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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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Uncle Stubby Gets Married

Uncle Stubby Gets Married4 Stars

You need to be able to tap into a certain flavour of whimsy in order to write a good children’s book. Let’s not forget that the illustrations need to be catchy and colourful to hold the attention of the little ones either reading or being read to. A children’s book is most entertaining when it spins a different point of view on something that children have already been exposed to. Uncle Stubby Gets Married by S. Jackson and A. Raymond takes the idea of simple squirrels and marriage and melds them together. This book is part of a series with other animals and their lives. Perfect for children, this book draws out the marriage between Uncle Stubby and his betrothed Sparkles as their friends and family travel to help them celebrate it. The story is full of kindness, cheer and all the good feelings weddings are supposed to elicit.

The language in this book is very simple. It may be difficult for a child who is learning to read but it is perfect to read to a child. The pictures are bright and interesting, which should help keep the attention of the audience. At the beginning of the book there is a comprehensive breakdown of the entire story so parents or teachers can determine if the book will suit their needs or themes. As it takes place in the Valentine Forest, this is a good book to read around Valentine’s Day, if you are looking for theme-specific books.

The images are, for the most part, real photographs of various animals manipulated to be posed or displayed in a certain way. There are little additions like a crown or the plethora of sparkles and these add to the story. It is interesting for children to see ‘realistic’ pictures of animals they are familiar with engaging in very human activities. It allows them to have a sense of imagination and wonder just what exactly squirrels get up to when humans aren’t looking. The one downside to using manipulated photographs is that when a character appears that is either created by hand or through computer graphics they stand out a fair bit. This occurs with the Mouse Fairies in the Valentine Forest. Their appearance is a stark contrast to the other characters in that they are fully clothed with added hair. They are more anthropomorphic than a photo-enhanced squirrel with a sash around its waist.

Nitpicking aside, Jackson and Raymond know how to craft an interesting children’s tale. The story is cute and even though it is part of a series, it can stand alone quite well. Readers do not need previous knowledge of the characters to understand the story in Uncle Stubby Gets Married. For children, and maybe even adults, who have a fantastical view of the world this is a lovely tale of romance, happiness and friendship.

Pages: 40 | ASIN: B01MY5NJF0

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West bEgg: The World’s New Power Elite

West bEgg: the world's new power elite3 Stars

West bEgg: the world’s new power elite centers on the narrative of four main characters; Luca, Anna, Carolina, and La Revolução. The first three characters are assistants working for demanding, ruthless, and utterly annoying bosses, while La Revolução is an architect who works under her own annoying boss as well as beside his self-righteous daughter. The main theme that connects these characters is that they all seem to hate their jobs, and the daily tasks that they are given. All characters and their bosses are brought together at The Fanta Party where, despite endless preparation, disaster strikes out of the blue.

Mari.Reiza does a beautiful job of crafting each character for the reader. While they are all united in their disdain for their bosses and perhaps even depression at their personal lives, the characters are in fact, completely different individuals. Luca knows he is a punching bag and keeps this mantra rolling on repeat throughout the short novel. Anna would never imagine standing up to her boss, and goes out of her way to make sure that everything is perfect, while Carolina is perfectly okay with getting on her boss’ nerves, yet cries to anyone that will listen about how terrible he is. And then we have La Revolução, who seems to be the most interesting out of all these characters. She is not an assistant, but she is tasked with working with Irajá, the boss’ spoiled daughter, who is more trouble than she is worth. In a way, La Revolução is an assistant to Irajá, but her ultimate concern seems to be with ‘living the dream’. This could be acquainted to actually making a difference with her life’s work, rather than building parking lots or destroying properties that act as safe houses for abused women.

Each of the characters’ stories are told through their own point of view in each chapter. The reader will read about Luca’s experience of tending to his boss’ needs, then the next chapter might switch to Carolina crying on the shoulder of a sympathetic listener. The author does a great job of leading the reader up to the moment of The Fanta Party, where all of these characters will meet. However, this is where it falls flat for the reader. As carefully planned as it might have seemed, the party meets with disaster and we find the assistants running around trying to piece everything back to together like always. It seems that the misdoings of each boss has come back to wreak havoc on this party, and the assistants are the ones left to clean up the mess. It’s all very rushed through. I felt that much of the novel detailed the daily workings of each character, only to rush onto the climax of the story and not spend enough time fleshing out what I thought was the most interesting part of the novel. This novel should definitely be applauded for the difficult positions in which it places its characters, but overall, more details and a greater climax would have been welcomed.

I loved the detailed character descriptions and the authors grasp of nuance in character development. West bEgg is a fascinating piece of fiction that colorfully reveals the lives of the upper class.

Pages: 150 | ASIN: B01N4MSUKV

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The Jealous Flock

The Jealous Flock: A Literary Epic in Miniature, 2017 by [Borodin, Ashley]3 Stars

The Jealous Flock by Ashley Borodin is a realistic fiction story that centers around the slightly strained relationship of a married couple and their lives as individuals in partnership and their young adult son. The narrative drops readers directly into the lives of the characters featured and lets you explore their lives and innermost thoughts as they struggle with identity and the maturing of unique ideas. Heavily geared towards deep thinking, challenging societal ideals, and the mass acceptance of those who are different, The Jealous Flock is a story that is designed to open the audience’s mind and heart and think outside of the box.

What seems to be an ordinary, white picket fence family in England takes the spotlight in a vivid narrative from each character’s point of view. Hints of tension between Doris and Martin, a married couple both caught up in their jobs, play their part on their son John who is beginning to phase into his adult life from that of a teenager. As Martin travels to Afghanistan to help stop a potential blood bath with jihadists, Doris is left at home to struggle through the differences in her personal opinions and morals as they pertain to her career in the law as a PR agent. Meanwhile, left behind in his parents own crisis, John quits his respectable job and flees overseas where he hopes to find himself and pursue his passion for photography. In Australia, he follows the steps of his father in participating in protests that aren’t always peaceful to defend Muslims battling hate and discrimination. Here he meets Randall, an unhappy widower pursuing an unusual relationship with a transgender prostitute who is stuck in her own shell of self-hatred.

The relationships in The Jealous Flock are realistic and relatable, breathing life into the characters both on their own and in harmony with their counterparts. The story takes on a political drive with themes of racism, xenophobia, and sexism as strong elements in the plot. Dynamics between the father and son of this story are particularly captivating, as Borodin manages to catch those meaningful moments that happen during the shift from parent to lifelong friend and mentor.

Ashley Borodin makes a strong call to arms to fight against society’s expectation of us in any walk of life. In a way, the author has created a coming-of-age story not just for young adults but for those in later years as well. This story dives deep into your thoughts and twists open the cap on unique thinking and encourages ideas of change and acceptance. The graphic, bold way that the author takes depression and insecurities relatable to everyone is a refreshing breath of life and gives you the chance to realize that you are more than what a shallow skin can provide for you. Though a bit wordy and emotionally daunting, Borodin transcribes a striking narrative that has the ability to strike the hearts of those who yearn for something more than mundane life.

Pages: 66 | ASIN: B01NAPZWB8

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Monster Literary Book Awards: February 2017

The Hungry Monster Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and The Hungry Monster is proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.

Gold Book AwardGold Award Winners

The Time Slipsters (The Dreadnought Collective Book 3) by [Tumbler, Terry]

Special Task Force: GREEN MAJIK #1 "Pretty Hate Machine": The Reader Feedback Dooms Day Edition by [Templeton, Don]

Silver Book AwardSilver Award Winners

The TVC Project by [Bridges, Tom]
The Nightmare From World's End by [Stava, Robert J.]Coffin Dodgers: A Sci Fi Horror Book by [Adams, Tom G.H.]

“Books are the linchpin of my existence. My earliest childhood memories revolve around the magic of reading, of being transported through time and space via a vivid story. Since I was old enough to know what a book was, I knew I was destined to write books as well.” – Don Templeton, author of Pretty Hate Machine

Visit the Hungry Monster Book Awards page to see award information and see all award winners.

Goo of the Gods

Goo of the Gods: Rising Saints High4 StarsP. Joynes’s novel Goo of the Gods, part of the Rising Saints High series, centers around the life of teen prodigy Jonah Polopolus and his traumatic past. Under pressure to live up to his famous father’s reputation, Jonah joins the Sci-6 team and learns that Science Club is so much more than an after-school activity. Jonah must balance his “normal” teen responsibilities (if you call dangerous science projects normal) while also befriending a beautiful ghost who haunts him and seeks his help. Once Science Club turns into a battle of good versus evil, Jonah and Sci-6 must use their unique traits and scientific prowess to defeat demons, save their school, and solve the mysteries behind their hometown’s tragic history.

There’s something suspicious about the tragic accidents and missing people in Jonah Polopolus’s hometown, and Sci-6 plans to figure it out. D. P. Joynes’s Goo of the Gods, part of the Rising Saints High series, is a suspenseful YA science fiction novel with twists that keep you on your toes. With a dynamic plot and an intriguing protagonist, I found this novel quite compelling and hard to put down.

Jonah, a brilliant science student, returns to his hometown five years after the death of his parents and begins his junior year of high school. He’s constantly reminded of his famous father, Dr. Jeremiah Polopolus, and his brilliant discoveries. I loved how the novel jumps between flashbacks to Jonah’s childhood trauma and his present reality, while also interweaving Dr. Polopolus’s journal entries. While there were a few moments that needed more development, I thought that Joynes did an excellent job with transitioning between the past and the present. I liked that this format let me piece together Jonah’s puzzling life.

Even though the novel jumped between time periods, there was a consistent motif of good versus evil throughout the novel, like when Jonah faced situations where people’s actions didn’t easily fit into one idea. Urged by the suspicious, yet charming Dr. Ug, Jonah joins Science Club and is thrown into a competition against a team whose members have a demonic appearance. Jonah and his friends call themselves Sci-6, and they bond over their project on gray “goo.” I feel like the goo becomes a metaphor for something much deeper than its modest appearance, as Jonah is constantly trying to understand the “gray” areas of life.

While working on their “goo” project, Sci-6 encounters many strange occurrences and dangerous situations at CorPP, Dr. Ug’s laboratory. Jonah also faces a unique problem: he’s haunted by a ghost, named Ambriel, who seeks his help. These supernatural situations show how Joynes masterfully blurs the lines of science and faith. Major plot events combine these two typically opposing concepts, which is quite unique for a novel in this genre.

Ultimately, the discovery of old journals inspires them to figure out what, or who, is truly behind the tragedies in their lives. Sci-6 embarks on a mission to conduct risky experiments in order to uncover the truth, help Ambriel, and defeat demons. Even though I wished that Jonah’s friends, Gia and Naomi, had more consistent character development, Jonah’s dynamic characterization made the story that much more enjoyable. It was great to see how Jonah learns to think about the world in both scientific and supernatural ways. The novel ends on a captivating note, and I can’t wait to see what Jonah and his friends do next.

Pages: 183 | ASIN: B01NCNCL4M

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A Degree of Seductiveness

Michael W. Holman Author Interview

Michael W. Holman Author Interview

The Nefarious, Noble and Nocturnal is a collection of short stories that follow three ghostly women and a vampire. How did this collection come together for you? Did you write them individually over time, or did you set out to write a compilation?

My short story compilation came together when I was getting my apartment organized one weekend this past summer and found some college ruled notebooks. From notations I had made in side margins, all four of them had been written years ago. Frankly, I had forgotten all about them. They appear in chronological order; “Another Helen’s Haircomb” was written in 2011 and is the oldest. The last short story, “There’s Always Another One,” was finished in 2014. As readers can see, even with all of them combined, the cumulative word total is less than 8,500 words, but I remembered that while I attended business college I had enjoyed various compilations and Reader’s Digest editions during breaks from classes. An idea of putting four of my own writing projects together grew more and more appealing to me, so I ran with it. Pun intended.

I really like the cover of the book. How did you decide on what cover to choose?

I appreciate what you wrote about the cover for my compilation, many people have had similar comments, for which I’m grateful. But credit doesn’t belong to me. The Chief Executive Officer of my publisher, Captive Quill Press, is also an author friend of mine, Kenya, and that attractive, haunting woman on “The Nefarious, Noble and Nocturnal” cover was Kenya’s idea. She said market research showed potential consumers react with more interest when a striking female model appears on a book, especially when it is in the paranormal fiction genre. I trust my friend’s savvy, so I approved her suggestion.

I consider this a thrilling paranormal romance collection. Do you read books in that genre? Are there any books in that genre that have influenced you over the years?

Yes, I do read paranormal romances. Perhaps that’s unusual for bachelors, but my reasoning is there’s more opportunity for the creative half of my brain to engage when I read stories with supernatural content, and I can immerse myself with the element of “what if” because it makes for great entertainment, a great escape from my work life which is compartmentalized, ordered. I see enough drab, plain stuff everyday.

I want my imagination to have adventures.

Stephen King’s “Bag of Bones” influenced me to write “Intervention” in particular.

I felt that the characters had a lot of depth. What ideas did you have about your characters when you started and how did that change as you were writing?

As I mentioned earlier, “Another Helen’s Haircomb” was written in 2011, so I can’t remember specific ideas about my characters as I wrote at the time, but the reason I thought it was so important to include within The Nefarious, Noble and Nocturnal is our basic human curiosity and awe when it comes to the vastness of eternity. However, what dove tails with that concept is simply no matter how many technological advances are made, we’re still much like my fictional character of Helen from ancient Athens, in that we grieve and love deeply. Furthermore, according to what I’ve read and heard over my life span, thirteen-year-old girls, especially those who have faced traumatic incidents (such as the loss of a parent), seem to be more apt to accept paranormal manifestations they witness. I took some liberty with a father “rolling with the punches” too, granted, but I thought it was reasonable if I demonstrated a dad and his daughter seeking to adapt as best they could together. Where my other three short stories are concerned, the characters remained as originally written, except for Moira in “There’s Always Another One.” When I did a final edit before I sent my file to you, I decided to make her a bit more complex. While I wanted her to keep a degree of seductiveness, it was vital for readers have a more pronounced idea that she’s no bubble-headed nymphomaniac who happens to be a vampire. She has an agenda, and she has every intention of carrying out her objective with a mercenary’s calculating, cold willfulness to succeed.

What is the next story that you are writing and when will that be published?

Currently, I’m in the process of writing a novel, still on its fifth chapter, which is a ghost story entitled “The Stein and the Studebaker: Book 1 of the Norseman Chronicles.” Another of Stephen King’s older works, “Christine,” is influencing me again, but there will be notable differences when my book is done this coming summer or autumn. For starters, King’s supernatural auto, a 1958 Plymouth Fury, is written as a homicidal, vengeful wraith on wheels. By contrast, the 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk in my story is motivated by a desire to see justice is brought to bear for a murder investigation that went cold in 1960. My intent is to have the story written sometime between June and October of 2017, but I have no idea how long it will take to get the book published after that. Oh, and it will be the first of a trilogy series.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Website

The Nefarious, Noble, and Nocturnal by [Holman, Michael W.]Readers, prepare yourselves, and embark on a supernatural journey spanning the battlefield of Marathon in ancient Greece to the present day in America’s Pacific Northwest. Three long distance runners will encounter ghosts, one falls in love with a beautiful vampire who has an agenda, and all four will cross very different finish lines, whether they’re ready or not.

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Heroic Fiction

Murray Lee Eiland Jr. Author Interview

Murray Lee Eiland Jr. Author Interview

Zurga’s Fire takes place in historical Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean and is broken up into four books filled with short tales of adventure. What was the inspiration for this third book in the Orfeo Saga?

The fictional universe laid out by Tolkien in Lord of the Rings was probably the series that got me thinking along the lines of an extended saga. I liked the way Tolkien used ancient sources to create heroic fiction. At the same time I wanted to be more historical like Robert Graves and his series I, Claudius. I wanted to write something that would not be fantastic, and which would not re-tread well known history. The Bronze Age offered scope to speculate. There are few written sources, but what there is offers scope to invent characters and place them in historical context.

Zurga’s Fire introduces the issue of nomads and how they impact civilization. I had been researching nomads for my other interest, Oriental carpets. Nomads were very effective warriors, and they could overwhelm sedentary societies. They did have one weakness, and that was leadership. Every group from that lead by Attila to Ghengis Khan eventually fell apart. A charismatic leader is essential for nomads. In Zurga’s Fire the leader of the nomads is eventually undone not so much by a face to face challenge, but by a crisis in leadership.

Why did you go with the format of short stories told as a collection?

This is a very good question. I really did not think about the format before I started writing the series. I wrote many short stories over a period of years that were never published. Looking back that was probably a good thing. I always liked reading short stories. I think I have a short attention span. The result is that I am quite comfortable writing short stories and I have structured my Orfeo Saga that way too. Many books in the Orfeo Saga are made up of two different stories which are divided into books. In contrast my other series about a Los Angeles based private eye (the Bart Northcote series) are entire novels.

I felt that the characters in this book were complex and well thought out. What was your favorite character to write for?

I think that the character I had the most fondness for was “Zurga.” I gave him a rather ridiculous name because the character went by many names. This name suggests that you cannot take the character seriously. Zurga likes to deceive people as to his true intentions, as well as build up a mythology around himself. Zurga realized early on that he would not be fully accepted. No one would ever select him as a leader. In contrast his protege Orfeo can become a leader. Again I was well aware of Orpheus in the Greek pantheon. While Orpheus was a gifted lute player, he is also credited introducing civilization to savages. My Orfeo character has some similarities with Orpheus, but I have taken all supernatural elements away.

I think of Zurga’s Fire as a historical adventure tale. Did you do any research to keep the setting and characters true?

I studied ancient and modern nomads for years. I read about them, their social structure, history, and particularly art. Many of my research trips were to see nomads making textiles, particularly Turkish speaking people. I knew that for the Bronze Age there were not good historical sources, so I filled in the blanks with what I understood from more modern nomadic groups. I tried to capture their lifestyle in the novel, without going into the nuts and bolts of their society. The interesting thing is that the Greeks had recently settled by the Bronze Age. In the novel they were well aware of the kind of enemy they faced. The same pattern repeats throughout history many times. A group settles and then the next group of nomads impinges on them. Every sedentary group has the same choice. They can fight or they can flee. For Zurga’s Fire I wanted to show how the nomads being horse riders and archers had an advantage. Sedentary society, with farmers, had fewer people who would naturally take on a warrior role. They could fortify cities to stop nomads, but that does not always work. That is the tension I wanted to accentuate in the book.

What does the next book in the Orfeo Saga take readers?

The next book is also divided into two main parts. The first part takes the characters to the New World. There has been a huge amount of scholarly speculation about the contacts between the Old and New Worlds. I think that there must have been limited contact between these two areas, but I am not sure that it occurred as early as the European Bronze Age. However, there was likely early contact. There was a report that a scientist had found traces of cocaine as well as nicotine in Egyptian mummies as early as 1000 BC. I think it is important to look at evidence with an open mind but have a healthy skepticism about big claims.The Orfeo Saga volume 4 has a bit more humor in it than other books in the series. I also thought it was important for Orfeo to take a greater role in his own fate. His teacher disappears during this story.

Part II of the book deals with the rise of Sparta. This is not as far-fetched as some people think. Archaeology is pushing the date for Spartan civilization further back in time. I try to post interesting links to the archaeology on my Facebook page.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Zurga's Fire (The Orfeo Saga Book 3) by [Eiland Jr., Murray Lee]The Getae inhabited the region on either side of the Lower Danube River, in what is today northern Bulgaria and southern Romania. They were in contact with ancient Greeks from an early date. Herodotus – writing in the 5th century BC – extols their martial spirit: “…when it lightens and thunders, they aim their arrows at the sky, uttering threats against the god; and they do not believe that there is any god but their own.”

They ruthlessly incorporate conquered people into their society through enslavement, and are prepared to kill those who are not useful to their plans. They have no need for the luxuries of city life. Fighting in troops of mounted archers, they mock individual heroes. Getae have a long history of reducing enemies in deadly hails of arrows while not getting close enough to lose warriors in single combat. Here Orfeo and his warriors must deal with an expanding Getae empire during the heroic age of Greece. Vastly outnumbered, can they stop an invasion that threatens not only their lives, but also their entire culture?

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Coffin Dodgers

4 Stars

Coffin Dodgers is about a competition to be the last man standing, but with significantly higher stakes than your usual strong-man event. Survivathon takes place on the planet Atrocitas, a pre-historic world where the competitors need everything from high-tech gear to their own wits to make it to the end. While the planet and its inhabitants could spell the end for the various contestants, a sinister plot is waiting to spring out and make surviving the hardest game of all.

In the newest page-turner from Tom G.H. Adams, the thrills and the excitement are in full force. In the near-distant future, thrill seekers and endurance buffs clamor to become the winner of the inaugural Survivathon. With a high reward, but even higher risk, adrenaline junkies prepare to push their skills to the limit. However, making it through will be near impossible due to the beautiful yet deadly fauna and the creatures wanting to make meals of the newcomers. The players must also complete challenges that test mental and physical strength. The various entrants have advantages and disadvantages, but all have shown that they are up to the challenge. Ranging in gender, nationality, and skill-set, the players can either work together to survive, or split up to try to win the whole bounty. But there is another force they must overcome – a killer looking for a bigger prize than money.

Adams constructs a story that flows and keeps the pages flipping. It was hard to stop the momentum from building, and even when taking a breath, the stream of excitement is easy to hop back into. The action isn’t over the top and allows for the contrast of the quiet scenes to shine through. The choices of the characters feel natural for the most part and help move the story along. While the development is lacking, it doesn’t keep the book from being enjoyable. The world, Atrocitas, is described in rich detail and is the perfect setting for the Type-T’s (slang for thrill seekers).

While the narrative is easy to follow and allows the reader to understand everything, some of the twists and turns in the story could be seen coming from a mile away. And, with details being a high priority in this book, the descriptions could be a bit jarring. This shouldn’t deter interested readers, as the story’s pros far outweigh the cons.

All in all, Coffin Dodgers is not just a great title but also a solid story, interesting characters, and a hidden power to keep readers on a thrilling ride from beginning to end. The novel is worth anyone’s time and will have anyone wanting more thrill-seeking.

Pages: 164 | ASIN: B01N4ISYQQ

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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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