Books

Autumn 2017 Book Reviews

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As some of you may know, I used to write a book blog called Lauren Reads YA. I decided to quit book blogging in the beginning of 2017 because I wanted to focus on service dog training, but when my first attempt failed (second attempt is in the works — not giving up yet!), I was right back where I started: at home with nothing to do, having given up one of my most time-consuming activities.

I made this new blog a personal/’lifestyle’ one because I didn’t want to be restricted to just writing about books, but I also didn’t want to quit book blogging entirely. So I hope those of you who followed my book blog will continue to follow my bookish posts (and others!) on here.

At the moment, I read less than I did when my book blog was at its peak: then 70-100 books a year, now 52 (one for every week of the year — that’s the idea).

My taste has also dramatically changed: I read less young adult fiction because I feel like I’m — for lack of a better phrase — ‘growing out of it’. I’m currently on a non-fiction kick, especially reading lots about autism because I got my official diagnosis this year and want to get to know myself as best as I can. Fiction-wise, I haven’t really figured out what I’m into at the moment so I haven’t been reading much, but I’m hoping to add some more fiction to my 2018 reading list.

I have a weird relationship with book reviews as they sometimes disclose too much about the contents of the book. In most cases, all I need to know is if the book is ‘for me’. And that’s what I want to give you in this post — and upcoming posts in winter, spring, and summer. These will not in-depth reviews, just some thoughts on the book and whether I would recommend it.

Please let me know if you have read any of these books and what you thought about it! I’d love to discuss.

Odd Girl Out

 

Odd Girl Out: Being Autistic in a Neurotypical World

by Laura James

I’m slowly making my way through memoirs by autistic people, especially autistic women. This had just come out and the cover is gorgeous so I had to move it up on my list!

Odd Girl Out is a memoir written by a late-diagnosed autistic woman that I think will be very beneficial to other late-diagnosed autistic women. I was diagnosed late (at 21), but not quite as late as Laura James (at 45), so I couldn’t relate completely.

“All this time I have been thinking that the way to make things better is to become as neurotypical as possible. I have been trying to force myself into a hole in which I will never fit.

As I fold the towels into a neat pile, I think…

I am a cat, judging myself by dog behaviour.

It is a good book to read if you’ve already read a bit about autism in women, but I would say it’s not a book to start with, not a book that will explain autistic women across the spectrum. If you’re just starting out, I suggest reading Aspergirls by Rudy Simone first.

The Raven Boys (The Raven Boys, #1)

by Maggie Stiefvater

When The Raven Boys first came out, I dismissed it as something that wasn’t for me. However, the hype got to me and I was out of young adult series to read, so I got sucked in.

I found it difficult to get into, but once you’re in, you don’t want to stop reading. I also have difficulty picturing things in my head (most likely an autism trait), so reading this paranormal fantasy novel felt like a fever dream. It was… a bit weird.

I am going to slowly read the series by ordering the next installment every time I finish one. That way I give myself some time in between to read books that have been on my TBR pile for years.

Zero Waste Home

by Bea Johnson

The first book to make me feel excited and motivated about reducing waste since Plastic-Free by Beth Terry. A must-read for anyone interested in environmentalism and the zero waste movement. It’s really not as hard as it looks: there’s always something you can do. This book lists all those little somethings.

Do What You Want: A Zine About Mental Wellbeing

 

Do What You Want: A Zine About Mental Wellbeing

edited by Ruby Tandoh & Leah Pritchard

My first zine! I had never read a zine before since most of them seem to be difficult to acquire, but I was just in time for the second printing of Do What You Want, and because the proceeds went to several mental health charities, I felt like I could spend the money.

I enjoyed most of the articles, but some of the other art forms were not for me (like poems). I also didn’t enjoy the recipes, since I have an eating disorder called ARFID and would never try them anyway.

This zine is incredibly diverse so it was interesting to read about mental health from perspectives so different from my own. The opening article about why everyone should go to therapy (if they have the means) was great! I also appreciated the piece about autism and how ‘passing’ as neurotypical can impact your mental health.

I think I’m going to gift this zine to a friend, because I think they could benefit from it, and it’s not really something I feel I need to keep on my shelves for future reference.

Overprikkeling voorkomen 🇳🇱

by Barbara de Leeuw

There are a bunch of Dutch autism books that haven’t been translated into English, and I want to know everything there is to know — especially regarding autism resources in my own country — so I’ve started borrowing books from my local autism information center. They have a great library that includes most, if not all, Dutch books about autism, including some translated works.

Overprikkeling voorkomen is a practical guide to dealing with sensory overload, for people with autism and ADHD, but it could also work for mental health problems like anxiety.

I found it difficult to get through sometimes since it required me to do things, so I’m going to buy it eventually so I can work on it with my autism coach or therapists. I simply don’t have the spoons to do therapy by myself right now.

Tales of the Peculiar

 

Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine, #0.5)

by Ransom Riggs

I was originally planning to read this in October for Halloween, but I didn’t get to it. Luckily it’s the kind of book that can be read anytime and still be enjoyable. It’s not even necessarily spooky, but the Miss Peregrine series has a certain vibe that makes it even more fun to read in October.

Reading one or two stories before bed felt nostalgic. I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would.

The Reason I Jump

by Naoki Higashida

Because of the praise it has received from some autistic people I follow, I was excited to read this easy-to-digest book written by an autistic person. Unfortunately I was very disappointed by it.

I’ve been trying to sum up my feelings about this book but no matter what I try, I end up writing a long rant. So, in bullet points:

  • negative about autism
  • lots of generalizations about autistic people, author uses “we” instead of “I” too much
  • not many questions answered, a lot of “people with autism do this but I don’t know why”, even though answers to these questions exist
  • awkward translation?
  • unsure about how much editing David Mitchell did to the book

My biggest problem with The Reason I Jump is that parts of it feel like what we call ‘inspiration porn’ in the disability community. Disabled people, including those with autism, are not here to inspire you. If you want to read more about what inspiration porn is and why it’s an issue for disabled people, check out this post by an autistic blogger.

Check out my book review of The Reason I Jump to read all my thoughts about the book.

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Boys, #2)

by Maggie Stiefvater

The sequel to The Raven Boys was just as hard to get into as the first book. Is it the writing style? The pacing? I don’t know.

While I wasn’t blown away by this as so many others were, I did enjoy it and will continue on with the series.

14,000 Things To Be Happy About

 

14,000 Things To Be Happy About

by Barbara Ann Kipfer

A re-read of some kind: I read parts of this when I’d just bought the book, but never cover to cover until now.

This book is essentially a list of things, but I wouldn’t say they’re all things to be happy about, since it also mentions ‘consumerism’, ‘cults’, and ‘overdue library books’, which don’t strike me as things to be particularly happy about…

Some nice examples of things to be happy about: getting a really good haircut, a dog’s face when you say “walk” or treat”, the smell of Band-Aids, anything yellow, something you say that wasn’t intended to be funny but was anyway, pine-scented forests, immediate materialization of the cat when food is brought out, a price sticker that peels off completely, a “where did you get that?” item, the system whereby one dog can quickly establish an entire neighborhood network of barking, and learning everything you possibly can about a subject that interests you.

Some things listed were repetitive, only worded slightly differently from something I saw twenty pages earlier. Other things were quite dated, and I guess those were things to be happy about in those times, but I can’t relate. The edition I read was updated and published in 2007, but a new edition has since been released in 2014.

Een hond helpt iedereen 🇳🇱

by Sandra Dekker

I requested this from the library and a week later I was notified that I could come pick up the book. Oh, library, you are so great.

I doubt this will be translated into English since it is so focused on the Dutch service dog system, so I’m sorry to you all non-Dutch speaking folks!

For the Dutchies: it is a wonderful book that explains the basics of all kinds of service dogs, and everything they can do. It has both practical information and personal stories written by service dog handlers. In the back, there are some handy lists of psychiatric service dog tasks that I’m definitely going to use for my own training schedule! I will definitely be recommending this to friends, family, and acquaintances who want to learn more about service dogs.

Shop Cats of New York

 

Shop Cats of New York

by Tamar Arslanian & Andrew Marttila

This book gave me so many happy feels! I’ve read a book about shop cats before but this one was so much better: the photos were excellent and the stories about the cats interesting & funny.

The only downside to this book is that it’s not bigger! And I guess I wish every cat in the book had an anecdote — some cats featured are just the photos, nothing else about them. But there were enough stories for me to be satisfied.

Now, how do I become a professional cat photographer?

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time 

by Mark Haddon

My first re-read in a long time. My friend Laura was reading it and telling me about parts, and I found myself not remembering much at all, so I picked it up and read it alongside her. It was very fun to read the same book at the same time and discuss it. I need to do it more often.

I know the autistic community has varying opinions on this book, but I still really enjoyed it. I could relate to the main character a lot, even though I’m terrible at maths and love the color yellow.

Christopher is a very stereotypical autistic character, but also a very realistic one. It would be a lie to say there aren’t a lot of autistic boys like him. Because the book seems well-researched and is quite old, I’m going to let it slip that it is about yet another autistic boy with a passion for numbers. Hopefully the future will bring more books about non-male people with autism, autistic people of color, and autistics all over the world.

 

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