten Things of Thankful as usual.

The Last Book

Today’s question of the day over at My Inner MishMash is: What was the last book you purchased or borrowed at the library. I loved this question so am going to answer it here.

I rarely borrow books through the Dutch library system. I am a member of the library for the blind, but use it mostly for the access to magazines, as I prefer English-language over Dutch books. As such, I’ve not downloaded a book out of the online library in months. I also have a subscription to Bookshare, an American-based book service for print disabled people. However, since the software I use to read Bookshare’s books won’t boot anymore, I don’t read books from Bookshare really anymore and won’t until I’ve either figured out a mobile app or bought a new computer.

I also used to buy books in EPUB format from Kobo. The software I use for reading those files, Adobe Digital Editions, however has destroyed several of my eBooks already. I was so happy when I recently discovered Kindle. I love it.

I haven’t downloaded that many books on Kindle yet. The last one I bought was Journaling: This Is My Life by Emilee Day. This is a book of journaling tips and writing prompts. I bought it because I looked for inspirational writing prompts and this one looked to be the best for its cost.

Besides this one, I have a ton of books and files containing journaling prompts in my Adobe Digital Editions, in my Bookshare books library and scattered on my computer. I just love them. It’s not even that I use them for direct inspiration often, but having these books does motivate me to write. Or so I like to think. Some of these prompts are really thought-provoking. I must say the Emilee Day book is a little disappointing as far as I can tell now.