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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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review 2017-11-22 19:24
An Angel on Her Shoulder - Dan Alatorre,Dan Alatorre,David Bosco

An Angel on Her Shoulder by Dan Alatorre
Book starts out with praise from others and table of contents.
Story starts out with a few things alternating chapters that don't make sense. As time goes on you can understand it so stick with it.
Events follow a husband and wife and young daughter as they all have dreams and things are happening that make them feel weird, lucky but they were so close to dying.
Other story that has alternating chapters is about young teen age boys as they grow up near Indiana. Funny thing about these stories is they mimic much of the way we grew up in New England as we had tons of relatives and kids to play with as we lived next door to one another. Always something to do, to get intro trouble.
Husband seeks help from a priest then a seeker who has answers that help explain things, til they don't.
Lots of adventure and magical mysterious things happen along the trail, they will keep you on your toes.
Enjoyed the read although it's not one of my favorite genres. I'd read more from this author because of his style of writing. Liked the religious interventions and prayers along the way.
Section on the author is included at the end.
Other works by the author are highlighted and summarized at the end.
I received this review copy from the author and this is my honest opinion.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-11-21 04:52
Liked well enough but
The Necessary Deaths (Delingpole Mysteri... The Necessary Deaths (Delingpole Mysteries) - David C Dawson

The Delingpole Mysteries: Book One A young journalism student lies unconscious in a hospital bed in Brighton, England. His life hangs in the balance after a drug overdose. But was it attempted suicide or attempted murder? The student's mother persuades British lawyer Dominic Delingpole to investigate, and Dominic enlists the aid of his outspoken opera singer partner, Jonathan McFadden. The student's boyfriend discovers compromising photographs hidden in his lover's room. The photographs not only feature senior politicians and business chiefs, but the young journalist himself. Is he being blackmailed, or is he the blackmailer? As Dominic and Jonathan investigate further, their lives are threatened and three people are murdered. They uncover a conspiracy that reaches into the highest levels of government and powerful corporations. The people behind it are ruthless, and no one can be trusted. The bond between Dominic and Jonathan deepens as they struggle not only for answers, but for their very survival.

Review:

Dear David C. Dawson,

Your book was languishing in my TBR list almost for a year now till I saw the second book coming out and deciding to read the first one.

Readers please beware, this is NOT a romance, this is a gay mystery with romantic elements and if you decide to try this one I suggest adjusting your expectations accordingly.

Blurb describes the set up quite well. Dominic gets involved in the case initially by accident, when he observes his neighbor losing conscience after receiving news about her son being in the hospital after the suicide attempt.

Dominic decides to drive her to Brighton since he feels bad for her and feels a little bit conflicted about what to do if she would ask for free legal advice. He also decides that this is a good chance to visit his lover Jonathan, with whom they had been together for couple of years, even though they were not living together.

Once Dominic and Samantha get to Brighton and Samantha gets to visit her son’s bedside the events starts to unfold really fast. Somebody is trying to kill Simon while he is still in coma, Dominic and Jonathan also get involved once again initially at least partially by chance, but then they decide to get involved in the investigation.

Samantha was convinced from the beginning that something was wrong. She was persistent that Simon did not do drugs and he was not in the state of mind to try suicide. Now it is pretty clear that it was not a suicide, but murder attempt, what is less clear however who is behind all of these events?

Dominic and Jonathan initially get involved in the investigation because Samantha asked Dominic for advice after all (not a free one), however very soon Dominic finds several other reasons to stay involved. I was okay with all those reasons, although I rolled my eyes at how fast Dominic decided to not inform the police about several important things they discovered. I may have mentioned it before that when I start the book about private sleuth; I expect to do a certain suspension of disbelief as to how and why the guy would start the investigation and why he would be the main investigator instead of law enforcement. I however expect the author to help me out some and in this story I just did not think that he did do that much. Dominic is a lawyer for crying out loud and I expected better from him.

Even though overall suspense/mystery plot felt very over the top to me, I liked it, it was fast moving and entertaining, there were several chapters closer to the end that I was reading very fast, because I was anxious to see how it will all get resolved and to me the resolution was satisfying enough.

Now, let me talk about romantic storyline. As I said the story is not a romance, but it has a romantic couple and I think it is fair to talk about it.

Dominic and Jonathan are in the open relationship and I want to stress that I am an odd romance reader in that regard, I am more than happy to have a gay couple in the loving open relationship in my romance, and this is not even a romance, this is a gay mystery with romantic elements, so I feel like gay couple in the open relationship could be even more at home in this book.

But you know, I expect the open relationship in such a book to be something that both partners want and it was made abundantly clear to me that it is something Dominic agrees with for Jonathan’s sake (Jonathan wanted the freedom to hook up with other guys while Dominic was not there) but not something Dominic likes, or would have preferred to if I was his choice. So bottom line is Jonathan pissed me off for being an ass and the end of romantic storyline was not convincing to me.

I do not think I will be in any hurry to read the second book sadly even if I liked the mystery and Dominic well enough.

Grade: B-

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review 2017-11-20 13:23
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 16 - Kwanzaa: Headless Chicken Parade Part 2: Albert Campion
Traitor's Purse - Margery Allingham,David Thorpe

 

Well, I suppose that's what I get for not checking a book's online blurbs before reading it.  I downoladed this book purely because it was available on Audible and it was one of Allingham's Campion books that I hadn't read yet.  Turns out its plot chiefly rests on not one but two mystery tropes I don't particularly care for: the amnesiac detective and "Fifth Column" shenanigans, Golden Age mystery writer variety.

 

A few hours before the beginning of this book, Campion -- out on a secret mission whose full details are only known to him and Oates -- has gotten himself coshed on the head.  The book opens with him waking up in a hospital not knowing who he is and how he got there.  From an overheard conversation he concludes that he has been involved in a violent altercation that ended in the death of a policeman.  Within minutes, a young lady named Amanda whom Campion doesn't recognize but who seems to know him very well appears next to his hospital bed and whisks him away in what he discovers is his own car, to the house of an eminent scientists where, it turns out, Amanda and he are staying.  Campion also discovers that he seems to be involved in some sort of highly charged top-secret mission.  Now, instead of lying low until he has regained his wits and knows precisely who he is, what his role in that ominous mission is, whom he can trust, and what not to do if he doesn't want to give himself away -- and despite the fact that that same evening a death occurs that may well be connected with the ominous mission -- Campion starts running around like a headless chicken trying to bring the whole thing to completion.

 

Full marks for implausibility so far, Ms. Allingham.

 

Which brings us to trope no. 2, and which in its details is just about as ridiculously implausible as is the amnesia part of this book's plot.  Yet, the saving grace of this second part of the plot is (alas) that in the days of Russian meddling with the American and European democracies' political process via Facebook campaigns, "fake news" and other instances of rumor mongery, the mere concept of an enemy power's meddling with a country's political process

(here: by way of manipulating the target country's monetary politics)

(spoiler show)

does unfortunately no longer sound quite as ridiculous as it might have even a few years ago.

 

Still I really would have wished Allingham hadn't tried to match Christie in the wartime spy shenaningans game -- which was not a particular forte of either of them.

 

I listened to this book for Square 16 of the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, Kwanzaa: Read a book written by an author of African descent or a book set in Africa, or whose cover is primarily red, green or black.

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review 2017-11-15 22:11
If you've read his first book then it's not a surprise.
Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man'... Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man's Voice from the Silence of Autism - Ka Yoshida,Naoki Higashida,David Mitchell

My review somehow got eaten and replaced with another review. Sigh.

 

If you've read the author's first book then you're not going to be too shocked. There's value if you're curious about the author now as a young man vs. when he wrote his first book as a tween/young teenager. But I wasn't particularly intrigued and didn't find the blog-like posts all that interesting. 

 

I'm glad I could find it at the library though, and it might be be for someone else.

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