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?

#IWSG: Writing Without Reading?

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) day. This months’ optional question is about your thoughts re whether reading is required for writing.

In August, I did a good amount of both reading and writing. In September, my reading went almost entirely out the window and I also wrote far less than I intended. However, I still managed to write at least one blog post each week.

To answer the question, for fiction writing, I think reading is essential. Of course, this means your writing is a mixture of your own ideas and someone else’s, but a good fiction writer (which I’m not) can write imaginatively enough to appeal to readers looking for an original viewpoint. My own fiction writing has always bordered on plagiarism, if it wasn’t actually plagiarism.

For non-fiction, I tend to think that original viewpoints are good, but they require some level of familiarity. I have read blogs where the author’s words were so jumbled that I couldn’t make sense of them. I also happen to love personal essays or blog posts I can relate to.

I for one love both reading and writing prompted pieces. I like to read about other people’s original perspecctives on a common theme. For this, reading is essential for writing. Even so, I don’t tend to read others’ responses to prompts I participate in before posting my own. So well, there are two sides to this story and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

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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#IWSG: Writing About Myself

Yay, it’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) to come together and share our writing journey. This past month has been better than the month of May. I wrote twice as many blog posts and have generally been feeling more motivated to write.

I still want to be more courageous and creative with my writing. I have been able to venture somewhat out of my comfort zone with a few stream of consciousness writings. I would still love to try my hand at poetry and flash fiction again, but am too insecure right now.

The optional question for this month’s #IWSG day is about incorporating aspects of yourself into your characters. Since I no longer write fiction and almost all my writings are about myself, this question may seem off.

However, when I still wrote fiction regularly, this question was very applicable. Not only did I incorporate a lot of aspects of myself into my characters, but the other way around too. Let me explain.

As regular readers of my blog might know, I have (currently undiagnosed) dissociative identity disorder (DID). This used to be known as multiple personality disorder. People with DID have at least two separate identities or personality states, each with their own unique way of perceiving and relating to the world.

DID usually first develops in early childhood as a result of prolonged trauma, but people who dissociated early on, often continue to do so during times of stress into adolescence and adulthood. For me, the time of my most serious dissociation was adolescence. This was also the time I wrote fiction the most. I incorporated a lot of aspects of myself into my characters. Often, my characters were blind or, if they weren’t, they faced some other challenge that set them apart. Most characters had difficulty making friends like myself. The main character in the story I got the farthest with, didn’t have a disability, but her mother had multiple sclerosis.

I often used writing as an escape from reality. As such, with my dissociative tendencies, some of my characters developed into alters. These are called fictives. One of them is now one of the main fronters (personalities presenting themselves to the outside world). She was in a way deliberately created. At least, the character was. I had difficulty explaining myself and my struggles to my parents and teachers, so my high school tutor allowed me to express myself through fiction. That’s how Kirsten came about. Kirsten is blind and has many of the struggles I do. Currently, we present as her when we can’t show the world that we have DID but we’re feeling very much split anyway.

#IWSG: What I Love to Read and Write

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) post. I forgot about it altogether until I saw another blogger post their #IWSG post.

This past month, I’ve not been writing much. I published only nine blog posts here and overall haven’t been very active in writing on the Internet at all. I did try out several new writing apps, but none suited me. Maybe that’s because I’d still have to actually have something to write on.

This month’s optional question for the #IWSG post is about your favorite genre to read and write. The question is probably mostly geard towards fiction writers, but I don’t care. I’m going to answer it anyway.

With regards to reading, the genre I read most often is memoir. However, the genre I enjoy most reading is young adult, specifically novels about social issues. I rarely read fiction geared towards older adults, though I’ve come to read it some more recently. In general, the topics I most like to read about are legal and medical issues.

With respect to writing, well, I hardly write fiction anymore, if at all. I would love to try my hand at poetry again soon, but am finding it hard to know where to start. I mean, poetry when I was a teen used to be just a story with random line breaks inserted, but that’s not what it is.

My favorite genre to write in, hence, is memoir. On this blog, I most enjoy writing the personal reflections. Particularly though, the letters I’ve written to myself have been the most interesting to write. It’s sad that my personal reflections are not among the most popular posts on my blog.

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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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