Children Literature: I Have the Right to Save My Planet by Alain Serres (2021) Review

Empowering message every child should hear

I Have the Right to Save My Planet is a beautiful, mindful, deep book which is fully accessible to children. Through Alain Serres words and Aurélia Fronty’s Illustrations are empowering. Shelley Tanaka did a wonderful job translating this book. I could feel the essence and the impact of this book.

The representation in the images and the candid way it tells children they can be the change they want to see are powerful. This book also doesn’t shy away from exposing things that the next generation are inheriting as a burden. It is true that we have done irreparable harm to the environment and each other in the past half century. However, I have the Right to Save My Planet is educational and offers solutions, and I appreciate it immensely for focusing on the positive.

I am dating myself, but I remember when the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child released their children’s version through UNICEF and my world was SHOOK. I was very young and sheltered but I remember 1) crying because I had just found out I was privileged and not all children had access to the most basic of human rights and 2) being determined to empower and protect children, even though I was a child myself. This led me to a life of volunteer work and career with children. I still believe they are agents of change and it is up to us to let them know that.

I mentioned this for two reasons. The first is that I truly believe this book will do for our children what UNICEF’s Child version of the Convention on the Rights of the Child did for me. The other reason I mentioned that is because of this sentence in the book: “I have the right to do all this because I am a child”. It gave me goosebumps. It spoke to my child self.

I think it will be a great book for emergent projects, especially for children in grades 1-3. I think that a couple of pages can be introduced as points of discussion and origin of projects. I work with younger children, but I will still purchase this book to share with them (and a copy for my 9-year-old son). It is never too early or late to bring awareness and help shape positive world citizens.

Thank you, Groundwood Books, NetGalley and Alain Serres for an advanced copy of I Have the Right to Save My Planet in exchange for my honest review. #IHavetheRighttoSaveMyPlanet #NetGalley

Representation 10

Story 10

Illustration 10

My total rating: 5

Children Literature: Annalise’s Cough by DeMareon Gipson (2021) Review

A tale about environmental racism and eco-womanism (Not my words, but I couldn’t say it any better!)

I am mesmerized by this book. The illustration by Jessica Jones is beautiful and the story by DeMareon Gipson is powerful. Annalise’s Cough did an amazing job developing Annalise and Amira, two sisters, and representing their life. I love how it introduces the concept of community, empathy, self-worth, friendship, spirituality, environment, privilege, pollution, advocacy, and interconnectedness.

This is such a meaningful book that can open up so many discussions in the classroom. I can’t wait to discuss the mayflies with my students and explore how we can be more like them. I feel that this book can even be used by higher grades, such as 4-6, and hopefully some educators will use it and involve their students into advocacy. What a great way to honour the book by helping children critically think of their environment and start a petition to make their community better?

I am really excited for the release of Annalise’s Cough and the good it will do to everyone who reads it.

Thank you, Forward Publishing House, Demareon Gipson and NetGalley for an advanced copy of Annalise’s Cough in exchange for an honest review. #AnnalisesCough #NetGalley

you can buy Annalise’s cough at http://www.forwardpublishinghouse.com/new-products/annalises-cough-ebook (I am not sponsored or affiliated, I’m just sharing where the book is available in case it interests you)

Representation 10

Story 10

Illustration 10

My total rating: 5

Children Literature: The Story of Baldomera by Ismael F. Arias & Enrique G. Ballesteros (2021) Review

Based on a true story. Try not to cry!

This book is actually based on viral video of a donkey, Baldomera, and her reunion with her owner after months of quarantining. I hadn’t heard about that video, and appreciate that the author included a QR code on the back cover, for easy access to the video!

The story itself is heartwarming, beautifully illustrated and easy to read to children and by children. It is a great resource to start meaningful conversations and evoke reflections about friendship and empathy. I also feel that many children will relate to and learn to articulate their feelings from Baldomera.

Thank you NubeOcho, Ismael F. Arias, Enrique G. Ballesteros and NetGalley for an advance copy of The Story of Baldomera in exchange for an honest review. #TheStoryofBaldomera #NetGalley

Representation 10

Story 10

Illustration 10

My total rating: 5

The Dinner Guest by B. P. Walter (2021) Review

Some recipes are great until you add an ingredient on a whim everything goes sour.

I’m so excited The Dinner Guest’s release date is today!!!

The Dinner Guest grabs you from the first page – How can you turn away from a book that starts with a murder? The short answer is you cannot.

On the first chapter we are introduced to Rachel, who’s calling 999, knife in hand and confessing to the murder of Matthew. We also meet Charlie, Matthew’s husband, and their son, Titus. Everyone is shaken by the events.

Not long after the readers are teased to wonder if Rachel had indeed killed Matthew and wonder why shed confess if she had not! We get the full picture through the POVs of Charlie and Rachel from both the time leading up to the murder and the events following the murder.

The Dinner Guest was such a good thriller, it’s impossible not to keep reading. I was emotionally invested in the lives of the characters as much as I was in the mystery. Walter did an amazing job in developing characters. He also was a master in pacing this book, he slowed down when he needed to and gave us action when necessary.

I am a cis female, but I simply adored how he centered this book around a male couple and their son. I feel that their characters were amazing, and their relationship felt real. It read like an author being respectful, not at all like an author trying to be “woke”.

I also have to say that he played mostly fair, and it read like a contemporary/psychological thriller. I feel that fans of Donna Tartt and Leïla Slimani will love this book.

There is one chapter I feel did not add much to the plot enhancement. I won’t go into more details as I don’t want to spoil the book, but this didn’t take away from my thorough enjoyment of The Dinner Guest.

Thank you, B. P. Walter, One More Chapter and NetGalley for allowing to read The Dinner Guest before its release in exchange for an honest review.

#thedinnerguest #netgalley 

Enjoyability     9

Characters      10

Ambience        10

Fairness          9

Plot                  9

Execution        9

My total rating: 4.66

Children Literature: Lockdown Hair by Linda Steinbock (2021) Review

Siona is me.

She is all of us.

This is a book about a girl trying to adjust to life during a pandemic. I work with children and I can honestly say that this book ticked all the boxes. I have been waiting for a book that addresses the pandemic and life changes and Linda did it BEAUTIFULLY!

Siona is a very relatable character and represents the beauty and simplicity of children’s thinking. This book seamlessly talks about changes we all have experienced: Moving relationships online, wearing masks, physically distancing, losing our jobs and going back to modified conditions.

Siona’s mom is a hairdresser, and Siona is worried about her mom’s safety once she goes back to work as, being a hairdresser, it is difficult to keep physical distance. In an authentic children way, Siona designs a plan for her mom. This book warmed my heart and brought a smile to my face and hope!

I cannot wait to share this with my classroom and use it as a starter point to meaningful conversations!

I also need to mention that I am always looking into bringing diversity into our library and I absolutely adore the illustration! I love when books are diverse without trying to be preachy and simply represents diversity seen in real life.

Thank you, Linda Steinbock, Canoe Tree Press and NetGalley for allowing me to read Lockdown hair in exchange for an honest review. #LockdownHair #NetGalley

Representation 10

Story 10

Illustration 10

My total rating: 5

Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay (2021) Review

When one incident changes a family’s life forever, and a documentary makes it worse, how far will they go to prove their son’s innocence and where does the truth lie?

Every Fear grips you from the first page and never loses your interest.

This story is told in multiple points of view from both the present and the past. My new favourite thing to find in books is mixed media, so I was happily surprised to see that excerpts from a Netflix documentary (made up for this book) was included. Foreshadowing? Hope so! But the transcript was easy to follow and dynamic – I could hear the cuts and envision the episode.

The Pines have had quite the ride! For a seemingly normal suburban family, their lives were tainted by quite a few tragedies – The first of which was the arrest and conviction of their eldest son, Danny, who even though he claims his innocence, is in jail for the murder of his girlfriend.

Danny’s story was turned into a Netflix documentary that argued his innocence, but consequently brought infamous notoriety to the rest of the family who couldn’t escape the past and had their lives negatively affected by their association with the case.

Fast forward to the present. Matt, the second oldest of the Pine children, is now a NYU student and luck was on his side as due to conflict in March Break schedules, was unable to go to a Mexican family vacation with his parents and two younger siblings. Wait a second – why is he lucky when he didn’t get to go to paradise and live on coconut water, sand, sun and waves for a week? Well, tragedy never strikes once – his whole family was found dead at their rented villa. It looked like an accident, but was it? Why is the FBI involved and why does Matt have to go in person to sign a release form for the bodies at the request of Mexican authorities? Well, that’s where the book basically starts, and we go around this fast-paced crazy ride. Grab your snacks, take the day off, avoid responsibilities as I’m warning you, this book will beg you to be read in one setting.

I do not want to spoil this book, but I can tell you that Finlay takes us to wonderful places, remains consistent in his plot and executes everything superbly. All his twists and reveals are pertinent and exciting. I also have to say that I honestly grew so attached to the Pines, I mourned their deaths. Maggie is such an amazing character I wouldn’t mind it if Finlay recreated a character with her traits in his future books!

If you like well written unputdownable thrillers, with great characters, perfect execution and consistent plot, this one is for you.

Thank you, St. Martin’s Press, Alex Finlay and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of “Every Last Fear” in exchange for an honest review. #EveryLastFear #NetGalley

Enjoyability     10

Characters       10

Ambience        9

Fairness          10

Plot                  9

Execution        10

My total rating: 4.83

Review for this book is mentioned in this video: https://youtu.be/WixTJ_WPyuY

The Good Neighbour by R. J. Parker (2021) Review

It is always a good thing when the author makes you like the murderer more than you do the cop!

The Good Neighbour release date is finally here!!

Martin Tate, our mysterious murderer and crime entrepreneur is enticing, likeable and makes you want to know what his motivations are. He has no moral and no remorse and yet, given the opportunity does not kill Leah, our protagonist who has an accident and ends up at the wrong place at the right time.

After her accident, Leah finds her way to the first house she sees, where Martin lets her in and helps her get AA and her way back home.

The next day, Leah goes back to thank him with a bottle of wine, only to find the cops investigating a murder. Who died? Was that even Martin’s house? Where is he and why didn’t he also kill Leah?

What happens next is a thrilling action-packed game of cat and mouse that got me, curiously enough, cheering for Martin and at the same time wanting to know what else he has done and could still do. What are his plans for Leah, and will he get away with anything?

I really enjoyed the two main characters, even though I felt the side characters felt short and were extremely unlikable.

Parker managed to build a suspenseful atmosphere, and even though I had the wrong expectation going into the book (I thought this was a dark psychological thriller), I was not mad at the fast-paced action driven story. I am thankful to Parker and this book, as this is a subgenre I had never tried and wasn’t sure I was going to like! I love when being proved wrong means that the world of books for me to read is expanded!

The plot was not very original, but I feel that the execution made up for it. In fact, I had The Dinner Party on my kindle shelf, and moved right up my reading list! Can’t wait to read more from this author!

On a side yet very important note – how gorgeous is that cover? That yellow will brighten up anyone’s shelf!

Thank you, One More Chapter, R.J. Parker and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of “The Good Neighbour” in exchange for an honest review. #netgalley #thegoodneighbour

Enjoyability     8

Characters       5

Ambience        8

Fairness          10

Plot                  8

Execution        10

My total rating: 4.08

Review for this book included in this video: https://youtu.be/WixTJ_WPyuY

The Castaways by Lucy Clarke (2021) Review

When an accident happens, more than one life is changed forever. The Castaways is as much a survival story as it is a tense, unputdownable thriller.

The Castaways is told through the perspective of two sisters: Lori and Erin. They are extremely close, and hang on to each other through everything in life. Lori’s life is shattered when she finds out her husband is leaving her for his pregnant girlfriend and decides to treat herself to a birthday getaway. She asks Erin to go with her to Fiji, all expenses paid as she feels she needs her sister for the emotional support.

The night before their flight leaves for their final destination, the sisters have a fight. Erin misses the flight and as regret sets in she sees the news that the plane she was supposed to be in, the plane her sister took, has vanished without a trace.

The book alternates between the sisters and let us know the impact this accident had on both. Erin never gave up looking for her sister, her narrative takes us on her search for her sister 2 years after the accident. Lori’s POV is set right after the accident, and through her, we find out exactly what happened to all 7 people who boarded that flight.

This book’s pacing was amazing and I really appreciate Clarke’s choice of focusing on the emotional consequences of the accident to Erin and Lori, and through them get a glimpse of the overall picture and other people involved. I feel, this book would have lost a lot of its strength if we had had more PoV’s. This choice allowed Clarke to take us on a gripping and beautifully written story of how in the sight of adversity, we are responsible for our choices and their consequences. She also makes a wonderful job in sharing with us how powerful bonds can shape us and give us hope and strength when we feel like giving up.

I adored this book and really think this is “Lost” done right.

Thank you, Harper Collins, Lucy Clarke and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of “The Castaways” in exchange for an honest review.

Enjoyability     8

Characters       10

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  8

Execution        10

My total rating: 4.66

Review for this book is mentioned in this video: https://youtu.be/WixTJ_WPyuY

Trigger Warning: Infidelity, Infertility

Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda (2021) Review

You will never look at quiet tight-knit neighbourhoods the same. After reading Megan Miranda’s Such a Quiet Place, you might not even want to live in one.

Such a Quiet Place is Megan Miranda’s new book coming out on July 13. I’m so thankful to Megan Miranda, Simon & Schuster Canada and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

I couldn’t wait to read this book since reading the synopsis: Picture the perfect neighbourhood – a true community where neighbours know each other, are friends and celebrate everything together. Now picture that two of you are dead, no not just dead, murdered by one of your own.

Ruby has been convicted, mainly due to testimonials of other residents, of the Truett’s murder. The neighbourhood never recovered and now, 1.5 years later, Ruby returns as her conviction was overturned based on new found evidence. Pot stirred, check!

Harper, whose house Ruby lives in, starts to receive threatening notes which makes her question the verity of all events. Is Ruby the killer? If not who is? I couldn’t wait to find out. After reading the book, I think you should pre-order this must have summer read.

This is why: Miranda description of the time and place is outstanding. I honestly felt like I was part of that neighbourhood, feeling the summer heat, the tension and fearing for my safety. I have mentioned before and will mention many more times – If an author will focus on a location (in this case the isolated American neighborhood) and time (Summer), I enjoy it when they make it relevant to the plot and/or almost like a character, in the sense that you develop it as carefully. Megan Miranda achieved both in Such a Quiet Place. I am just happy we don’t celebrate 4th of July in Canada.

You can tell that Miranda considers her plot and her plotting carefully. I really enjoyed how fair she played and how original (to me) the whole concept of the book was. Megan’s characters were mostly strong and she really shined with the development of Harper, Mac, Tate and the Truetts (though we never met them directly, you feel like you knew them). I was just slightly confused in the beginning and took me a while to distinguish between some of the side characters, I also wanted Ruby to be more developed.

If I were to nitpick just a bit, I loved how Miranda used mixed media with the introduction of closed group community posts, and how she made it relevant to the plot. I would, however, liked to see more of it.

if it wasn’t clear already, I highly recommend Such a Quiet Place.

#SuchaQuietPlace, #NetGalley

Enjoyability     9

Characters 8

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        8

My total rating: 4.58

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager (2020) Review

In Home Before Dark, Sager gifts us with two superb books in one: an amazing thriller and suspense that dips its toes in horror.

That moment when you start a book by one of your favourite authors knowing you will love it, but STILL get more than you were expecting. Yup, it happened to me with Home Before Dark.

This book ticked all of my boxes, I loved the twists, the pacing, the characters, the care with which it was written and how it ended!

This book has two narrators, and both unreliable at that! The past is told in the form of a book written by Ewan Holt, in which he narrates the events that passed during the 20 days his family lived in a house until they fled, in the middle of the night, leaving everything behind! Sager really flirted with Horror in Ewan’s narrative and I was spooked! I appreciate that the whole book Ewan wrote is contained in “Home Before Dark.”

The present is narrated by Maggie Holt, Ewan’s daughter who just inherited this house, 20 years after the incident and is told that the house is not safe FOR her. What does she do? She moves in, of course! And digs into the events that happened when she was 5, event of which she has no memories at all.

At the center of both, you have a broken family, shaped by a shared tragedy and tainted by one person’s decision to share it with the world. Was the book a true account or was it an elaborated lie? We rely on Maggie to answer that question.

I don’t want to spoil the book so I will leave it at you must read this! This is a thoroughly satisfying book! Sager is really good at drawing complex, real, characters. In fact, in my humble opinion, he is one of the few male authors I know who does an amazing, respectful and superb job with their female characters. In Home Before Dark, Sager showed us, once again, how versatile he is with Ewan’s book. Ewan had his own voice and his book read original and in character, I can’t imagine a less talented writer pulling this off as well and seamlessly as Sager did.

The one thing I was disappointed in was the fact that, in the audio book, the song that keeps playing wasn’t sung (I was singing it in my head as I read the book and only switched to audio because I didn’t want to put the book down as I ran some errands). This is not on the author at all. Or even the narrators, they didn’t do a poor job – but this book is better and scarier and more suspenseful when read. So if you can, read the book first and save the audio for a reread.

Enjoyability      10

Characters      9

Ambience        10

Fairness          9

Plot      9

Execution        10

My total rating: 4.83

Video Review: https://youtu.be/2dfWNwqUxT4