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review 2017-12-13 01:03
First Nations Hatchet+time travel
Totem - Jennifer Maruno

Interesting local time-travel adventure that seems weirdly misclassified. This is absolutely a Middle Grade/Children's read. It's Coastal First Nations-meets-Hatchet-plus-Time-Travel.

There's a blond orphan in an island residential school in the 20th century. A new friend escapes with him to a cave where they travel to the 19th century and blondie learns totem carving and gets a spirit animal. The resolution isn't really great; the kids don't really do much other than learn and get some better choices for the future. Arguably, the protagonist may actually be a wolf spirit, since it seems to be what moves the story forward throughout. Which would be a great twist if it had been developed more. What is cool is reading some great historical details and recognizing a very Pacific Northwest/BC/Coastal First Nations setting. But no idea why this was classified as YA. Some glancing mentions of kids being molested and going missing would have been well within the acceptable range for MG-level dark. Recommended short read for ages 9-12 or so who are interested in local history.

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review 2017-07-17 00:52
Cloak of Snow (Totem #3) by Christine Rains
Cloak of Snow (Totem Book 3) - Christine Rains

Saskia and her sisters are desperately trying to find the lost pieces of the totem pole which could have dire consequences for all shapeshifters if it is not found.


But not only do they have to contend with the person who stole the pole in the first place – but the pieces’ magic are causing many supernatural threats to arise


So when she and Sedge, the Reincarnation of the Great Bear Spirit come across a native village under attack due to the totem’s magic. They have to fight to protect them – but Saskia is worried about being pulled back in under Sedge’s influence.





I really hate these two characters together – because a lot of it is the very essence of a destructive romance. On the plus side we don’t actually reach a romance this book – but the whole framework of a romance is there complete with clichéd “I don’t want anything to do with you we’re over but zomg so hawt so hawt” which is definitely a foundation for romance so often.


Saskia and Sedge may have history, may have been in a relationship but they split up because Saskia decided to end the relationship – and yes, I get that we’re supposed to disagree with her reasoning (and I do, yes I do) but it’s still her choice, her reasoning, her decision. But I think because we’re expected to disagree with her reasoning and know she wants him really – so his constant pushing against her “no” is ok.


Like the concept of Taboos – there are taboos people are supposed to follow in accordance with the Inuit beliefs (I don’t know how true this is due to my own ignorance of Inuit beliefs) and while major spirits like Sedge (who is Bear) usually let violations go – when Saskia last broke a taboo he took her to a cave and they had lots of sex… which is a dubious “punishment” to begin with and raises questions of consent. Now she scrupulously follows all taboos knowing he is waiting for an excuse… Waiting for an excuse? This does not sound remotely consensual. Add in her having to meet him in human form – because she would be too submissive to him as a bear.

And yes, she is avoiding that – but there’s no treatment of that behaviour as what it is: nor is there any real challenge of his machinations to bring them back together. Oh she’s angry about it – but they’re not remotely treating it with the severity it deserves and I can feel the trajectory towards the romance with this man who doesn’t seem to have the slightest respect for her.


It’s a shame that this relationship is here because otherwise we could focus more on the beliefs of the Inuit and the creatures we see here which, I presume (again, I can’t stress enough my own ignorance here) which are drawn from their mythology and beliefs and practices. We could focus more on the shapeshifters and Black Shamans and even on the main plot that has been pending now for a couple of books of finding the parts of the missing totem and the consequences (the unspecified consequences) towards all shapeshifters is that happens.



This is similar to what I said about Silent Whispers, there’s a lot of good things here. There are some excellent characters – from Saskia’s conflicted opinions in regards to the Black Shamans to what it means for Sedge to be Bear, to what being a Black Shaman or even a werecreature even means, to more exploration of the creatures and beliefs that populate this book and the previous one. On the one hand I can understand the temptation not to infodump excessively but we’re only getting the bare bones or the plot for the last 3 books. It’s an issue that’s only exacerbated by this world being so interesting, the plots ones I want expanding and the characters and setting being so very different from what I’ve seen in many other places. The fact it’s not expanded seems a shame when that is what makes this series unique. And the romances? They’re sadly pretty typical and not all that interesting.

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review 2017-05-02 11:02
Totem Animals, Plain & Simple: The Only Book You'll Ever Need - Celia M Gunn

Not the only book you will every need as this is a mishmash of Native American (without tribal attribution) and Celtic (without tribal attribution) beliefs with some other flavours thrown in as well for spice. The illustrations are great and it does contain the basics but it isn't the only book you'll ever need on the topic if you get into it.

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review 2017-03-06 23:57
Silent Whispers (Totem #2) by Christine Rains
Silent Whispers (Totem Book 2) - Christi... Silent Whispers (Totem Book 2) - Christine Rains

Kinley Dorn, architect, werepolarbear and geek is used to being pushed to the sidelines when her more active sisters are trying to chase down the missing totem pieces.


Until Ransom, werelynx and assistant to a vampire, encourages her to leave her safety and join him on the site – though even he didn’t expect an extinct giant to be rampaging around the site.




I have to say I am generally quite happy about how the romance in this book in some ways though it is a bit odd in some says. It doesn’t dominate – it’s clear there’s chemistry between Ransom and Kinley, but it is definitely not taking over.

But it’s always present which is slightly odd. Not because it’s distracting like so many romances are in this genre – because it isn’t. The characters are clearly focused on stopping the zombie giant, helping the people around the land and finding the totem. The focus is clear. The romance is… not? It’s not so much a distraction so much as a blink and “oh, yeah… romance. Apparently? Ok”. And in some ways I find the romance far more out of place than I find it a distraction: because the focus is so clearly present that it seems weird that these cleverly focused people are instead suddenly throwing this focus to a side to muse over how hot Ransom is


I also found it somewhat detrimental to their development – we spent time on the romance when we could have spent more time on the actual characters. We have to remember this is a very short book – so needs to be careful where the focus is. What do I know about Ransom? He’s a good looking rascal. What do I know about Kinley? She’s a geek with self-esteem issues. Rather than have this little odd romance we could have explored Kinley’s abilities, her skills as an architect (hey, one thing I loved about Totem is that it did a great job of, in a brief space, showing Ametta’s skill as an interior designer and why this matters for the supernatural beings who are their customers), finding her confidence in ways other than “yes the hot guy actually thinks you’re hot despite your love of Firefly”. Even more geeky references (though there were some excellent references which was always fun).



When you have this little space to work with, it’s necessary to triage that space – and in turn I just didn’t buy in to the romance very much – not least of which because Ransom is such a blank slate


But the actual action remains central – the fight against the giant, Kinley’s courage and determination and rising to the battle. On top of this there’s some really excellent drawing in some of the underlying stories and world building of this series. It’s an excellent, action driven, world driven story


But I do want more than that – again, aware of how short this book is and how much longer it could be. I want to know more about this very briefly explained totem. I want to know more about the First bear and what that means, I want to know more about this world, the underpinning of this, who the antagonist is, why the antagonist is doing what it’s doing even the development of how Native Alaskan mythology fits in with this series.



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Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2017/02/silent-whispers-totem-2-by-christine.html
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review 2017-02-20 23:34
Dark Dawning (Totem #1) by Christine Rains
Dark Dawning (Totem Book 1) - Christine ... Dark Dawning (Totem Book 1) - Christine Rains

Ametta is an interior designer in Alaska – but this werepolarbear has ambitions far beyond her state: she wants to head south, to the great cities and really build her business.

Her family does not approve


But when wereanimals are being hunted and killed and skinned any disagreements she has with them about their future need to be shelved while they focus on desperately surviving.




Werepolarbears! Werepolar-bears. Were-polar-bears? I don’t know exactly how to write but this is awesome and so rare


And female werepolarbears! This is even rarer - there are strict gender roles that tend to land on wereanimals. If you have a woman, she will usually be a wereleopard, weretiger, or some other kind of feline. Felines can be female. You may get a female werewolf – but she will usually be the only female werewolf ever to be something so unfeminine as several canine wereanimal! And a female werebear? Clutch your pearls and pass the smelling salts!


So I’m already praising this book for slaying this trope of acceptable feminine wereanimalness (feline, it’s always feline). We also have an interesting main character: she’s not exactly completely original: she’s wants more than her provincial life in Alaska, she wants to move to bigger cities and expand her business as an interior designer. She has ambition, she’s driven and she is willing to stand up and demand this. It’s an excellent example of a strong female character who is strong in ways beyond fighting.


And I really like the idea of a company that builds and decorates housing to suit wereanimals. I really like the world building that goes into the characteristics of wereanimals and why they need building adaptations – like changing the colours in decorating to take into account of depth perception and colour blindness of some wereanimals. I also like the difference of the wereanimals we see depicted – like a herd of werecattle.



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Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2016/11/dark-dawning-totem-1-by-christine-rains_21.html
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