Book Review: Diagnosis by Lisa Sanders

While scrolling over the new and noteworthy books on Apple Books about a month ago, I came across a Dutch book called Diagnose by Lisa Sanders. Sanders is a Dutch name too, so I initially assumed the book was originally Dutch. I don’t generally read many Dutch books and I certainly don’t buy them. Imagine my delight when I found out that the original title is Diagnosis and the book is originally written in English. Imagine my further delight when I found that Diagnosis is available on Bookshare, so I got it practically for free.

Summary

As a Yale School of Medicine physician, the New York Times bestselling author of Every Patient Tells a Story, and an inspiration and adviser for the hit Fox TV drama House, M.D., Lisa Sanders has seen it all. And yet she is often confounded by the cases she describes in her column: unexpected collections of symptoms that she and other physicians struggle to diagnose.

A twenty-eight-year-old man, vacationing in the Bahamas for his birthday, tries some barracuda for dinner. Hours later, he collapses on the dance floor with crippling stomach pains. A middle-aged woman returns to her doctor, after visiting two days earlier with a mild rash on the back of her hands. Now the rash has turned purple and has spread across her entire body in whiplike streaks. A young elephant trainer in a traveling circus, once head-butted by a rogue zebra, is suddenly beset with splitting headaches, as if someone were “slamming a door inside his head.”

In each of these cases, the path to diagnosis–and treatment–is winding, sometimes frustratingly unclear. Dr. Sanders shows how making the right diagnosis requires expertise, painstaking procedure, and sometimes a little luck. Intricate, gripping, and full of twists and turns, Diagnosis puts readers in the doctor’s place. It lets them see what doctors see, feel the uncertainty they feel–and experience the thrill when the puzzle is finally solved.

Review

I love medical storytelling. Still, I have quite a few books written by doctors about their patients that I just can’t finish. Diagnosis definitely wasn’t one of them! I didn’t finish it as quickly as I do some books, but that’s probably because this is a collection of stories. For this reason, at the end of a story, I can shove the book aside without wondeirng how the story will end.

The book is organized into eight parts, each describing a main symptom. As said in the introduction, there are only so many ways in which the body can show that it is unwell and yet there are over 90,000 known diseases. Isn’t that fascinating?

With some stories, I guessed correctly what was going on before it was mentioned. The man collapsing after eating barracuda was one of them (no, I won’t spoil it!). I found this pretty cool. With others, I had no idea until the end. This was fascinating too.

I loved the author’s writing style. Sanders uses clear but not too simple language. She also usually starts her stories in the heat of the moment, gripping my interest immediately. Overall, this was a great book. I gave it a five-star rating on Goodreads.

Book Details

Title: Diagnosis: Solving the Most Baffling Medical Mysteries
Author: Lisa Sanders
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publication Date: August 13, 2019

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Book Review: Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Last week, I was drawn to Anne of In Residence’s Black Lives Matter booklist. I am white and admittedly completely clueless about racism, certainly as it applies to Black people. I however immediately decided to download a few books off this list onto my phone. The first book I got to read, obviously, was one with a medical aspect to it, because that’s what I’m most interested in: Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett.

Summary

In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…

My Review

When I bought this book off Apple Books, I had next to no idea what this book was about other than the main character being Black and HIV-positive. Having an excuse to read a medical novel under the guise of supporting Black lives felt good though (yes, I know that makes me pretty oppressive). I had no idea this book was so good though.

Not only does it talk about HIV in much more depth than I ever was aware of. I mean, I almost immediately felt the shame come back to me from when we were presented with a problem case in college in which a fictional workplace was disrupted by stigma surrounding one worker’s HIV-positive status and I pretty quickly jumped to conclusions by saying the coworkers might want to be tested. My instructor immediately called me out that you don’t get HIV from drinking out of the same cups as someone who’s positive. I mean, I knew this much, but still objected that fear might guide the coworkers to get tested anyway and I’d understand that. How horrible!

It was totally liberating learning about not just HIV, but sex and sexuality in a broad perspective too. Several characters are openly queer. I loved learning about diversity like this.

Then there’s the race aspect. I didn’t learn too much about that from this book, as it assumes you already know a bit about Black culture, but I bet Black people can relate to some of the things being discussed.

The book is more plot-driven than character-driven, but I happen to love that. The characters are still really well-portrayed.

Overall, I totally loved this book and as such gave it five stars on Goodreads.

Book Details

Title: Full Disclosure
Author: Camryn Garrett
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: October 29, 2019

MamaMummyMum

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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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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Book Review: Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

I first heard of Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart (Goodreads) in the summer, when I was reading a lot. I couldn’t wait for the book to be released in October. However, when it was finally released, it took me a few weeks contemplating how to get ahold of the book before deciding to check if it was on Bookshare, the U.S.-based accessible book service. It was! I downloaded it and started to read it immediately.

Synopsis

Everyone has scars. Some are just easier to see … 16-year-old Ava Lee is heading back to school one year after a house fire left her severely disfigured. She’s used to the names, the stares, the discomfort, but there’s one name she hates most of all: Survivor. What do you call someone who didn’t mean to survive? Who sometimes wishes she hadn’t? When she meets a fellow survivor named Piper at therapy, Ava begins to feel like she’s not facing the nightmare alone. Piper helps Ava reclaim the pieces of Ava Before the Fire, a normal girl who kissed boys and sang on stage. But Piper is fighting her own battle, and when Ava almost loses her best friend, she must decide if the new normal she’s chasing has more to do with the girl in the mirror — or the people by her side. The beautiful, life-affirming debut from Erin Stewart that’s being called the YA answer to Wonder. Perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Nicola Yoon and John Green. “A heartfelt and unflinching look at the reality of being a burn survivor and at the scars we all carry. This book is for everyone, burned or not, who has ever searched for a light in the darkness.” – Stephanie Nielson, New York Times bestselling author of HEAVEN IS HERE and a burn survivor

My Review

I loved this book! The reason it took me longer to finish than I’d expected, had very little to do with the book. I mean, yes, the book is 352 pages, which is pretty much the most I can handle for a read that doesn’t take me forever. I’m just a slow reader.

The book isn’t as much of a page-turner as some other books I read, but that’s because it’s not a thriller or suspense novel. I loved the way this book meandered. What I mean by this is, there are a lot of plot twists, but they’re not breath-taking except for a few.

I found Ava to be a really relatable character. I mean, I’m not a burn survivor, but I did stick out like a sore thumb in high school and felt like making myself invisible. Piper should definitely be on my list of characters I’d wish were my best friends. And for those who’ve read the book and wonder, yes, I’d stick by her no matter what, just like Ava does.

I loved how well-developed each character was. This is definitely not a fast-moving book, but it’s one in which you’ll really get to know the characters. I like that.

I’ve previously read books where I thought the story should’ve ended a few pages before it did. The best example I can give is Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult, in which Willow dies at the end and it’s a true disappointment. In other books, the end drags on too long or is too thrilling even with a good outcome. This one was just right in the middle in that respect. I loved it.

Book Details

Title: Scars Like Wings
Author: Erin Stewart
Publisher: Delacorte
Publication Date: October 3, 2019

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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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Book Review: Finding Stevie by Cathy Glass

I bought Finding Stevie, Cathy Glass’ most recently published book, already shortly after it first came out in early March. However, I had a ton of books on my reading list, so I didn’t immediately start it. Then it took me a while to finish it, because I got distracted. Last Sunday I finally finished it, but didn’t feel like writing a review yet. I was having a bad cold and didn’t feel like writing much at all. Now my cold is gone, so I can write the review.

Synopsis

Finding Stevie is a dark and poignant true story that highlights the dangers lurking online.

When Stevie’s social worker tells Cathy, an experienced foster carer, that Stevie, 14, is gender fluid she isn’t sure what that term means and looks it up.

Stevie, together with his younger brother and sister, have been brought up by their grandparents as their mother is in prison. But the grandparents can no longer cope with Stevie’s behaviour so they place him in care.

Stevie is exploring his gender identity, and like many young people he spends time online. Cathy warns him about the dangers of talking to strangers online and advises him how to stay safe. When his younger siblings tell their grandmother that they have a secret they can’t tell, Cathy is worried. However, nothing could have prepared her for the truth when Stevie finally breaks down and confesses what he’s done.

My Review

I at first had some trouble getting through the first few chapters. I was curious what Stevie’s secret might be and didn’t find out till almost midway through the book. Then, I worried until nearly the end that the book might not end on a positive note. It seemed to drag on a bit, but eventually, I couldn’t help but love this book.

As the book carried on, I grew sympathetic towards every character. For example, Fred, Stevie’s grandfather, is very blunt and doesn’t accept Stevie’s gender identity at first. He reminded me of my own father, having very strong opinions that he wouldn’t let go of despite the evidence. However, in the end it is clear that Fred too loves his grandson.

Book Details

Title: Finding Stevie: A Dark Secret. A Child in Crisis.
Author: Cathy Glass
Publisher: HarperElement
Publication Date: February 21, 2019

My New Mac: First Impressions

One of Mama’s Losin’ It’s prompts for this week is to write about your most recent purchase. I don’t know what counts as a purchase, but I really want to write about my Mac, which I bought two weeks ago.

I started writing this post on my new Mac. It’s new to me, but it’s the MacBook Air 2017, so I didn’t expect it to be all that advanced. I also didn’t expect to use it much for the first while. I mean, even after fully installing my current Windows PC in July of 2014, it took me two weeks before I started using it and only because I had spilled tea over my old one. Each new version of Windows required me a lot of learning, so I expected that even more with my Mac.

My husband installed it last Saturday evening. I started exploring it and, within an hour, my husband asked whether I could browse the Internet yet. Safari is one of the clunkier apps on the Mac, so I wasn’t expecting it to work. That evening though, I was reading blogs and commenting using my WordPress account. Apparently, I had figured out some basic web browsing on Safari.

The next day, I explored the Mac further and was blissfully unaware of my incompetence with it. That awareness came Monday, when I couldn’t figure out Facebook or WordPress.com. In the evening, my husband tried to make the mail app work with my self-hosted E-mail account (is that what it’s called?). IMAP wouldn’t work, which caused me to melt down. I said I was going to buy a Windows PC the next day and go back to that. Thankfully, my husband talked me out of making any impulsive decisions.

The last few days have been better. I can more or less work any website that isn’t too chaotic, including Facebook. I finally figured out WordPress yesterday too, although I still prefer to type my blog posts on the iPhone.

Today, I spent my time on the Mac figuring out Apple Music. I have a Spotify premium subscription, but for some reason (them being competitors, I guess), Spotify isn’t available in the app store, or at least I couldn’t find it. I didn’t use to like iTunes on the PC, but so far, Apple Music is good on both iPhone and Mac.

I also decided to put my documents on my Mac. I rarely use offline documents nowadays, but I don’t want to lose them either. I have diaries dating back to like 1999 in my documents. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find Dropbox in the app store either, so I had to retrieve my docs from my external hard drive. That’s a lot easier anyway.

I haven’t installed many apps yet. The only apps I installed so far, that aren’t recommended by Apple, are Kindle and ReadKit. I am not using either yet, because Kindle has a visual-only CAPTCHA to register and I would like to sync ReadKit with a feed reader that also syncs to the app I use on my phone. The most sensible choice for that is Feedly, but I have over 100 feeds I’m subscribed to and then a subscription costs like $65 a year. Maybe I could try Feedly with just a few feeds though to see if it works well with ReadKit and if I can use ReadKit like I want to.

As regular readers know, I am blind and so I use a screen reader. One of the main reasons I chose a Mac over another PC, is that the Mac has a built-in screen reader called VoiceOver. I had read up a lot about accessibility before buying the Mac, but there wasn’t much out there about Braille displays, which I use most of the time. Thankfully though, except for the login screen, everything works fine with my Focus Braille display.

There are also a ton of keyboard shortcuts, both general and VoiceOver-based. I love that, but it is a learning curve. For example, when copying my files from my external hard drive to my Mac, I kept trying to press Enter to open the folders and then realized I had to press Command+O. I also keep trying to press Shift+F10 to open a context menu. I don’t know whether there isn’t such a thing or I haven’t figured it out yet.

This review may seem a bit negative, but it isn’t intended as such. Overall, my Mac is definitely useful. I’m pretty sure I’ll get used to it eventually.

Mama’s Losin’ It