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The Big Cheese Festival

The Big Cheese Festival4 Stars

There are issues that plague all children as they grow up. Each child struggles with identifying who they are as a person, how they relate to other people and how to find out what they believe in. Children can be cruel to each other while they learn how to navigate the messy world of emotions. This can come out in the form of bullying. In The Big Cheese Festival the authors explore the concept of bullying and how it can impact the life of another. What may seem like funny and harmless words to one can truly hurt another. We’ve got a fantastical world of anthropomorphic mice, one of whom only has half a tail. He is named Stubby and due to the unkind bullying from his brother’s friend worries about whether or not he’ll find any worth in himself.

Bullying is a big issue to tackle. Some children’s books try to address this and drop the ball completely. Jackson and Raymond have bundled up the idea of bullying in their book. They take an obvious difference, like having half of a tail, and use it to illustrate how others might react to something so clearly different from the norm. It’s a cute book with the little mice getting ready for a festival. Cutter Mouse, who is friends with Stubby’s brother, is the perpetuator of the bullying. It is often someone close to the bullied who begins the abuse, which Jackson and Raymond have captured here.

While the story is simple and easy to either read or read to a child, there are a few areas in which it lacks. The mice all look exactly the same, in the same outfits. The girl mice have different hairstyles but the boy mice don’t have anything to separate who they are from each other. Different coloured outfits may have helped with this issue. The mice also don’t seem to express emotion. For a story about bullying and overcoming that, showing joy or sorrow would be necessary.

Stubby does stand up to the person who is making him feel poorly which is an important message to children. He doesn’t do it with violence or by calling Cutter names back. He uses his words. S. Jackson and A. Raymond know that children need to learn these skills to survive in this modern world. The Big Cheese Festival helps to make it less frightening and more relatable by creating a fun and entertaining world.

Pages: 37 | ASIN: B01H3S381O

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It’s Okay, I’m Watching

It's Okay, I'm Watching (Dear Grief Series Book 1)5 Stars

It’s Okay, I’m Watching, written by Chenee Gilbert, is a novel based around LaTrell Wiggins- a caring young girl who lives with her younger brother Daryl and her parents, Luis and Paulini. Tragedy strikes the family as Paulini’s life is taken by cancer. Grief-stricken, the family begins to process death in their own ways and learns that grief can appear in all shapes and forms. Meanwhile, LaTrell is beginning middle school which comes with the inevitable stage of life- puberty. During this confusing time, Luis, Daryl and LaTrell must come to terms with life without Paulini and the changing dynamics of their family environment.

It’s Okay, I’m Watching opens the door to conversation with those experiencing all forms of grief. LaTrell Wiggins, the main character, loses her mother to cancer whilst entering a vulnerable stage of her life- middle school and puberty. An easily relatable character, LaTrell’s journey shows how families can show strength in the face of terrible adversity.

It’s Okay I’m Watching discusses how our lives are enriched in traditions and questions the reader’s thoughts on what traditions they would pass on to others. It reminds the reader that time waits for no-one and unfortunately, circumstances are out of our control. Personally, it reminded me of the importance of holidays and the unique nuances that make my family my own and what traditions would be present in a memorial for my loved ones.

If you are looking for a companion after experiencing loss, look no further. It’s Okay, I’m Watching will help begin the healing processes and start the pathway to acceptance. This is done through discussion questions at the end of each chapter which helps the reader to reflect on their own circumstances.  It explores how grief is a reaction and a release of an array of emotions. Tragedy can strike anywhere at any time and you will be able to empathize with the characters and their journey.

One of my favorite characters is Shajuan Martinez, LaTrell’s friend. Sassy and confident; she tolerates very little. LaTrell discusses with her friends her grief counselling sessions and they begin to identify whether it is something they could benefit from. LaTrell’s other friend, Chandler, begins to acknowledge his own grief that he had been trying to mask. Her two friends shine a humorous side to LaTrell’s darkest days.

Teenagers experience loss and grief through death, break-ups and even loss of pets. Exposure to novels such as this will help them begin to understand the grieving process in an already confusing time of their life. It allowed me to normalize my own grieving processes and the impact these times had during my youth.

What I loved most about this novel is that it opens up the idea that grief isn’t restricted to those experiencing death and instead can be felt by those who are feeling alone, sad or missing someone. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to understand their own journey in regards to grief and loss.

Pages: 110 | ASIN: B01MXKCY8R

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Paroxysm Effect

Paroxysm Effect4 StarsHuman beings can be the most destructive, manipulative creatures on the planet. Ashleigh Reynolds captures this with fierce elegance in her novel Paroxysm Effect. What begins with a futuristic world where people are chipped in order to control their emotions devolves into an end-of-the-world scenario that will have you guessing what Reynolds possibly dreams about at night. Our protagonist, Gemi, finds herself in the center of the world’s destruction as people all over begin to succumb to madness as the chips they have lived with for untold amounts of time begin to go haywire. Mild mannered receptionists are ready to dice their coworkers to pieces. Strangers in the streets are murdering others before anyone can fully grasp what is going on. Gemi tumbles out into the middle of this madness only to be rescued by the handsome Jaxton and his military band of unchipped soldiers.

In order to read this book, you must be comfortable with blood: because there is a lot of it. Between the savage beatings in the streets there follows the betrayal of friendships and the viciousness of angry, threatened women. Gemi is a fish out of water: she’s being pulled along for the ride as the military group tries to save themselves from the regular humans whose chips have malfunctioned. We learn that military members are not chipped in an effort to keep their emotions clear and functioning: they need the ability to make snap decisions. Gemi is considered a normal human from a society where chipping is commonplace. With the world going to hell around them, it’s no wonder that other members of the group look upon her with disdain and treat her like a parasite; all while waiting for her to go berserk so they can put her down.

The severity of the attacks seems to increase along with the page numbers. Reynolds is not afraid to show the ugliness that permeates the human soul. While human beings tend to pride themselves as refined and cultured, Paroxysm Effect shows how twisted and despicable they truly are.

With a quick pace and excellent story-telling, Reynolds isn’t afraid to push boundaries and ideals in her novel. For her debut into the literary world she certainly didn’t waste any time getting to the nitty gritty. You can feel the time and effort Reynolds put into developing her world and her characters. She sees the story all the way through; even with the massive twist at the end. While most twists tend to negate everything that happened before them, Reynolds instead uses her twist to full advantage and propels the tale along.

If you’re in the mood to have your mind played with while pondering the potential benefits of a behavior modifying chip, give Paroxysm Effect a read first and then determine how comfortable you’d be leaving your emotions, the very things that compile our personalities and make us who we are, in someone else’s dastardly hands.

Pages: 296 | ISBN: 1523449233

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Views from the Asylum

Views from the Asylum3 StarsViews from the Asylum follows a nameless protagonist as he spews, almost stream of consciousness style, what he deems to be “psychotic views” while dealing with the fallout of his own failed suicide attempt. The topics covered in his rants are wide-ranging and are anti-government. For example, he rails against the U.S. government and their actions, such as the war on drugs and military bases overseas. He states that several middle-east countries are in bad shape today because of American foreign policy.

The text is interrupted by poetic verses, some from published works of other writers, and some of the narrator’s own creation. They add depth to the text surrounding them, and it is a nice break.

The character describes himself as non-religious, but is surprised by a pleasant visit from a priest during his stay in the hospital. He analyzes all of his experiences with other humans throughout the text, but this interaction seemed to have an effect on his character.

One scene involves the character pulling a “Sherlock Holmes” on his doctor, analyzing her appearance and her surroundings to draw conclusions about her character. Through this the reader see’s the narrator’s intelligence and keen eye for observation.

In short, his character can be described by a sentence he speaks to his doctor. “I see no real progression in human nature, since it first started.” His inward looks at himself and at the societies of the world leave him wanting humans to wake up and act more enlightened. His frustration with this lack of enlightenment seems to be the biggest conflict for him.

Overall, it is interesting to follow the narrator as he tries to work his way through his feelings, emotions, and thoughts as he recovers from his suicide attempt. However, many of the ramblings on which he embarks do not help to develop the character, which is unfortunate. But his “psychotic views” do lead to some deep dialogue.

Pages: 157 | ASIN: B00GR5A6JC

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