Welcome Back, Maple Mehta-Cohen by Kate McGovern. Book Review.

The premise of this story is that a girl, Maple, is kept back in grade four while all her friends move to grade five, middle school, and shun her. She fails because she can’t read. This has just been discovered by her “excellent” teacher and she is diagnosed with dyslexia.

Before I address the story writing, I must address this issue of failing a child for the teacher’s inadequate assessments. This book is published in Canada so I don’t know what province this would still be happening in. For decades in Ontario, teachers must assess students independent reading at least three times a year using unfamiliar text with no pictures or oral clues. The students are assigned a reading level and this is followed from grade SK to six. Teachers plot the child’s progress from one term to the next and if a child is falling behind, further testing and support is put in place. Everyone involved would be alerted if a child couldn’t read long before they reached the end of grade five. Parents would be livid if a child was suddenly kept back with no indication for years that they were struggling. There would be long discussion of why this child slipped through their fingers and someone would be held accountable.

Setting that aside, the story is an accurate representation of the trauma a child in this situation would suffer. Quite often the friends in their former class forget about including them, especially if they seldom see each other at school. Parents are often unaware that a child is being socially excluded. Maple is hurt but resourceful and brave. She suffers a horrible humiliation and has the compassion to forgive. Unfortunately, today I think the public humiliation of her poor oral reading would not be put on the intercom but would be spread across social media where it would not be forgotten so easily.

The book also touches on how difficult it is for minority children, especially those of mixed race, to find representation in media and history representation.

This is a touching story but it feels a little out of date. This seems as though the social and academic situations pertain more to the time of the author’s childhood than present day.

3 stars

Switch – Five Star Review.

My recently released novel just received its first review. It is available free on Smashwords until Sept. 23, 2001. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1097582 Get your copy now.

Here is the blurb followed by the review.

Blurb

In the time of Queen Elizabeth I of England, fourteen-year-old Rosemary Prowd has a secret that could kill her. When she flees, with her parents, to her godmother’s cottage, the danger follows her. She seems to be destined to become a homeless beggar, the victim of a stalker, accused of witchcraft, or hung as a thief. As her support system collapses, her survival depends on her wits, courage, and determination. Then a mysterious plant opens a world of possibilities. Will using it be her salvation or her doom?

Review

D.J. Hawkins reviewed on Sep. 17, 2021 5 stars
This is the first book of Bonnie’s that I’ve read and let’s just say that I’m a fan. Bonnie’s writing style is so immersive and detailed. And who doesn’t love a classic you’re-a-witch, ghost story? As the protagonist, young Rosemary is misunderstood, snarky, and plagued with the ability to see ghosts. But she is endearing and oftentimes quite hilarious, even if she doesn’t mean to be that way. Another aspect of this book that I LOVE is the images throughout; the headers and the scene breaks. Visually, they pulled the story together and made me so much more intrigued. Although historical fiction (the book is set in England during Queen Elizabeth I’s time) is not my usual go-to genre, I can definitely say that Bonnie has prompted me to explore this genre more and I’ll definitely be reading more of her books.
(reviewed 6 days after purchase)

The Gazebo by Emily Grayson. Book Review.

This is a romance story about lovers who cannot be together but cannot stop loving each other. No matter what, they meet once a year at the gazebo to reaffirm their devotion. By a series of circumstances, they live on two different continents and this cannot be reconciled.

The romance is sweet but I felt a little frustrated that they didn’t figure out a way to make it work. Many couples face these problems and overcome them.

The book is a quick read, not too syrupy, with just the right touch of romance. The characters are likeable and engaging. An enjoyable book.

4 stars

Buy L:ink https://amzn.to/3CmBv6D

Camino Winds buy John Grisham. Book Review.

Well, this was a real disappointment. It was a detailed, well-thought out plot but read like a second draft. Forget the overwhelming number of characters. Forget that lack of individual personality for the characters. But, for heaven sake, put some tension into it. It read like a police officer’s notebook, a dispassionate, flat recitation of events. There were numerous opportunities for suspense, where he could have heightened interest, but didn’t. A good screenwriter could turn this into a great movie and it would definitely be a case of the movie being better than the book. I don’t see how it could be nearly as boring. To call this a thriller is like calling Donald Duck a criminal genius.

two stars.

Vampire Academy by Rachel Mead. Book Review.

https://amzn.to/3mGu1Hd

I’ve read a lot of vampire stories and it’s hard to find something that’s new but this one sparked my interest.  There are no coffins, crosses, or garlic in this story.

There are two kinds of vampires, strigoi, the dead who have come back and are fearful killers. and the vampires who were born. The strigoi are determined to kill the natural vampires but they are protected by half human teens, dhampir. Why these bodyguards sacrifice their lives to protect the vampires comes out in the story and makes perfect sense. They also have a good explanation for why people allow vampires to feed off them.

This story focusses on two young women one vampire, Lissa, and one bodyguard, Rose They have run away from the Academy and I’ve been brought back against their will. They have all the complications of normal teenagers, falling in love with the wrong person, not knowing who to trust, handling vicious gossip, bullying and ostracizing, in addition to the specific challenges of being magical creatures.

It was easy to read, fast-paced and engaging. I subsequently discovered that this is a series although this book didn’t have a number. The back story is complex enough to carry it through a series. This story focusses mainly on Rose’s struggle to fit in and her relationship with the young woman, Lissa, she is guarding. They are best of friends but have a unique twist. The Rose can feel, and eventually even see, what the vampire is experiencing.

Most of the vampires have a magical talent that develops as they mature. Some can control fire or other elements, some can change their environment in unique ways, but Lissa is developing the most dangerous and valuable talent of all. Bringing the ill back to wellness and the dead back to life is a gift that will destroy her. It must be kept secret and never used. It comes at a great cost to the vampire But Lissa’s resolve to suppress the use of her gift is sorely tempted in a frightening chain of events.

A fun read.

four stars

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All Those Things We Never Said by Marc Levy. Book Review.

Buy link. https://amzn.to/3yrUkmw

Three days before Julia‘s wedding, she is notified that her father has died in Europe and the funeral is on the day of her marriage. Of course, she postpones it and tells her husband-to-be that they must cancel the honeymoon to Montreal, Canada. However, When a mysterious will wooden crate shipped to her house, things take a strange twist.

What would you do if you could talk to someone for a week who was already dead? When Julia has this opportunity, she resists. Father has done something in her life to make her hate him and there’s no way it can be fixed. Or is there?

The plot is intriguing but becomes a little predictable midway. The author has large chunks of expository writing, especially in the flashbacks. I would like to have seen the past events unfold more and fewer things be told. I would like to have felt what Julia felt when her father broke her heart.

I thought Julia‘s behaviour towards her fiancé was rather callous and dismissive. This is a happily ever after, at least for Julia.

It is sure to raise a good discussion for book clubs. Would you want to have the opportunity Julia had or would it be too painful and disturbing? Would it bring closure or would it feel too artificial? It is an intriguing concept.

It was an enjoyable read.

4 stars

Good Night, Noah by Eric Walter. Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes. Book Review.

This is a very basic picture book for babies. Noah is saying goodnight to someone on each pages. He p[ats a dog on his bed and says, “Woof. Good night, doggy.” Then his bed appears in a field by a cow. “Moo Good night, cow.” In a field of flowers, he says “Buzzzz Good night, honeybee.” He visits a duck, a lion, a bird, a pig, a monkey, a fish, a kangaroo, an owl, and lastly, his daddy. Each page has a hint of what the next animal will be and at the end they can all be found in the child’s room as toys.

This would be a super fun book to read with a toddler making all the sounds with you. The pictures are simple and realistic, colorful but not garish. The text is clear and large. I was given a paperback reviewer’s copy so  can’t assess the quality of the board book.  

A great way to introduce babies to bedtime books and develop a bedtime routine of saying goodnight to special toys.

Be aware though that the only parent shown is daddy. I wonder if they could print a version with a mommy at the end.

We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange: Book Review

This is the story of an Irish family reuniting after a well-kept secret drove them apart.  The devotyed daughter, Sunday, fled to New York for a mysterious reason. Her three brothers and her boyfriend do not understand why she has cut herself off from the family. When she’s involved in a serious car accident, while driving drunk, her older brother it’s called by the hospital staff as next of kin. He brings her back to thier hometown where event unfold.  Two of the brothers are opening a second bar and one is keeping secrets from the other which could cause financial ruin. Her boyfriend has married and has a child but still feels the same about her. Sunday slowly unravels the secrets and motives, including her own.

 It has the flavour of Heartland or Virgin River. When the whole story comes out, everything makes sense. It is a story of loyalty, love, family,  deceit, and forgiveness. Tracy Lange portrays the characters in such a way ice to make the reader feel they know them. They’re the kind of people you would like to have in your own family. The writing style is simple and straightforward, linear, and told from an omniscient viewpoint focussing on Sunny.

It doesn’t seem possible to have a happy ending after everything that’s happened but Tracy Lane brings it all to a satisfying conclusion.

4 stars

Olive by Emma Gannon: Book Review

Olive is a thoughtful woman in her early 30s going through some major life changes. She has shared everything with her three best friends since they were tiny but they are becoming distant since she is walking a different path. In the 30s women must make their decision of whether to have children or not.

One of her. friends has three children, one is pregnant, and one is undergoing expensive and painful procedures to try to conceive. Olive has never wanted children and society gives her the impression that something is wrong with her. Women without children are to be pitied or not trusted. If you don’t want them now you will later. There’s constant pressure to have a real family. To make matters worse, Olive’s boyfriend of 10 years wants to have children and he’s shocked to find out she seriously is committed to being parentless.

The book explores societal pressures on women to bear children, even pressuring each other. The book explores how life changes affect relationships as we watch the young women struggle with demands of their families, society, and their own needs. It is a thought-provoking book and will elicit a lot of great discussion for book clubs.

I thought it odd though that twice in the book, out of nowhere, she takes shots at vegans. It seemed really out of place. It was a minor diversion though.

She has a casual first person contemporary young voice. Easy to read, like listening to someone telling their own story.

 I recommend it for anyone who is pondering the idea of whether to be a parent or not, or wants to understand the dilemma of 30-year-olds trying to decide.

4 stars