The Tuesday Four (September 13, 2022)

Hi everyone. Just after I discovered the Wednesday HodgePodge, one of its participants alerted me to another weekly meme called the Tuesday 4. Today, because I’m bored and yet want to write, I’ll join in. This week’s questions are rather simple, yet they allow for much discussion if one so decides.

1. Are you happy with the way your life is going?
Well, it’s complicated. Right now, I’d say yes, but I’ve had to travel quite the bumpy road to get here and there’s still a lot of room for improvement. For example, I would hopefully be even happier with the way my life is going once I’m in a more suitable care home. Besides, the fact that I answer “Yes” to this question, is also dependent upon the fact that I’m in a pretty good mood.

2. Are you planning any trips in the future?
Not trips as in longer travels, but my husband and I just decided to go for a day trip to Zwolle on Sunday in honor of our eleventh wedding anniversary on Monday. Zwolle is the nearest city to where I live in the care facility. We decided to go on Sunday rather than Monday because most restaurants are closed on Mondays.

3. Are you reading anything at the moment or do you plan on reading something interesting?
I am currently reading A Family Torn Apart by Cathy Glass, a foster care memoir. I love fostering and other inspirational memoirs and have read quite a few of Cathy Glass’s other books.

4. What’s for supper tonight at your house?
I live in a care facility, as regular readers know, and we get our meals delivered to be warmed in an oven or microwave. I had potatoes, mixed veggies and a chicken sausage. I rarely choose potatoes from the meal delivery company, but apparently all other choices from the menu were even worse.

As of September 1, the company has decided to provide whole-grain pasta and brown rice instead of regular pasta or rice, something I mostly consider a good thing. The brown rice takes a little getting used to. They also upped the amount of veg in their meals from 150 to 200 grams. I hardly notice it in the pasta or rice dishes and I wonder whether they skipped those. I mean, originally they weren’t providing the whole-grain pasta or brown rice on the so-called “pasta menu”, which I usually pick from, so only the twice a month or so that the regular menu serves pasta or rice as an option was that the healthy alternative. Thankfully, enough people were complaining that the healthier food was not really happening so that they did change it across the board. I wonder whether they did the same with the increased amount of veg though. In any case, I had enough veg in my meal today.

Reading Wrap-Up (August 22, 2022) #IMWAYR

Hi everyone. I’ve been doing a lot of reading over the past week, so I thought I’d share a reading wrap-up once again. As usual, I’m joining It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR). Here goes.

What I’m Currently Reading

After I finished my last book on Saturday, I was thinking of starting a memoir. After looking through Bookshare’s biography and memoir category for a bit and reading the summaries of several books, I finally settled on All My Friends Are Invisible by Jonathan Joly. This is a memoir about the author’s life growing up surrounded by imaginary friends. I’m pretty sure that, further yet, the author could be diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, but so far this term hasn’t been mentioned.

Other than that, I picked up My Heart and Other Black holes by Jasmine Warga again. I’m not sure why I even want to finish it, other than to prove to myself that I can finish a book that doesn’t deserve at least a four-star rating. It’s so predictable. Maybe I’m hoping for some intriguing plot twist, but so far at 62%, no such luck.

What I Recently Finished Reading

I finished two books in the past week. One is Six Weeks to Live by Catherine McKenzie, which I reviewed on Tuesday. The other is a winter special in the Unicorn Magic series by Daisy Meadows called Snowstar and the Big Freeze. This chapter book was the perfect antidote to the hot weather. Or something like that. I honestly don’t know why I picked it in the middle of August, but I did and it was good.

What I Think I’ll Read Next

I once again have no idea. I’m a true mood reader, so whenever I finish a book, I grab whatever strikes my fancy next. That’s how I got to pick the Jonathan Joly memoir too. I mean, I literally hadn’t heard of it minutes before I started reading it. So yeah, I might read another chapter book on magical creatures, since I have several downloaded off Bookshare. However, I may also be in the mood for another thriller. Who knows? I currently don’t.

What have you been reading recently?

Book Review: Six Weeks to Live by Catherine McKenzie

Hi everyone. Like I said a few weeks ago, I started reading Six Weeks to Live by Catherine McKenzie. I discovered it on BookBub, then downloaded it off Bookshare. I finished the book just before midnight yesterday, so here are my thoughts.

Book Blurb

A gripping psychological suspense novel about a woman diagnosed with cancer who sets out to discover if someone poisoned her before her time is up

Jennifer Barnes never expected the shocking news she received at a routine doctor’s appointment: she has a terminal brain tumor—and only six weeks left
to live.

While stunned by the diagnosis, the forty-eight-year-old mother decides to spend what little time she has left with her family—her adult triplets and twin
grandsons—close by her side. But when she realizes she was possibly poisoned a year earlier, she’s determined to discover who might have tried to get rid
of her before she’s gone for good.

Separated from her husband and with a contentious divorce in progress, Jennifer focuses her suspicions on her soon-to-be ex. Meanwhile, her daughters are
each processing the news differently. Calm medical student Emily is there for whatever Jennifer needs. Moody scientist Aline, who keeps her mother at arm’s
length, nonetheless agrees to help with the investigation. Even imprudent Miranda, who has recently had to move back home, is being unusually solicitous.

But with her daughters doubting her campaign against their father, Jennifer can’t help but wonder if the poisoning is all in her head—or if there’s someone
else who wanted her dead.

My Review

The story is told in short chapters and from alternating viewpoints. Jennifer’s story is told in first-person perspective, while her three daughters’ viewpoints are displayed in third-person perspective. I loved both of these aspects. The short chapters allowed me to lay aside the book for a bit when I wanted to do something other than read. The alternating viewpoints allowed me to gain a nice glimpse into each character’s mind, while the fact that Jennifer’s perspective was the only first-person perspective made it clear that she’s supposed to be the center of attention.

I originally thought the book was on the predictable side for a thriller, believing I’d figured out who caused Jennifer’s poisoning by 22% and the exact nature of the ending by 57%. I was wrong. So wrong. In fact, I didn’t figure out the exact nature of the situation until the very end of the book and it’s not because of some stupid plot twist that makes no sense other than it being required to show the reader that this was a thriller after all. In fact, the story is really well-constructed. I once again had trouble letting go of it once I’d finished it. I gave it a five-star rating again even though I noticed its average rating on Goodreads is only 3.65 stars. I’m not even sure I’d give it a 4.5-star rating if I could this time around.

See more details about this book on its Goodreads page.

Unicorns, Of Course! #SoCS

Unicorns are my favorite mythical creatures. When I saw that this week’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “U” – to start your post with a word beginning with the letter “U” -, I of course had to go with “unicorn”.

Not that I know much about the origins or meanings of unicorns. I mean, I love reading chapter books about them, in which they are always described as having magical powers. For example, in the Branches Books early chapter book Bo’s Magical New Friend, a unicorn tries to help discover her friend’s power. In a chapter book for slightly more advanced readers, Twilight, Say Cheese! by Daisy Sunshine, a unicorn has trouble containing her power of invisibility.

In addition to books, I love stuffed unicorns. I have two. One is Sophie/Rainbow, who has two names because two of my blog readers independently came up with names for her. She is a white unicorn with rainbow-colored mane. The other is completely white and I call her Snowflake.

I also love crafting unicorns out of polymer clay, though I haven’t done it much lately because I haven’t found a way to prevent the thing it stands on from bending and/or developing air bubbles. I do really want to create another unicorn soon, but am too busy with the presents for various people to get to that one. I already have the colors I want to use for my next polymer clay unicorn though. It will be three different intensity levels of a bright green.

Book Review: The Words We Keep by Erin Stewart

A few weeks ago, I was looking for something new to read and decided to look on Bookshare whether authors I’d previously enjoyed, had had books released that I hadn’t yet read. It turned out Erin Stewart had. The Words We Keep was already released a few months ago, but I hadn’t yet known about it. Its blurb immediately appealed to me, as I am myself a mental health consumer and I love poetry. Here’s my review.

Summary

It’s been three months since The Night on the Bathroom Floor–when Lily found her older sister Alice hurting herself. Ever since then, Lily has been desperately trying to keep things together, for herself and for her family. But now Alice is coming home from her treatment program and it is becoming harder for Lily to ignore all of the feelings she’s been trying to outrun.

Enter Micah, a new student at school with a past of his own. He was in treatment with Alice and seems determined to get Lily to process not only Alice’s experience, but her own. Because Lily has secrets, too. Compulsions she can’t seem to let go of and thoughts she can’t drown out.

When Lily and Micah embark on an art project for school involving finding poetry in unexpected places, she realizes that it’s the words she’s been swallowing that desperately want to break through.

My Review

This story is told entirely from Lily’s point of view in first person perspective. I like that, as it shows Lily’s innermost thoughts and experiences through her own eyes. Interspersed are Lily’s made-up words (which took me a while to figure out weren’t actually real English words) and her poems. These aren’t particularly excellent, but they definitely give me a glimpse into her world too. Besides, my poetry as a teen (or even now) is probably worse.

Even though this book deals with heavy subject material, I really wanted it to be a feel-good read too. In this sense, some of the twists I didn’t see coming, disappointed me a little, but they were also important to the overall story.

I really liked Erin Stewart’s writing style of alternating between storytelling and such vignettes as poetry or Lily’s made-up words.

Overall, I gave this book five stars on Goodreads, but I would’ve given it 4.5 stars if Goodreads did half stars. The reason is the disappointment I felt at some of the plot twists. This book really gave me a bit of a book hangover.

Book Details

Title: The Words We Keep
Author: Erin Stewart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: March 15, 2022

The Wednesday HodgePodge (August 3, 2022)

Hello all! It’s Wednesday again and I thought I’d join in with the Wednesday HodgePodge. Here goes.

1. Do you have a sister? Tell us something about her. If you don’t have a sister, tell us about a friend who has been like a sister. Or tell us about a sister-in-law if you have one who is extra special.
I have one sister. She is two years younger than me, although when we were kids, people always thought we were either twins or she was the older one. She always envied me because I got more attention from our parents than she got (though it was mostly negative attention). In terms of the roles often described in dysfunctional families, she was the lost child, while I was a strange mix of scapegoat and golden child.

Currently, she lives in the far northwest of the country, close by the sea, with her husband and two girls. She will be starting training to become a childcare worker soon.

2. Resister, assister, insister, persister…choose one and explain how it relates to you and your life lately.
All of them relate to me in some way. Well, maybe except for “assister”, in that I don’t really assist anyone myself, but rather am on the receiving end of assistance. As for “resister” and “persister”, they usually go hand in hand, in a kind of paradoxical way.

3. Share a favorite song, book, movie, or television program that features sisters.
A book that’s been turned into a movie comes to mind: My Sister’s Keeper by jodi Picoult. It was the first Picoult novel I read, before I knew killing off her characters was her way of writing (oh, sorry if that’s a spoiler, but the book and movie have both been out forever). In this book though, it made sense. In others, not so much.

4. August 3rd is national watermelon day…are you a fan? Do you like watermelon flavored candy? Besides eating the melon as is, do you have a good recipe made with watermelon?
I do like watermelon, but it’s not like I’m a huge fan. I’ve never had watermelon-flavored candy, so no opinions on that. I don’t really know a recipe with watermelon, but I still need to try it in my fruit infusion bottle. I did try a few pieces of a galia melon in it, but that didn’t taste good.

5. ‘Tis August…what are three things you’re looking forward to this month?
Crafting quite a bit. Several fellow clients at the care facility I know well have their birthdays this month and I want to create them a present. Seeing my husband’s new-to-him car, that he will be getting on Saturday. Maybe driving to some nearby town or city we haven’t been to yet with my husband.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
I am so glad that my crafty mojo seems to be returning in time for these fellow residents’ birthdays. Also, if you all have any idea what I could create for my husband’s and my wedding anniversary on September 19, I’d love to know. I bought a heart-shaped canvas that I can decorate with paint, polymer clay and/or other media, but I am truly out of ideas as to what exactly to do.

Reading Wrap-Up (August 1, 2022) #IMWAYR

Hi everyone. I finally seem to be getting back into a reading groove again. Let me share what I’ve been up to in the book department. As usual, I’m joining in with It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?.

What I’m Currently Reading

I just started reading Six Weeks to Live by Catherine McKenzie last night. I think I discovered it on BookBub, but I downloaded it off Bookshare rather than buying it on Apple Books or Amazon. The blurb really interested me and, so far, the short chapters and alternating viewpoints, really add to its appeal.

In addition, I finally picked up The Choices We Make by Karma Brown again. I find it surprising I still remember the plot to a degree, given how long I’ve taken to read it thus far.

What I Recently Finished Reading

Only one book and it was one I haven’t mentioned in a reading wrap-up before. Can you see how long it’s been since I’ve done one of these? Yesterday, I finished The Words We Keep by Erin Stewart. I loved the book, but won’t say much more, since I’m planning on writing a review soon. It did get me thinking I really want to find a better book tracking app than GoodReads though. I tried StoryGraph, but that app doesn’t have the default iOS app layout I’m used to and is really hard to work.

What I Think I’ll Read Next

I still have a ton of books I may or may not want to get to. One function I wish GoodReads had, is a Did-Not-Finish shelf. I know you can create one, but it would be so much easier if it were there by default. That way, I could shelf away books I may want to list as having read but that I just don’t find the time for to finish at this point. As it is, these are on my Currently-Reading shelf, which is rapidly clogging up. After the Cure by Deirdre Gould has probably been on it for two years.

Then there is my ever-growing list of books I may want to read someday. I have a ton of romance novels, mysteries and other “easy” adult reading that I downloaded for free off Apple Books or Amazon.

Then there’s kidlit. When my husband paid for the renewal of my Bookshare subscription last June, he noticed I’d been downloading books on unicorns a lot. These are children’s books, of course. Indeed, during the month of June, I read a few books about unicorns, namely the first book in the Unicorn University series by Daisy Sunshine and the first book in the Unicorn Diaries Branches Books series. I think when Six Weeks to Live gets too heavy for me, I’ll make a detour to the next installment in one of these series.

What have you been reading?

Book Review: I Just Want to Be Loved by Casey Watson

Hi everyone. Like I said when writing my reading wrap-up last week, Casey Watson had a new foster care memoir out. Actually, it came out in mid-April already but I didn’t find out until a few weeks ago. Even though I was worried that Apple Books might mess with the book, I decided to buy it anyway and guess what? It was fine! Here’s my review.

Summary

After taking a few weeks off work, Casey is presented with a new foster child: 14-year-old Elise, whose Mum left her at just five years old.

At first, she’s no trouble at all, that is until she falsely accuses another carer, Jan, of acting inappropriately towards her. It turns out this isn’t the first lie Elise has told – her previous carer was constantly following up allegations Elise had made of people bullying her, trying to have sex with her, or hurting her physically. With some reservations, Casey agrees to take Elise on long-term, but when she makes some dark claims about her mum, Casey doesn’t know whether to believe her. In any case, she is determined to find out the truth…

My Review

As regular readers of this blog will know, I love foster care memoirs. I especially love reading about older children and teens, as their personalities are usually more formed, for the obvious reason, than those of young children. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Elise at first: she seems really shallow. This does get me wondering whether this book is going to be boring. But the exact opposite is true.

Most foster care memoirs aren’t too fast-paced and I can usually see the twists coming. This one, though, was far from predictable. Since the chapters also didn’t have titles, I couldn’t guess what was coming from there.

The story was written in such a manner that I kept going along with the characters’ emotions. As such, at first, I felt like Elise, much like the teen in one of Casey’s other books was quite difficult, to the point where, if she’d been an adult, she’d be diagnosed with some cluster B personality disorder. Of course, this makes the dramatic change in Elise’s behavior after her disclosures hard to believe, but then again she’s a teen, not a grown-up.

Overall, I found this story really evocative and gave it a solid five stars. I liked it at least as much as the one I linked above, which I also gave five stars.

Book Details

Title: I Just Want to Be Loved
Author: Casey Watson
Publisher: HarperElement
Publication Date: April 14, 2022

Five Things I’m Glad I Bought #5Things

Today’s topic for #5Things is things you’re happy about having bought. I have bought a lot of things that I later regretted buying, most recently my Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones. Thankfully, after a long ordeal with the vendor, I got my money back. Hence, here are five things I’m actually happy about having bought.

1. my iPhone. I’m currently on my second one, having used the previous model for nearly three years. The current one, I’ve had for two years tomorrow I think. It’s an iPhone SE 2020. My previous one was the original SE. I am still debating with myself whether I want to get the SE 2022 or wait if they’re going to release a 14 Mini in the fall. I originally got an iPhone because of its more advanced accessibility features compared to phones running Android. Even though iOS has been causing some more or less serious bugs with each major update since I got my original iPhone except for iOS 12, I still agree iPhone’s the best.

2. My laptop. I got my first laptop when I was eleven and got my current screen reader, JAWS, when I was fifteen. In fact, yesterday marked twenty years online for me. I had to buy my own laptops from age twenty on. I use a Windows laptop and yes, I’ve tried a Mac but no, that one’s not for me. Oh wait, I didn’t actually buy my current laptop, since my mother-in-law paid for it in exchange for my Mac. Never mind.

3. My current headphones. Okay, they’re only three weeks old, so I’m still waiting for them to bite the bullet as my Bose ones did. However, those crashed within just over two weeks, so the current ones have already surpassed those. Besides, the Bose headphones cost €240, while these cost €50. They’re a Chinese brand, which is why I can’t for the life of me remember the brand name, but my husband Googled it and said it’s a good-enough Chinese brand.

4. Lots of polymer clay and crafting supplies. I mean, of course there are a couple of things I don’t really use, but most things I bought myself, I do actually love. Most recently, I bought a hand drill and a huge set of small drill bits, to drill holes into my earring pieces etc. I had some trouble figuring the thing out and for a bit thought I shouldn’t have bought the things, but now that I know how to use the drill, it’s fab.

5. Books. I don’t normally buy books, as I get most of them on Bookshare. That being the case, when I do buy a book, it’s usually one I won’t regret having bought. Most recently, I bought the latest Casey Watson foster care memoir and, while I feared the Apple Books app would have trouble with it, it didn’t.

What is one of your happiest purchases?

Reading Wrap-Up (May 23, 2022) #IMWAYR

Hi everyone. I have been trying to get back into reading again. Let me share what I’ve read recently. Here goes. As usual, I’m joining in with It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR).

What I’m Currently Reading

I finally picked up Thrive by Kenneth Oppel again a few weeks ago and no, I still haven’t finished it. It sounds like this book is more character-driven than the prequels and I’m not sure I love or hate that.

I’ve also been reading Unleashed by Emily Kimelman, an intriguing mystery. In nonfiction, I am reading 999 – My Life on the Frontline of the Ambulance Service by Dan Farnworth.

Finally, I recently learned that Bookshare, the service I use for downloading accessible eBooks, now also does audiobooks. I didn’t try them, but this did get me inspired to check out Apple’s audiobook collection. There’s this collection of free classics on the Apple books app. I initially wanted to get Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, but the reviews said that its narrator was almost worse than the first version of Siri, as monotonous as he spoke. So I decided to go for something much more light-hearted, in a way, and pick Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I can now see why other people with dissociative identity disorder find it offensive or triggering.

What I Recently Finished Reading

I am known for starting a ton of books and rarely finishing them, unless I really, really love them. Or unless they’re really short. This was the case with the early chapter book Bo’s Magical New Friend by Rebecca Elliott. I love love love unicorns and had heard about the Branches Books before, so I really wanted to try if I (and my inner child parts) liked them. Despite it being a really quick read (for me, of course), the plot was quite intriguing and I’m sure any newly-independent readers who love unicorns will love this one. I must say that, due to the illustrations, some of the text got muddled in the Bookshare book.

What I Think I’ll Read Next

I started another chapter book series, besides the one I mentioned above, on unicorns a while back. It’s the Unicorn University series and the chapters are longer. I saw that the author, Daisy Sunshine, recently added another book to the series. I’ll definitely have to read more of those books.

I also saw that Casey Watson has a new foster care memoir out. However, Apple Books is acting up, in that sometimes at the end of a paragraph or page words are missing in VoiceOver (Apple’s built-in screen reader). For this reason, I’m hesitant to buy books off Apple Books.

What have you been reading lately?