Book Review: Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai – An Exuberant Illustrated Adventure about Love, Helicopter Parents, and Finding Your Independence

Blurb:

Henry Khoo’s family treats him like a baby. He’s not allowed to go anywhere without his sister/chaperone/bodyguard. His (former) best friend knows to expect his family’s mafia-style interrogation when Henry’s actually allowed to hang out at her house. And he definitely CAN’T take a journey halfway around the world all by himself!

But that’s exactly his plan. After his family’s annual trip to visit his father in Singapore is cancelled, Henry decides he doesn’t want to be cooped up at home with his overprotective family and BFF turned NRFF (Not Really Friend Forever). Plus, he’s hiding a your-life-is-over-if-you’re-caught secret: he’s the creator of an anonymous gossip cartoon, and he’s on the verge of getting caught. Determined to prove his independence and avoid punishment for his crimes, Henry embarks on the greatest adventure everrr. . . hoping it won’t turn into the greatest disaster ever.

I was provided an ARC of this book by the author; this does not influence my book review.

If you know me, then you’ll know that I loved Lai’s debut middle-grade book, Pie in the Sky, with my entire being. Pie in the Sky was a book that made me laugh with its warm yet incisive humour and made me sob my eyes out for its phenomenal portrayal of grief. Needless to say, Pie in the Sky is one of my favourite middle-grade books of all time – and you can thus imagine how excited I received a copy of Fly on the Wall from Remy herself.

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Book Review: Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles – A Phenomenal Contemporary Middle-Grade about Activism, Gentrification, and Growing Up

Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Xiaolong, the pink axolotl wearing a flower hat, waving at you.
Blurb:

Brand-new kicks, ripped denim shorts, royal-blue Supreme tee—Wes Henderson has the best style in sixth grade. That–and hanging out with the crew (his best friends since little kid days) and playing video games–is what Wes wants to be thinking about at the start of the school year, not the protests his parents are always dragging him to.

But when a real estate developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks– the neighborhood Wes has lived in his whole life, everything changes. The grown-ups are supposed to have all the answers. But all they’re doing is arguing. Even Wes’s best friends are fighting. And some of them may be moving. Wes isn’t about to give up the only home he’s ever known without a fight. He’s always been good at puzzles and he knows there must be a missing piece that will solve this puzzle and save the Oaks. But can he find it…before it’s too late?

Exploring community, justice, family and friendship with a irresistibly deft and relatable touch, Take Back the Block introduces Wes, a 6th grader readers will fall in love with and asks what it means to belong, to a place and a movement, and to fight for a cause you believe in. 

I was provided an eARC by the publisher via the author in exchange for an honest review.

If people ask me, why do you read middle-grade books? I think, from now on, instead of giving people a long-winded answer about how I think middle-grade stories offer a window and mirror to the realities and issues that young people face today, I’ll just wordlessly hand them a copy of Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles instead. That’s right: Take Back the Block is an example of why children’s literature is such an exciting space right now – it’s timely, brilliantly told, and just so undeniably good.

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Book Review: This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi – A Heartwarming Story about Saving an Indie Bookstore

Blurb:

Rinn Olivera is finally going to tell her longtime crush AJ that she’s in love with him.

Daniella Korres writes poetry for her own account, but nobody knows it’s her.

Imogen Azar is just trying to make it through the day.

When Rinn, Daniella, and Imogen clock into work at Wild Nights Bookstore on the first day of summer, they’re expecting the hours to drift by the way they always do. Instead, they have to deal with the news that the bookstore is closing. Before the day is out, there’ll be shaved heads, a diva author, and a very large shipment of Air Jordans to contend with.

And it will take all three of them working together if they have any chance to save Wild Nights Bookstore.

Books set over the course of 24 hours (or any short period of time) have a certain propulsion that is unmatched. Even with my INTENSELY busy schedule, having added 5-10 hours of work to each week, I listened to This Is All Your Fault every night and every morning while walking my sweet dog, Mary Puppins, and I have to say that we both thoroughly enjoyed this novel. When I wasn’t listening to the audiobook, I took every chance I could to devour this quick story on my Kindle.

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Book Review: Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland – An Unforgettable Genre-Bending Story that Explores the Beauty and Power of Love, Loss and the Violence of Deportation

Blurb:

Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets Roswell by way of Laurie Halse Anderson in this astonishing, genre-bending novel about a Mexican American teen who discovers profound connections between immigration, folklore, and alien life.

It’s been three years since ICE raids and phone calls from Mexico and an ill-fated walk across the Sonoran. Three years since Sia Martinez’s mom disappeared. Sia wants to move on, but it’s hard in her tiny Arizona town where people refer to her mom’s deportation as “an unfortunate incident.”

Sia knows that her mom must be dead, but every new moon Sia drives into the desert and lights San Anthony and la Guadalupe candles to guide her mom home.

Then one night, under a million stars, Sia’s life and the world as we know it cracks wide open. Because a blue-lit spacecraft crashes in front of Sia’s car…and it’s carrying her mom, who’s very much alive.

As Sia races to save her mom from armed-quite-possibly-alien soldiers, she uncovers secrets as profound as they are dangerous in this stunning and inventive exploration of first love, family, immigration, and our vast, limitless universe.

I was provided an Audiobook Listening Copy by Libro.fm in exchange for an honest review.

When I picked up Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything on a whim, I had absolutely no idea that this magnificent book would take me on this incredible emotional genre-bending rollercoaster. I had no idea, because I often don’t read the synopsis of books before I read them. A leap of faith, I know, but with Sia Martinez? The surprise and whiplash that I felt was absolutely worth it.

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Book Review: The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf – An Unapologetically Malaysian, Spooky, and Emotional Story about Friendship, Loneliness, and Jealousy

Blurb:

I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.

Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.

But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.

If anyone you know ever feels hesitant to read middle-grade books, then do them a favour: introduce them to The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf. From her young-adult debut, The Weight of Our Sky, about a Malay teen searching for her mother during the 1969 race riots that took place in Malaysia, Hanna’s middle-grade debut is, quite frankly, a book exceeds words. By that, I mean that when I finished this back in August, I was speechless. By that, I also mean that how I feel about this book, my utmost love and adoration and awe for it, cannot be expressed in mere words. But, for the sake of this review and because I want nothing more than for all of you to read it, I hope I can do the beauty of this book some justice.

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