Mental health and depression issues are still considered taboo and controversial. My mind cannot wrap itself around the notion that what makes us different STILL makes us strange. Acceptance and acknowledgement are two of the strongest human actions that exist, and they’re still the two that people are still trying to get right. Check out #oscarsowhite. It’s awful.
This is precisely why David Heath’s effervescent “Fortune 69” was such a welcome and eye-opening read. It holds a flawed, depressed main character at its core, using Trigger as the catalyst to present a world that literally always has it’s finger on a trigger, ready to shoot.
The aforementioned Trigger is depressed and lonely. Either one is not a truly ideal state to be in, but together, nothing good can really come of it. Embarking on a suicide attempt, Trigger decides that life is not worth living, and decides to end his life for all of social media to see and behold. It’s a powerful commentary on voyeurism and our propensity to watch someone suffer.
Fortunately, the author decides to use this sad event to bring a character into the reader’s lives that is at once endearing and damaged. Trigger is navigating the tough terrains of life, unsure of a lot of things, and excitable about others. His posted suicide note on Fortune-69.com, his second home online, and has found himself with devout followers who have christened him their new leader. Leader of what remains to be seen.
Peppered in are a few colorful characters that bring a spectrum of originality and tonality to the novel. The author is clearly an intelligent person, as evidenced through his witty anecdotes and witty, sly stabs at modern culture. It’s an entertaining, provocative read that allows the reader to become active in their observation, even though in today’s age, it’s passivity that governs most of our lives.
Like a softened version of Thelma & Louise: The Canadian Version, “The Serenity Stone Murder” fits like a favorite sweater on a cold winter afternoon. Sure, there’s murder in the plot (hence the title), but the book acts as a read with comfortable, non-pretentious prose, and a clever representation of an old friendship that is instantly relatable.
The story is set in the seemingly picturesque city of Thunder Bay, Ontario. The author, Marianne Jones’ talent at depicting nature and environment as both representative of character psyches and foreshadowing tools are top notch. Impressive.
It’s a funny book, but it’s also a very telling one. The dynamics of an aged friendship is on fully display, replete with mini-arguments and nuances galore. When a murder is thrown into the plot, friends Margaret and Louise find themselves immersed in the resolution of the abhorrent crime. They bust out their sleuthing skills in hope of making their vacation one to remember.
It’s a charming book, no doubt. Author Marianne Jones clearly spent much time and effort to depict a beautiful city and a unique friendship, and when married with a crime, her storytelling skills are on full display. Bravo.
Set amongst two very, semi-oppositional countries, Ben Furman’s “Shadow Dance Murders” is a cunning thriller. Carson Chandler is the hero, who with dashing good looks and keen intellect, manages to use his extensive investigatory skills to, well, catch a killer.
The setting of Charlotte, SC is written in prose that portends a seamless plot that is at once atmospheric and intimate. His representation of people from sordid pasts and exotic cultures mingles into a genuine mystery that is neither generic nor unoriginal. Chandler is not only an everyman but a superman, who embodies perfect timing.
The story itself is a thriller/mystery in the truest sense. There are unsavory characters with reveals to share. There’s also a pivotal event where the murderer intends to make his or her crime the spectacle they crave. The author develops well-rounded characters that are accessible and relatable, giving the story a sense of familiarity and emotional investment. Check it out!
The fish out of water trope of storytelling has been around since the beginning of time. It’s a stylized way of introducing the themes of redemption, heroism, and understanding into any piece of work. However, as well all know, this schema does not always succeed in its intentions. In William Hawkes’ Bad Choices, the tale of an American in Germany works on various levels of the age-old theme.
Hawkes’ protagonist Mark West is a swell guy who apparently has all of his stuff together. Obviously he learns that this is so not the case, which puts the narrative into motion. His wife is cheating on him, and as if that’s not bad enough, she’s cheating on him with his co-worker. As a result of this revelation, Mark decides to accept a job transfer to Leipzig, Germany.
For those of you who are frequent readers of Reading Other People, you know of our preferences to read innovative and refreshing takes on life instead of the staid conventions that tend to comprise the pop culture canon. Alan A. Winter’s incredibly entertaining “Island Bluffs”, there is a new welcome addition to the subversion genre movement, and we are ecstatic about it. John Grisham or Dan Brown this is not. And that’s a good thing.
At a compact 455 pages, Island Bluffs is so much more than your average thriller or mystery. Instead of exploiting the typical modes and formulas that comprise these genres, author Alan A. Winter instead opts to dissect what defines the human condition. Carly Mason and Gabe Berg, a power couple indeed, are trying to have a baby to no success. Hopeful but not unrealistic, the two learn of a scientist who may just be the resource to help them have a baby. However, this scientist is not without his own set of motives. Carly must agree to have twins, but they both won’t end up being hers. One will be biologically hers, and the other, well, let’s call it a surrogate.
Cary and Gabe must upend life as they know it and move to Island Bluffs, the isolated and Stephen King-esque town where the doctor lives. With Gabe’s rebellious 16-year-old daughter in tow, the family tries to start a new life, and a new life, but soon discover that the picturesque town is not all that it seems. Cue the thriller/mystery/horror.
Instead of falling into the traps of telling the type of story that has been told a thousand times before where it is only locations and names that are the only things that seems to change, Winter presents a refreshing and tantalizing tale on life in all of its darkness and light. Winter deftly touches upon each character’s motivation and relates that to a much bigger entity. He questions what really is right and wrong, and if there really are such clear-cut differences between the two. We zoomed through Island Bluffs in just a few days, and it has certainly earned its place on the Reading Other People mammoth bookshelf of the good ones.
As an enormous fan of the master storyteller Stephen King, I was pleasantly surprised to read Mac Evenstar’s obvious reverence to the horror writer in his energetic Come Six to Seven.
I’m not sure if my adoration of Mr. King’s massively intertwined and dynamic style of writing made me bias towards enjoying every single word of Come Six To Seven, but nonetheless, I was riveted by Evenstar’s work from beginning to end. The novel itself is set in the real locale of Florence, Colorado – the true personification of a small town. Our protagonist here, Robin David, has her eyes set on a fresh new start in a fresh new place. Sound familiar? Is this Needful Things? No, it’s better than that. There are no Satanist undertones here but good old-fashioned thriller and intrigue.
Having already written two growing book series’, author Joyce Strand deftly tries her hand in the historical mystery genre with “The Judge’s Story.” Full of characteristic “Strand-isms,” “The Judge’s Story” uses layers of intrigue, tumult, and deep-seated racism in a small Californian town in 1939.
At the cusp of the Second World War, the climate of “The Judge’s Story” is rife with tension and a sense of dangerous foreboding. The book’s stoic protagonist, the titular ‘Judge’ is faced with yet another violent case to preside over. The case itself is standard enough: a boy is involved in a robbery that ends in bloodshed. However, the Judge soon discovers that the boy, while indeed involved in the fatalistic events ultimately resulting in the loss of a life, is not being completely forthright. His involvement is not so one sided. Seeing this, the Judge attempts to bring justice to the accused boy whilst maintaining his position as a neutral purveyor of justice.