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review 2017-12-01 17:13
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 7 - International Human Rights Day: Et vous vouliez me dire quoi encore, M. Senécal?
Vivre au Max - Patrick Senécal

 

A French buddy read with Tannat (who doesn't seem terribly inclined to make progress rapidly with this book, either) -- and since it's not only a book originally written in a language other than English, and in a language different from my mother tongue (plus, a book by a Québecois, i.e., non-Anglo-Saxon author), I'm also counting it towards square 7 of the 16 Festive Tasks (International Human Rights Day).

 

Vivre au Max is the first half of a two-part novel entitled Le vide ("the void," "the emptiness").  It's also the title of a TV show which, if it were real, would make the likes of Jerry Springer look like innocent choir boys.  The show promises to fulfill three candidates' wildest and most unreachable dreams per episode (at least 2 out of 3 of these dreams, or "trips," typically being sordid beyond compare): "au max" is a word play on both "to the max" and its creator's and host's name -- Maxime Lavoie, former president and CEO of a ski apparel company founded by his father; a position, that Max (a would-be humanitarian and intellectual) had taken on only half-heartedly to begin with, and quickly got fed up with when he realized that his high-flying notions to turn the company into a model of social virtues -- at the shareholders' cost -- were not going to be put into practice in any way that would have counted.

 

Max Lavoie is one of three men on which the story centers; the other two are a cop named Pierre Sauvé, who is investigating a quadruple shooting that initially looks every bit like a case of violent domestic revenge, and a psychologist named Fédéric Farland, who ... well, let's just say that having gotten bored with life's ordinary thrills, he is seeking ever more exotic and dangerous ones.  Of the three protagonists, I really only ever took to Pierre -- certainly not Frédéric, whom I hated pretty much from the first page of his appearance (and not merely for his utter amorality and contempt of life); and while I was unsure initially about Max, he lost my sympathy when I had clued into where the story was headed.  Not that I feel very much like bothering to find out: I still don't get what, deep down, Mr. Senécal's point in writing this book ultimately might have been, but I don't care about two of the three principal characters, and if the story is headed anywhere near where I think it is headed, it's not the sort of thing I need in my life at all.

 

That said, the buddy read has accomplished its primary goal, in bringing back the fun of reading something in a different language than German or (mostly) English.  So Tannat, if / whenever you finish this and aren't too ennuie on your part, I'd definitely be up for another one ...

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text 2017-11-27 15:08
Reading progress update: I've read 162 out of 436 pages.
Vivre au Max - Patrick Senécal

So, alright, Maxime Lavoie was a somewhat unwilling heir to his father's position as president and CEO of Lavoie Inc., but vowed to do good with his fortune and, having apparently found this to be an unresolvable conflict he goes and creates a TV show compared to which Jerry Springer's is a paragon of virtue ...?  WTF?

 

And was it this show's theme ("realize your most unreachable dream") that gave Nadeau the idea to kill her ex-husband and his new girlfriend and twin sons?

 

And what's up with the four killers who sent Nadeau and the cops guarding her to her death?

 

It occurs to me, btw, that since the author is Québecois and the book was written in French, I can use this book as my read for International Human Rights Day for the 16 Festive Tasks: "Read a book originally written in another language (i.e., not in English and not in your mother tongue), –OR– a book written by anyone not anglo-saxon."  So that's what I'll be doing.

 

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text 2017-11-25 16:47
Reading progress update: I've read 40 out of 436 pages.
Vivre au Max - Patrick Senécal

I kind of like Pierre, but can't stand Frédéric (even at this early point already).  Have yet to meet Maxime ...

 

Thank God it is a linear read after all -- now I really wonder what's up with the chapter numbers, though.

 

French buddy read with Tannat.

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review 2017-11-22 20:20
Surprisingly entertaining Canadian & Cree First Nations read about overcoming your past and owning your power.
Strangers - David Alexander Robertson

Disclaimers: I'm reviewing an uncorrected proof ebook version acquired via NetGalley, I'm choosing to leave an unbiased review, and I'm not qualified to comment in-depth on aboriginal representation.

 

More disclaimers: Um, so I just want to note for the record that I already named characters Cole and Ash in BLIND THE EYES before I read this book. No plagiarism. I guess Canadian authors just think alike? lol.

 

I loved this WAY more than I expected to. To get a few critiques out of the way, the cover looks a little off to me (more indie or MG maybe?), so I wasn't expecting a lot of polish. The first few pages are also a little disorienting, because the author launches with a different perspective from the main POV, incorporates supernatural elements immediately without explanation, and references past events without backstory at first. All of which turns out to be great in the scope of the story, but it feels like jumping in the deep end.

 

This is the story of a 17yo Cree First Nations teen who left his rural home community in elementary school and is attending high school in Winnipeg at the time the story opens. A supernatural being is trying to lure him back to his hometown. His aunt and grandmother don't want him to return for reasons that aren't explained at first, but we discover that there's past trauma and bullying to contend with. Cole also has some superior abilities that may be more than natural. There's a lot going on in the plot:

 

-trickster spirits, ghosts, unexplained supernatural/paranormal phenomena
-murder mystery/thriller
-romance? maybe?
-bullying, trauma & clinical anxiety (incl. struggles with medication)
-rural vs. city enmities/tension
-First Nations/aboriginal experience (on/off reserve, resourcing, discrimination)

 

As a Canadian, and as someone who actually lived in Winnipeg during her childhood, there was a lot that felt familiar in this, including issues raised that I'm not sure if a foreign reader would pick up on or not. The author (based on his Goodreads bio) does live in Winnipeg and is a member of a Cree First Nation, so this is an #ownvoices book with (to the best of my knowledge) good representation.

 

I liked how the struggles that First Nations people experience within Canadian society were included within the scope of the story, but that the focus was on the characters and their experiences. It can be hard to write good fiction that represents real-world issues without breaking character or bogging down/diverting the plot (see: preachy dystopias for one), so I thought Robertson did an excellent job of including accurate world-building in service of the story. For instance, there are medical emergencies in the scope of the story, and it's referenced a few times how help is requested but the government takes a long time to respond, ignores the pleas, or doesn't send the help needed in a timely manner. Remote communities struggle for resources and lose people to the cities where there's more opportunity, jobs etc.

 

Some Cree words are used (and translated in place), some ritual and beliefs are incorporated, but the narrative doesn't suffer at all from the exoticisation of aboriginal culture. (Though maybe American readers will feel like it's "exotic" Canadian culture?) If anything, the hockey-playing, tiny-remote-community, one-restaurant-in-town setting felt so recognizable to me that it would have been boring if not for the strong character writing and murdery-plot.

 

Cole and his friends are relatable as teenagers struggling with a variety of issues: tragic pasts, tension with childhood friendships left behind, current identity and past identity, sexual identity and relationships, trust issues with adults who're keeping secrets . . . Also, the writing of "Choch" the trickster-spirit was hilarious. That's probably what tipped this story from a good read to "when's the sequel coming out?" for me. His clowning felt instantly recognizable and, at times, laugh-out-loud hilarious. It was a great counterpoint to the dark thriller plot that could have headed into way more emo territory without him.

 

I'm totally down for reading a sequel/series about a Canadian First Nations teen with superpowers and his trickster spirit sidekick/tormenter/guide/whatever.

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text 2017-11-02 18:36
Tannat: Buddy Read Français

... we're good to go.  Or, well, I am.  They got here much quicker than expected, and even both on the same day.  Your call now -- whatever is easier for you to track down at the library.

 

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