Book Review: Abby, Tried and True by Donna Gephart

About a week ago, I was browsing the children’s book category on Bookshare and I came across the realistic middle grade novel Abby, Tried and True by Donna Gephart. Gephart was a new to me author even though she’s had eight middle grade novels published so far.

I was already reading four different books at the same time, but needed something, uhm, lighter? Not that the subject matter of this book is light, but I did expect it to be more easy to read than the adult novels I was reading. I raced through the first 80% of this book, then let it sit there because the #AtoZChallenge got in the way. I eventually decided to finish the book last night. Let me share my thoughts.

Summary

When Abby Braverman’s best friend, Cat, moves to Israel, she’s sure it’s the worst thing that could happen. But then her older brother, Paul, is diagnosed with cancer, and life upends again. Now it’s up to Abby to find a way to navigate seventh grade without her best friend, help keep her brother’s spirits up during difficult treatments, and figure out her surprising new feelings for the boy next door.

My Review

First, let me share that this book is really good with respect to its representation of diverse characters. Abby and her family are Jewish, which in a way shouldn’t be surprising, but it was to me. Abby has two Moms and nowhere is there a mention of a biological father. Abby just corrects people who assume she must have a Mom and a Dad.

Second, Abby is a truly great character. At first, she seems a bit dorky, but her sense of humor is apparent pretty quickly. I really loved the word jokes in this book. One of them, about Mom Rachel’s cooking YouTube, I didn’t even get until I’d finished the book.

Despite the tough subject matter of Paul’s cancer, this is a really lighthearted read. I don’t mean that the hard parts are sugarcoated – they aren’t. I mean, Paul truly experiences grief and sadness and this is made very clear. However, through Abby’s strength, I keep feeling that everything will be okay in the end.

The side characters are also very well-developed. I totally rooted for Conrad, the boy next door Abby has feelings for. However, there are also more negative characters out there. That makes this story believable and yet positive at the same time.

Overall, I loved this story. I gave it a solid five stars on Goodreads.

Book Details

Title: Abby, Tried and True
Author: Donna Gephart
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 9, 2021

Gratitude List (March 5, 2021) #TToT

It’s Friday again and I badly want to write. I’m feeling quite distressed by emotional flashbacks right now. To turn my mood around, I thought I’d do a gratitude list again. As usual, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT).

1. I am grateful to live in a care facility. I feel very insecure about my living arrangement right now, but my staff reassure me that I don’t have to leave. I am so extremely grateful for my staff’s patience with my anxiety!

2. I am grateful my staff make sure someone comes to sub when a staff is ill or has other obligations. Today, my day activities staff had to leave unexpectedly at around 1PM, but the staff made sure someone came to take her place. In the psychiatric hospital, we’d just be left with fewer staff if this happened.

3. I am grateful for chicken Siam. A fellow client and staff cooked that up for this evening and I totally love it! This client can’t have the cashews that normally go in, so there’s more left for me. 😉

4. I am grateful I got my second shot of the vaccine yesterday. I am also grateful that I didn’t experience any side effects. In fact, I hardly even felt the needle go in, so worried at first that they were doing something wrong. I try to trust that I got the vaccine correctly though.

5. I am grateful for God’s presence in my life. I have been extra involved with my Bible reading lately. I am grateful I finally figured out how to bookmark, highlight or copy verses in the YouVersion app and how to add notes or prayers.

6. I am grateful for all the lovely treats the staff who left our home last week, left for us. We had winegums, candy bars, ice cream and more.

7. I am grateful for no rain this week. It’s cold outside, but usually sunny. For this reason, I was able to get in over 10K steps each day of the week so far (not counting today, but I will later).

8. I am grateful I’m done with dentistry appts for at least another several months. My experience at the dentist’s was pretty bad last Tuesday, by no fault of the dentist. Let me just say I’m glad I’ve got it over with.

9. I am grateful I got to talk to my parents on the phone on Monday and that they are well. I had a nice chat. I will need to phone my sister later too. My parents were going to visit her and her family on Tuesday.

10. I am grateful for the ability to chat to other clients, including those from other homes within my care facility. I chatted some with a guy from the home next to us while we met outside of the day center a few days back. We used to go on walks together with the staff and also have coffee at each other’s homes, but due to COVID restrictions we no longer can. I am looking forward to being able to hang out more with him and other clients once the restrictions are lifted.

Wow, this turned out much better than I expected and it certainly did help.

What are you grateful for?

#IWSG: Bloggy Friendships

IWSG

Hi everyone again. It’s the first Wednesday of the month and this means it’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) to meet. I must say I did pretty well with respect to my writing over the month of January. I wrote a blog post almost everyday. Of course, at the beginning of the month, I planned to do even better. That’s usual for me. I hope with #Write28Days in February, it doesn’t go in the same direction.

For those visiting from the IWSG who don’t know what #Write28Days is, it’s a kind of restart of the original #Write31Days October challenge, in which you pick a topic and write about it for the entire month. Thankfully, randomness is a topic too and we aren’t currently required to even have a topic. The idea is just to write everyday. Hence, this post really counts for #Write28Days too. I may or may not write another one this evening.

In addition to writing pretty consistently over the past month, I also took some steps outside of my comfort zone. I wrote two pieces of flash fiction. Both were extremely short, under 100 words each. I’m not sure they count as actual pieces and not just exerpts. In that case, there is no broader story as of yet.

Now on to this month’s optional question. Today, the IWSG crowd talk friendships and relationships developed because of blogging. I don’t honestly think I have any though. That is, I consider carol anne from Therapy Bits and Emilia from My Inner MishMash my friends, but I can’t remember whether I first “met” them through blogging or through E-mail lists.

Maybe though, I can count my husband. After all, though we met via a message board, one of the reasons he contacted me to meet up was that he’d read my blog. This blog, I’ve since made private because of the spammy visitors.

Other than this, I don’t think I’ve developed any bloggy friendships. I also must admit I’m horrible with reciprocating visits. I just realized, in fact, that, in general, I’m not that good at keeping in touch with friends, be it through my blog, the rest of the Internet or in real life. I really need to improve on that.

The Roles I Play

I haven’t been able to write much this week. I’ve been feeling really off lately. I may write more about that later. For now, I’m picking a prompt from the book The Year of You by Hannah Braime. It’s the first prompt in the book. It asks us to list the roles we play, such as daughter, sister, friend, etc. We’re supposed to think of as many as possible. Here goes.

1. I am a wife. My husband is the most important person in my life (after myself sometimes). My husband and I will be married nine years in September. The measures implemented due to COVID-19 were hard on our relationship. Tomorrow I’m for the first time in for months going to sleep at home with him.

2. I am a daughter. I don’t have the best relationship with my parents. It’s civil but distant.

3. I am a sister and by extension an aunt. I think now that my sister is a mother, we share even less common ground than before, but Janneke (my niece) is a good conversation starter.

4. I am a daughter-in-law and sister-in-law. Particularly with my mother-in-law, my relationship is good. She acts as my informal representative when needed.

5. I am a cat’s staff. I originally typed that I’m a cat Mommy or cat lady, but I think Barry sees me as nothing more than the one who provides him attention and food. Now I no longer do this, of course, as I no longer live with my husband. However, my husband says I helped socialize Barry.

6. I am a blogger. I have had one blog or another ever since 2007 (or 2002 if you count my online diary that gradually morphed into a blog).

7. I am a disability, mental health and autistic advocate. I don’t do nearly as much advocacy work as I did some ten years ago, but I still identify as an advocate.

8. I am a long-term care client. Well, this is probably self-explanatory.

9. I am a friend. I don’t have any offline friends, but I cherish the online friendships I’ve made over the years.

These are mostly roles I play based on the relationships I have with people in my life. With respect to my interests, personality traits and opinions, I am still pretty unsure.

What are the roles you play in life?

Gratitude List (May 16, 2020) #TToT

Goodnight everyone. It’s past 11PM here and I can’t sleep. I’m feeling rather hopeless. To cheer myself up, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful. It feels like forever since I last did a gratitude list, even though I did one two weeks ago. Anyway, here goes.

1. Spotify playlists. I already mentioned the Cardio playlist on Thursday. Today, I discovered the Harp Music for Sleep playlist. It wasn’t created by Spotify staff, but whoever created it is awesome! I just tried falling asleep to it. That didn’t work yet, but it definitely helped me relax.

2. Lorazepam. As we speak, I’m recovering from a rather bad crisis. After an hour-long crying fit, I finally asked the staff to give me a PRN lorazepam and it helps at least a little.

3. Dancing. I mentioned this already on Thursday. Today I was in a rather low place and felt like lying in bed all day. I did manage to fit some dancing in though.

4. Pretty good food this past week. I had boiled potatoes only once and the pasta with tuna sauce I had today was truly delicious.

5. Whipped cream custard. To top it off, we had whipped cream custard for dessert today.

6. Insight Timer. Like I said earlier today, I plan on making meditation part of my daily routine. I listened to a body love meditation this evening. The instructor’s voice was a little off to me, but it was a great meditation.

7. A lovely card. Last Thursday, I got another card from the friend who lives in another home in our care facility. She had previously given me an Easter card. Now the card had written in it that she hopes to see me soon. (For context: due to COVID-19, we are currently only allowed to interact with clients and staff for our own homes.) The card was handmade and truly lovely. I will send her one (though not handmade) probably tomorrow.

8. Possibly seeing my husband soon. Currently, we are not allowed visitors at all due to COVID-19. Management though has said they’ll work out a plan on visiting next week. This may mean we need to see our visitors in an assigned room and may need to keep our distance, but anything is better than no visits at all.

This is all I can come up with right now, but it already helps. What have you been thankful for lately?

Book Review: Wink by Rob Harrell

A few weeks ago, I was in the mood for middle grade books and googled something like middle grade books in 2020. One of the first results that popped up was Wink by Rob Harrell. I read the blurb and was immediately determined to read it.

First though, I had to finish Wonder. I finished that last week, so after that and after a short break for processing, I proceeded to this book.

Wink

Summary

A wrenching and hilarious story about embracing life’s weirdness and surviving an unthinkable diagnosis, based on the author’s own experience with a rare eye cancer.

Twelve-year-old Ross Maloy just wants to be normal. Not to have a rare eye cancer, not to lose his hair, not to have to wear a weird hat or have a goopy eye full of ointment. Just normal. But with a sudden and horrifying diagnosis, Ross can’t help standing out. His new life is medical treatments that feel straight out of a video game, vision loss in one eye, disappearing friends who don’t know what to say to “the cancer kid,” cruel bullying, and ultimately, friendships new and old that rise above everything.

Just when Ross starts to feel like he’s losing his footing, he discovers how music, art, and true friends can change everything. Filled with Rob Harrell’s comic panels (Batpig for the win!) and spot art, this novel brings effortless humor and hope to an unforgettable, uplifting story of survival.

My Review

Well, I cannot see the illustrations, so this review is purely about the story. And let me tell you, it’s an amazing story! Harrell has created Ross to be so totally witty, I loved it! I mean, even in the darkest of times, while my heart went out to Ross, I also found the story humorous. Ross truly shows his determination. He may not (as he says) have some big epiphany in which he realizes life is a precious gift, but he does retain his sense of humor in spite of it all. That’s awesome. I mean, this book had me laugh out loud on several occasions.

What’s also important, is the development the characters go through. I liked how Harrell creates his characters to be as open to friendship as they were. I mean, I know this book is a middle grade novel and some kids that age are just so closed-minded. Harrell’s characters for the most part are not.

I loved that this book had just one viewpoint, that of Ross. It shows us what goes on inside a “cancer kid”‘s mind without the added baggage of family members or friends. Of course, they chime in on occasion, but that’s okay. Oh, and not just Ross, but many other characters are totally awesome.

I loved Harrell’s writing style, the dialogue and how quickly this book moved. All absolutely great.

In short, this wasn’t some inspirational story, and yet it was. It’s partly based on Harrell’s own experience, even though I assume Harrell was an adult when he got cancer. I think this book definitely provides some perspective to middle schoolers and yet puts a laugh on their faces.

Book Details

Title: Wink
Author: Rob Harrell
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: March 31, 2020

Read With Me

Book Review: Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

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

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

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

My Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Details

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

Read With Me

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?

Blogging

I am once again joining in with #JusJoJan. Yesterday I did write, of course, but I didn’t link up, since my post wasn’t for the prompt. Today’s prompt is to share about your blogging endeavors. Why did you start blogging? How did you come up with your theme? How has blogging affected your life? And so on.

I probably shared this on my older blogs a couple of times already, but I don’t think I jotted about my blogging on here. I was probably destined to be a blogger, as even as a young teen in the late 1990s, I longed for someone to read what I’d written. Not my parents, of course, but I was pretty open about my writing otherwise. My father at one point joked that I showed my new best friend my diary the first time she visited me. I didn’t, but I did show her some personal writings of mine. Those got her to feel pity for me. The friendship wasn’t healthy to begin with, as I was needy and clingy. The friendship ended not even half a year later. Today, I won’t go into that. It only serves to prove that I was very open in my writing from an early age on.

I got a computer with Internet access in May of 2002, when I was fifteen. Within six months of that, I’d started an online diary. The contents of that diary, unlike those of many of my later attempts at keeping a blog, are still available online. Their original location, on DiaryLand, might even still exist.

In February of 2007, I created my WordPress account and moved the contents of my diary to my first legitimate blog. This diary had over the years started to contain some more essay-like posts besides the diary-style navel-gazing. However, with DiaryLand, there was no way of organizing your posts by categories or tags. My parents criticized me for being too personal in my diary. I didn’t intend on becoming less so, but now I could put all my navel-gazing into a category called “Personal” for people to skip.

I have had three blogs (if I include this one) that were lasting. First, I had said blog moved from DiaryLand. Then I had Blogging Astrid, which I originally intended to keep alongside this blog. That didn’t work.

A Multitude of Musings, the blog you are now reading, is, in fact, a restart of another relatively long-lasting blog I wrote in 2011. I am a bit sad that I deleted its content years ago, but I can’t undo that. Still, my stats say the day I had the most views was in 2011.

Blogging has had a huge impact on my life. My husband checked out my blog – the one that had been moved from DiaryLand – before he asked to meet me in real life. This meant he already knew me pretty well before we’d first met. In this sense, my marriage makes up for the friendship I wrote about above, as my husband chooses to stick by me despite my openness. I don’t encourage him to read my blog now, but if he wants to, he can. He’s occasionally been cross with me for sharing something about him. I try only to share the positive now.

Why did you decide to start blogging? How has blogging impacted your life?