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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 2017-05-13 16:05
Seal the Deal (Sector Guard` Book 24) by Viola Grace Review
Seal the Deal - Viola Grace

Life counseling the abused and grieving has worn on her nerves, so when she is offered life in the Sector Guard once again, Sekhara jumps at the chance. After some heated negotiations, Contract and Counsel begin life as partners with Counsel’s pet, Maxi, along for the ride. They find a lost Terran, get blasted across the universe, and have to be rescued by a member of Udell base, and that is just Counsel’s first day…

What kind of a career is it when you have to keep your hands off your partner while you fight for your life?

 

Reviewse

 

The Sector Guards Series is a lot of fun as the heroes and heroines have to master cool superpowers and come to be partners. There is a lot of good action in this short story and love. 

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review 2016-10-18 17:01
What Do You Do When Your Hero is the Villain?: Calamity | Review
Calamity: The Reckoners, Book 3 - Brandon Sanderson,MacLeod Andrews,Audible Studios

A very satisfying finale to a favorite YA Superhero/villain Fantasy.

 

When Calamity lit up the sky, the Epics were born. David's fate has been tied to their villainy ever since that historic night. Steelheart killed his father. Firefight stole his heart. And now Regalia has turned his closest ally into a dangerous enemy.

 

David knew Prof's secret and kept it even when Prof struggled to control the effects of his Epic powers. But facing Obliteration in Babilar was too much. Once the Reckoners' leader, Prof has now embraced his Epic destiny. He's disappeared into those murky shadows of menace Epics are infamous for the world over, and everyone knows there's no turning back....

 

But everyone is wrong. Redemption is possible for Epics - Megan proved it. They're not lost. Not completely. And David is just about crazy enough to face down the most powerful High Epic of all to get his friend back. Or die trying.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Audible = $4.49 (must purchase Kindle first, prices may change)

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I purchased this book myself from Audible. It is available only from them or on mp3 CD from Amazon.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Calamity by Brandon Sanderson, read by MacLeod Andrews, published by Audible Studios (2016) / Length: 11 hrs 51 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is the third & final book in "The Reckoners" trilogy. A spin-off series called "Apocalypse Guard," taking place in a parallel world, has been announced but won't begin until 2018.

 

**This review contains spoilers for the previous books.**

 

SUMMARY:

I know that quite a few people were disappointed with the resolution/revelations in this book, feeling that they were anti-climactic. I can definitely understand where they are coming from. However, since I have been reading this series for the characters, I was completely satisfied with the way things progressed and how they turned out. Note: there were some deaths, which made me sad.

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review 2016-08-06 16:50
Trying to be a Lover as well as a Fighter: Firefight | Review
Firefight - MacLeod Andrews,Brandon Sanderson

I love David's character growth in this YA Superpowered Dystopia.

 

They told David it was impossible—that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet, Steelheart—invincible, immortal, unconquerable—is dead. And he died by David's hand.

 

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life more simple. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And there's no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs.

 

Babylon Restored, the old borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Audible = $3.99.

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I purchased this book myself from Audible

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson, read by MacLeod Andrews, published by Audible Studios (2015) / Length: 11 hrs 39 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #2 of 3 in "The Reckoners" trilogy. All three, and a novella, are out and available on audio.

 

**This review contains spoilers for the previous book(s).**

 

SUMMARY:

I have read some reviews of this book by people who don't like the romance. That's my favorite part, along with all the changes happening within the various characters. The action for me will always be secondary and I only enjoy it if it is firmly rooted in the characters and how & why they fight the way they do.

 

I have marked this with Diversity, since Val is Hispanic & Mizzy's African American and there are more roles for females in this one. (In the last one, Abraham was like the token "black guy" and Tia & Megan were the only females with true speaking parts)

 

 

CHARACTERS:

David: As I said above, I love his character growth, especially his developing compassion and awareness of the wider world. The bad metaphors did occasionally get to be a bit much, but the funny thing is that he isn't that bad at them unless he's trying not to be.

 

Megan/Firefight: I find that the contrast between how totally competent she really is as a fighter and her insecurities regarding her powers (and tendency to compare them to those of others) makes her seem like very normal young woman. I really enjoyed reading about her struggle to be something more (or is it less) than just an Epic.

 

David & Megan: In the last book, David confessed his feelings to Megan after her death, since he didn't know she was an Epic & could reincarnate. The stuff between them in this one were my favorite parts, and I loved them all. If I have anything negative to say about this relationship, it's that they have a little too much in common, which seems slightly unrealistic. But this is definitely a couple that could make it work - if it weren't for a few little things that might end up with his having to kill her. And that's if she's not just playing him after all.

 

Abraham & Cody are left behind in Newcago. In this book we have a new team: Val - mostly just grumpy & curt / XL - a bit creepy, but also a bit too much like Abraham / Mizzy - she is unique and fun. She's kind of their Q, but wants to be in on the action. I think she and David contrast nicely.

 

Prof & Tia - I had some issues with them this time around. They are struggling to adjust to the changes that David has introduced, and he's the one who suffers as a result.

 

The main villains in this one are: Regalia, the water controlling Epic who runs the city, and Obliteration, an Epic with bomb like powers. In addition, we have the mysterious Dawnslight, who is practically worshiped by citizens but may not be real.

 

WORLDBUILDING:

We get a whole new city in this book. Instead of the steel catacombs of an always night-time Newcago (Chicago) where people go about their business grimly - We get a glow-in-the-dark Babilar (Babylon Restored, i.e. sunken Manhattan) where people chose to party the nights away on the rooftops of the city's tallest buildings. The atmosphere & people in the city remind me of those usually seen in fictional accounts of New Orleans.

 

In Steelheart, David was extremely familiar with the city. The book started with his crazy dash through it, which demonstrated that. Here, he is not only unfamiliar with the geography but with the customs. I would say he is a fish out of water, but in this case it's more like a (non-aquatic) bird in the water.

 

PLOT:

The story starts in Newcago, as the Reckoners battle an Epic who has come to destroy them following their victory over Steelheart. It serves as a smooth way to introduce what happened in the previous book and the relationships that David had developed up to now.

 

One of the main themes in this book is trust. Everyone in the Reckoners seems to be working behind everyone else's back, rather than demonstrating true trust. And David's opinions and beliefs regarding the Epics are beginning to change. The book also centers on the fact that no one really knows anyone else's plan, whether they be ally or enemy (or even who's who at certain times).

 

This book ends with a full on cliffhanger, followed by a small wrapup scene.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • Fortune cookie text messages
  • When David learns the truth about Calamity (and what happens after Regalia tries to punish him)
  • The big confrontation scene at the end, once everyone's plans have played out, and the quiet moments afterwards.

 

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: a bit of swearing

 

OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: There is violence in this book, and people do get killed, but it isn't graphic for the most part.

 

NARRATION:

Character voices differentiated = Yes; I think Mizzy's voice especially fits her, although I'm not sure what her accent is supposed to be. / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Accents good = ? (this is a post apocalyptic world, so I'm not sure we can map the accents to our current world) / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual

 

I always enjoy MacLeod Andrews narration and this is no exception. I feel like he truly conveys the growing complexities of David.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Firefight (The Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson, read by MacLeod Andrews, published by Audible Studios (2015) / Length: 11 hrs 39 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • I've never been into comic books, but have recently enjoyed several regular books with super powered characters. Can you recommend some good ones?
  • Does it bother you when a group that has been working together suddenly start experiencing conflict?

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review 2015-10-19 04:55
AMAZEBALLS
Nimona - Noelle Stevenson

I only really started hearing about Nimona a couple months before its release. I didn’t even know about the webcomics so when I dove into Nimona, all I knew was that it was a very hyped book and had even been nominated for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. That is HIGH praise but I was more curious than scared. And really, I had no need to be scared because Nimona was just as amazing as everyone said it was.

Nimona is the new sidekick for an infamous supervillain Ballister Blackheart, and she decides she wants to take it upon herself to come up with evil schemes to destroy the world. Unfortunately, her ideas tend to mess with Ballister Blackheart’s plans.

There is more to both the characters than you would think and this short graphic novel turns into so much more. It is so heartwarming and makes you want to curl up in a ball and munch on brownies. (why brownies you ask? Because this mini-review is brought to you by brownies)

I love that even though this is a graphic novel, Stevenson manages to develop a very thorough plot arc and develops relationships so beautifully.

The only thing that bothered me was that all the people of color in this graphic novel were very minor (like they showed up in one scene, had no lines and didn’t really affect the story in any major way.) I had hoped that given the hype, the graphic novel wouldn’t be so whitewashed but alas.

Don’t let that turn you off though, there is some diversity in the novel and the book is so adorable and so worth the read. I mean, it is one of my favorites of the year...

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