All posts tagged disability

The Last Leaves Falling – Fox Benwell

Published November 22, 2016 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

And these are they. My final moments. They say a warrior must always be mindful of death, but I never imagined that it would find me like this . . .

Japanese teenager, Sora, is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Lonely and isolated, Sora turns to the ancient wisdom of the samurai for guidance and comfort. But he also finds hope in the present; through the internet he finds friends that see him, not just his illness. This is a story of friendship and acceptance, and testing strength in an uncertain future.

What did I think?:

I read this book quite a while ago now (due to an incredibly long backlog!) and it’s taken me this long to try and collect my thoughts and feelings about it. Even now, I’m not sure if anything I say will make sense or if I can fully describe how this book played on my emotions or write a review that does justice to the beauty and brilliance of this fantastic debut novel but I’ll try my hardest. The Last Leaves Falling is not an easy book to read (emotionally speaking) by any stretch of this imagination and delves into some very murky places but if you’re strong enough to deal with a bit of sadness and despair, there are also a lot of rewards to be had in terms of the importance of love, friendship and family – all very prominent themes in the narrative.

Our main character is the wonderful Sora, who I instantly fell in love with. Sora is seventeen years old and is desperate for the life of a “normal” teenager but he is cruelly prevented from living his life the way he wants because of a terminal neuro-degenerative illness – ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease that is rapidly progressing through his body. He is now unable to attend school and relies heavily on his wheelchair and his mother to help him perform the menial tasks that we all take for granted, like getting washed and dressed ourselves. This is not only incredibly frustrating for a boy that used to be very active, but excruciatingly embarrassing for a young man of his age.

Sora spends most of his time online, reading the poetry of wounded samurai and emails he receives which describe an increasing number of individuals in Japan that contemplate or end up committing suicide. This is something he considers thoughtfully and intelligently, imagining how much worse life is going to get for him particularly when the muscles responsible for his breathing also fail him. At the same time, Sora just wants to be like everyone else. He meets two other teenagers online and strikes up a beautiful friendship with both, finally able to talk about normal teenage “stuff,” and not be the young man with a terminal illness. It is through the friendship and love of his new friends, Mai and Kaito that provides Sora with a reason for existing, hope and guaranteed assistance for the end of his life which will be devastatingly all too soon.

There are no words to describe how stunning this book is. From the beautifully drawn characters and their relationships with each other to the imaginative plot which is written in such a spectacular fashion, bringing me close to tears and making me appreciate my own life, friends and family even more. I struggle with a chronic illness myself and often have days when I rail at the unfairness of the world…until this book. Now I just count my blessings. As I mentioned before, it deals with some tough subjects like terminal illness, suicide, end of life care and as a result, was quite heart-breaking to read at many points but infinitely worth it. As a big fan of Japanese culture, I also appreciated the setting which was a refreshing change from other works of YA fiction that are set in the Western world and hugely applaud Fox Benwell for the diversity that was demonstrated in this book in general. I really urge everyone to read this book if you like what you’ve read so far, it’s an emotional journey but one you’ll be so glad you took!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):



Noah’s Rainy Day – Sandra Brannan

Published March 18, 2016 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

From birth, Noah Hogarty has lived with severe cerebral palsy. He is nearly blind, unable to speak, and cannot run, walk, or crawl. Yet his mind works just as well as any other twelve-year-old’s—maybe even better. And Noah holds a secret dream: to become a great spy, following in the footsteps of his aunt, Liv “Boots” Bergen.

Now, freshly returned from training at Quantico, FBI agent Liv Bergen is thrown into her first professional case. Working side by side with veteran agent Streeter Pierce, enigmatic agent and lover Jack Linwood, and her bloodhound Beulah, Liv must race to find five-year-old Max—last seen at the Denver International Airport—before this Christmastime abduction turns deadly. Meanwhile Noah, housebound, becomes wrapped up in identifying the young face he sees watching him from his neighbor’s bedroom window, but he can neither describe nor inscribe what he knows.

And his investigation may lead to Noah paying the ultimate price in fulfilling his dream.

Noah’s Rainy Day (the fourth novel in Brannan’s mystery series) combines classic Liv Bergen irreverence and brainpower with an unflinching look at the darkest of human motivations, all while a whirlpool of increasingly terrifying events threatens to engulf Liv and Noah both in one final rainy day.

What did I think?:

First of all, many thanks to both NetGalley and Greenleaf Book Group Press for allowing me to read a copy of Noah’s Rainy Day in exchange for an honest review. I really love being part of NetGalley, it has thrown very few “bloopers” my way and often, you can find a real gem of a book, which is what I felt about this novel. It is the fourth in the author’s Liv Bergen series and I always worry about reading a middle-of-the-series book (purely a personal thing, I’m very particular to the point of obsessive compulsive about reading things in order!). I needn’t have worried though, this novel stands on its own as a great mystery with some fantastic characters that I’m now very much looking forward to reading more about in the previous and future releases in this series.

Liv Bergen has just qualified as an FBI agent after quitting a job she didn’t particularly enjoy but it looks like her first official case as a Special Agent will affect her in ways she could have never predicted. A five year old boy Max, seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth after his multi-millionaire father packed him onto a flight so that he could spend Christmas with his supermodel mother (the couple are divorced). The flight had a stop-over in Denver and as an unaccompanied minor, Max was being looked after by an airport employee however when he becomes distracted, Max is whisked away and is now officially missing, presumed kidnapped. A ton of pressure is being placed on Liv and her team’s shoulders, particularly as the parents are minor celebrities and the case is getting a lot of press. Liv is fully aware that there often a crucial time limit on missing children before the situation escalates and the child in question is at high risk of being killed.

The star of this story for me however was not our fiesty, caring FBI Agent Liv, but her nephew, Noah Hogarty, whose personality and resilience shine right through the pages to make this a fantastic, unputdownable read. Noah was born with Cerebral Palsy and is confined most days to his wheelchair unable to talk, move around a great deal, is partially blind and prone to terrible seizures. His Aunt Liv is one of the most important people in his life and unlike many who come into contact with him, treats and talks to him like an adult. She has the strength of mind to see past his disability and is aware of his high intelligence and compassion for others, often bringing him little gifts and gadgets so that he can learn to be a “spy” like her – one of his dreams.

Liv and her team are having a tough time coming up with any leads to explain little Max’s disappearance and his current whereabouts, even after scouring through hours of CCTV footage from the airport. We as the reader on the other hand know exactly what has happened to Max and terrifyingly, so too does Noah for reasons I will not disclose. Noah is desperate to try and make the adults in his life, namely Liv and his mother understand that he has vital information that could lead to the recovery of Max but being unable to talk/write/etc is proving quite an impenetrable barrier. Then the tables turn and Noah’s life too becomes in very real danger – can Liv put all the clues together to save her beloved nephew before it is too late?

I was really pleasantly surprised with this book. I didn’t have any expectations going in as I hadn’t read the other books in the series or the author before but I was delighted to get a novel that was full of excitement and drama yet also full of heart. As I mentioned, Noah was the stand-out character in the book but I also loved his relationship with his sister Emma and how they learned to communicate with each other using “the five finger method,” where each finger and knuckle of a hand represented a number or letter of the alphabet. At times, this was also quite a frustrating read but only in a good way as I was well aware of what was going on, it was just waiting for every other character to catch up! Anyone who enjoys a good mystery and a tense, thrilling read will really enjoy this story and I must also applaud the author for writing about a character with a disability who, like anyone, is just a normal person that deserves love and understanding.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):