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

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Top Ten Books Younger Me Would Have Loved

I’m a day late joining in with Top Ten Tuesday (#TTT), for which the theme this week is books your younger self would have loved. I wasn’t much of a reader as a child. I loved being read to, but hated reading myself, especially in Braille. I was fourteen when I first discovered reading for pleasure through Caja Cazemier’s books.

I didn’t know enough English to read any of these books at the appropriate age. Actually, I didn’t know enough English to actually understand most books much until I was at least fifteen. Even then, only classics were available in accessible formats here in the Netherlands. For this list, I’m pretending that either younger me knew enough English or the books were available in Dutch. Most of these books weren’t published when I was young anyway.

1. Peter’s Asparagus by Angela Nicole Krause. This is a chapter book about a young boy with Asperger’s (autism). I read it in early 2014 and loved it. Of course, younger me didn’t know I am autistic and Asperger’s wasn’t even added to the DSM as a diagnosis till 1994, when I was eight. Still, well, my inner children find it incredibly validating.

2. A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold. This is a book for slightly older children on the same topic. I read it in like 2018 and really feel it would’ve been a delightful read for younger me, even though it isn’t as relatable as the above one.

3. Deaf Child Crossing by Marlee Matlin. I didn’t finish this one, but I think my younger self would have loved to read it.

4. Lila and Hadley by Kody Keplinger. Okay, I see a theme emerge here. This one wasn’t published till a few weeks back and I haven’t read it. I want to, but it’s nowhere to be found in Dutch eBook stores. This one would definitely have encouraged younger me.

5. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan. As a child and tween, I loved learning about different cultures. There was a whole series of children’s books about different countries and cultures out there back then, but as far as I know, the authors weren’t from those cultures. Khan is Pakistani-American and I loved her book. See my review.

6. Pictures of Me by Marilee Haynes. I read this one over New Year’s and loved it. It’d for sure be a comforting read to fifth-grader me.

7. Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I am 75% done with this one and think it’d for sure have given younger me some perspective.

8. Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton. Okay, I’m branching out into young adult books now. I really loved this one when I read it some five years ago and teen me would have loved it too.

9. Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart. This would definitely have comforted teen me that she’s not alone in having problems. See my review.

10. Diagnosis Asparagus by Catherine O’Halloran. Okay, there are no doubt a ton of other books in the fiction category that younger me would have loved, but I just had to include this one. This one provides a teen’s perspective on being diagnosed with Asperger’s.

As a bonus, I’m going to mention Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome by Luke Jackson. That one was published around 2003, when I was self-diagnosed with Asperger’s. I would have loved it if my parents had allowed me to read it then.

What books would you wish your younger self had had access to?

Reading Wrap-Up (April 22, 2020)

Man, I haven’t done a reading wrap-up in over a month. Of course, I’m still busy with the #AtoZChallenge. However, I’d like to share what I’ve been reading and will be reading next anyway. I’m joining in with WWW Wednesday and also (a little late) with #IMWAYR.

What I’m Currently Reading

Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I bought it on a whim last week and have been loving it so far, though reading August’s sister’s perspective is a bit triggering.

Also still not done with Heroine by Mindy McGinnis. Then again, I’m not really reading that one right now.

I picked up listening to Matilda by Roald Dahl, narrated by Kate Winslet, again. I still can’t seem to get used to a female voice narrating it.

What I Recently Finished Reading

Not much. I mean, I finally finished Left Neglected by Lisa Genova a few weeks ago. After that, I was in a bit of a reading rut until I picked up Wonder. I did download and read some free bedtime stories by Uncle Amon, but that hardly counts.

What I Think I’ll Be Reading Next

I stacked the shelves with a couple middle grade novels that I think are going to be exciting. The one I think I’ll be reading next is Wink by Rob Harrell. That one actually got me to buy Wonder.

In addition, I’ve been looking at some adult romances to read. I would really like to read either Things You Save in a Fire or How to Walk Away by Katherine Center. Still in doubt as to which one to buy first.

What are you up to reading?

Reading Wrap-Up (March 16, 2020)

Okay, so clearly I didn’t make a reading wrap-up a regular feature. In all honesty, I didn’t read much over the first two months of the year at all. Thankfully, I got back into the mood for reading just in time for the near-complete lockdown due to the coronavirus this week.

My day center is still open, but tomorrow will most likely be the last day for the duration of the lockdown. The staff and management need this day to be able to decide on staffing issues, as normally the homes aren’t staffed during the day. We’ll see where this goes.

I am linking up with #IMWAYR again, as well as Stacking the Shelves (hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and Reading Reality). Lastly I’m linking up with the Sunday Post.

What I’ve Been Reading

I started reading Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan in January, so it hasn’t made it into a reading wrap-up yet. I finally finished it on Friday and wrote a review on Saturday.

I finally moved along in Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. No, it’s not finished yet (no, still not!), but with the day center closing soon, I’ll have more time on my hands to read and should be able to finish the book this week.

I’ve also been reading Heroine by Mindy McGinnis, which so far I’m really enjoying.

Stacking the Shelves

Firstly, of course I’ve been stocking up on journaling books again lately. The ones I downloaded are free though. I’ve also been downloading a few books of quotations and Bible verses. Then come some handbooks on intellectual disability and autism that I only intend for reference.

With respect to fiction, I added two books to my shelves in the past week, both downloaded from Bookshare. The first is All the Water in the World by Karen Raney. I got interested in it looking for White Oleander by Janet Fitch, which I’ve been wanting to read ever since it came out some twenty years ago and was recently mentioned on another blogger’s reading list. I couldn’t find that one on Bookshare, so am considering buying it from Apple Books as either an audiobook or eBook. Then I saw All the Water in the World in the related books section.

The second is The Institute by Stephen King. I haven’t read any horror so far yet, but this title really intrigued me. I’m also still looking for horror stories about deadly viruses or pandemics or whatnot. I know, we’re living it now, but that’s exactly why I want to read some of this type of fiction. If anyone has any recommendations, please share them in the comments.

What have you been reading lately?

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

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Reading Wrap-Up (December 16, 2019)

I am not primarily a book blogger, like I’ve said more than once. However, I do love reading and at any given time have a huge pile of books I still want to read. I have always loved sharing my love of reading, even though I don’t move fast. I mean, I usually take several weeks to complete a book. This may be due to the fact that I usually read more than one book at once.

I enjoy participating in book-related memes. I love to discover new books to add to my TBR pile and I’m sometimes even surprised at how many I know, given that like I said I’m a slow reader and don’t devote the majority of my time to books. Today, I’m joining in with a few book-related memes.

First, I discovered Stacking The Shelves just today. This is an awesome meme that lets you share what books you’ve added to your collection, whether digital or physical. It doesn’t require that you actually read them. Then, I’m joining in with It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR). I joined in with that linky last August intending to make my recent reads a monthly feature. I’m not promising I will this time. There’s a kidlit version of #IMWAYR too, but I can’t seem to link up there, so I’m just sharing my kidlit stuff here too. Finally, I’m joining in with the Sunday Post.

Life Update

This past week was hectic. I was triggered during most of it due to the phone conversation with my mother last Monday. I didn’t even share the most upsetting parts of it on my blog. Then over the week-end, my husband and I had several miscommunications, which led to the week-end being less enjoyable than it could’ve been. Then this morning, I had a brief but bad meltdown at day activities. I guess it’s time to retreat into books.

What I’ve Been Reading

Like I said, I tend to read several books at once. This past week, I finally moved past the first chapter in Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. I still think it’s a pretty boring read so far. Hoping it’ll get more interesting as I move along.

I added Pictures of Me by Marilee Haynes to my Bookshare collection a few weeks ago. This Christian middle grade novel has been on my to-be-read list forever and I finally started reading it last week. So far, its Christian focus doesn’t seem to be overdone and I like it.

Stacking the Shelves

Books I’ve added to my collection recently include:


  • Everyday Healing with Essential Oils by Jimm Harrison. I know, this one isn’t interesting for fiction lovers and I doubt I’ll even ever read it in full. I like it as my little reference guide though for when (if?) I’m going to create my own aromatherapy blends.
  • More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. I don’t know whether I’ll like the dystopian aspect to this one, but it’s also intriguing at the same time.

  • My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. This sounds like a truly fascinating story.

  • A Baby’s Cry by Cathy Glass. I still haven’t asked my husband if I can use his credit card details for my Amazon account. I was planning on it this week-end, but due to said communication mishaps, I didn’t. I instead bought the book on Apple Books.

What have you been reading lately?