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review 2017-11-22 22:01
Review: The Roanoke Girls
The Roanoke Girls: A Novel - Amy Engel

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I snagged a copy of this one when it was a read it now for the first 100 members. It promised some of my favourite tropes in novels – rich family, idyllic setting, dark twisty secrets.  This book has one of those annoying boats in the title tag line saying the most dark twisty shocking plot! However, this one did deliver on the dark twist.

 

My biggest issue with this (side from the really nauseating disturbingness of the plot twists) is that it was predictable. I’d guessed the Roanoke family secrets almost immediately. Anyone who’s ever seen Law and Order: Special Victims Unit could probably guess what’s going on here. I also guessed correctly who the killer was.

 

That being said, there was something utterly compelling about the story telling. I really liked Lane, the main character. Told in a then and now format, what happened when Lane was a teenager and went to live with the Roanokes after her mother committed suicide. Her grandparents and her cousin the same age as her Allegra. And the now chapters of what happens when Lane goes back as an adult after Allegra disappears.

 

Lane was by no mean a good, nice person. Not as a teen, nor as an adult. She was a flat out bitch, she was blunt and cold and didn’t even bother to hide the fact that sometimes it was easier to be cruel than to be kind. Despite her personality flaws, she made a very interesting character, and I kind of loved her. While her cousin Allegra was your typical spoilt rich girl. She could manipulate people easily, and wrap boys around her finger. She could convince you to do anything, regardless of consequences. She had a certain charisma about herself, despite the fact Allegra could be stroppy selfish and childish. She tells Lane about the sordid history of the Roanoke girls before them. All the girls in their family line - including both their mothers  - all got pregnant young and either ran away or committed suicide.

 

The Roanoke household is a big mansion and a farm run by its patriarch Yates Roanoke Lane and Allegra’s grandfather. He has an old world charm about him. Firm when needed without being overbearing, yet very witty, charming and always with a kind word and encouragement, while grandma is your typical blue blood grandma. Beautiful but cold and kind of passive.

 

In the summer in their teens Lane learns about farm life and meets Allegra’s current boyfriend Tommy, and his best friend Cooper. Tommy is your average small town good boy from a nice family while Cooper is the good looking dude with the shady family and bad history, he and Lane hit it off immediately and begin a relationship, more hooking up when they can than anything else.  

 

When Lane comes back to town as an adult she reconnects with Tommy, now married and a police office and Cooper, now a mechanic. The Roanoke house is still the same as it was when Lane ran away in her teens. With one exception. Allegra is gone. Lane searches for answers to what happened to her. Flipping back and forth between what happened that summer when she arrived and her investigation on return.

 

Also flittered into the novel is chapters on various Roanoke women and what happened to them either when they ran or when they died.

 

The writing is top notch, even though none of the characters are particularly likeable. The story telling makes you want to know what’s going on, what happened back in that summer, why did Lane run away, what did she learn about the Roanoke secrets. And when she comes back what happened to Allegra. Did she finally leave – was she murdered? What happened? It’s twisty and very disturbing in parts. The answers to the Roanoke secrets are actually in the text if you look between the lines. And it is sick. It’s stomach wrenching and utterly utterly wrong in very way possible.

 

It’s a pretty fucked up book but it’s excellently written.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder and Stoughton for the review copy.

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review 2017-11-22 20:33
The Sentinel - A Jane Harper Horror Novel
The Sentinel (A Jane Harper Horror Novel) - Jeremy Bishop

It all starts when an anti-whaling ship rams a whaler off the coast of Greenland and the whaler, instead of turning the other cheek, rams it right back, rather more disastrously. But then the whaler explodes.

 

How? Why? What happened?

 

Read it and see. Then follow the adventures of the few survivors on a frozen island inhabited by "draugre", Viking revenants - zombies under another, older name.

 

I liked the narrator, Jane Harper, a real kick-ass ex-military-brat, who responds with a sarcastic quip to everything Greenland and the paranormal can throw at her, but I have to say that while I found the story and the setting exciting I didn't really get any feeling of "horror" - as promised in the subtitle.

 

As a horror story I would say it fails - 3 stars at most. As a thriller with an unusual setting and a very strong female protagonist, it succeeds - 4 or 5 stars.

 

So 4 stars.

 

And I shall definitely read the sequel, The Raven.

 

 

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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 2017-11-21 21:20
A Morbid Taste for Bones
A Morbid Taste for Bones - Ellis Peters

This was a fun read. And I might just have found my favorite literary monk in Brother Cadfael.

 

[Source]

 

He is a man of the world, who turned to priesthood in his later years, he isn´t the most pious monk, he is keenly aware when one of his brethren is full of BS, he is a topnotch matchmaker, he is an amateur sleuth and on top of it all he is Welsh (don´t ask me why, I really like that about his character).

 

So in this novel there is a small town in Wales, a murder, a lot of monks and relationsships are at stake or are formed and Cadfael is in the midst of it all, trying to untangle all the mysteries and problems that arise on this journey. And I enjoyed every second of this book and I can´t wait to read the second novel in the series.

 

 

16 Task of the Festive Season: Penance Day (Square 4):  Read a book that has a monk, nun, pastor / preacher, priest or other representative of the organized church as a protagonist, or where someone is struggling with feelings of guilt or with their conscience (regardless over what).

 

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review 2017-11-21 17:39
Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb
Celebrity in Death - J.D. Robb

At a party in honor of the movie based on Nadine's book, The Icove Agenda (detailing the case in Origin), the actress playing Peabody is found floating in the pool. The suspects are almost legion, since K.T. Harris wasn't exactly known for her easy-going and sunny disposition. But who would actually kill the woman? And the PI she hired to spy on the man who spurned her for the actress playing Eve?


Somehow I just didn't feel this one. Maybe it was the fact it was predictable (I knew who the killer was before the one-third mark), maybe it was the fact the killer's motive (for everything that happened) was beyond iffy, or maybe it was the fact the story lacked the usual chemistry between the characters (even Roarke and Eve left me strangely cold).

It was a good, solid story, but the tempo was odd and it lacked that "special connection", the "oomph" I was expecting with the whole movie-thing involved.

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