Cover Image: The Adventures of Isabel

The Adventures of Isabel

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Member Reviews

I loved this book! The chapter titles are a complete poem (The Adventures of Isabel by Ogden Nash) and it just gets cooler from there. The protagonist (and narrator) is quirky, witty, and intelligent. She’s pansexual, which is unusual to see represented in media, and the cast of characters span the spectrum of sexuality.

Mysteries and detective fiction aren’t usually my bag but from my point of view the plot was detailed, believable, and well set up yet still surprising. This is queer noir for the 21st century and I’ll be recommending it to everyone. It looks like this book is set to be the first in a series and I can’t wait for more.
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I really wanted to like The Adventures of Isabel, LGBTQ+ storyline, sex work positive, murder mystery.... but a few things really didn't work for me. While the story itself is interesting, and I LOVED Hep. I had a really hard time connecting with the characters and the author's writing style. The author seemed to speak more for the characters than allowing the characters to speak for themselves also found the book structure really odd, some chapters were pages long, some were just a sentence or two, but the jumps between the paragraphs didn't really make sense. I think this is definitely a book for some people, it just wasn't for me. 

2/5 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and ECW Press for providing me with an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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2.50 Stars. I hate to say this but this book was not for me. I would have DNF’d it if this was not a review copy. I struggled and took twice as long to read it than I expected. I love mysteries and a mystery staring a bisexual -or actually ambisexual- woman sounded great to me. Unfortunately, this was just not a match for my personal tastes.

The author has a very unique way of writing. This was first person but it was where the narrator speaks to you the reader. She also used third person a few times and there were even footnotes. And I almost forgot but the chapters were wicked short and choppy which was jarring at times. Now, take one or two of these different ways to write and I’m with you. I actually like the idea of first person for the main character and using third a few times to see what a main-secondary character is experiencing, but when you put all of those oddball things together it becomes way to gimmicky for me.

Not only did I find the style gimmicky but the book made me feel a little stupid at times. I lost count of how many times I had no idea what was going on or what the author was trying to say. I kept asking out loud “what did I just read?” Maybe I’m not cool enough or smart enough to get it, I don’t know.

I did think the author seemed “woke” about certain issues which I liked, but I do have to say I was a bit uncomfortable a couple times. The slur for a trans person was used and not called out which I just didn’t understand. I’m hoping this was taken out of the copy before this book was officially released. I also didn’t like how the first non-explicit, sex scenes started. The main character takes a homeless woman back to her apartment to feed and bathe. Once she is cleaned up the main character is now attracted to her so she asks about having sex with the homeless woman. My problem is how she asked about it. She basically says that the homeless woman should go wash herself off with bug shampoo so they can have sex. She’s treating the woman like a dog, here is your flea and tick powder, go wash up some more so I can f*ck you. Yeah that was just a big no for me.

There were a few good things here. I really liked the religious crazy cousin. I don’t normally say that but she was a really well-written character. I also liked some parts of the mystery. The problem was we would get into the flow of the mystery but then the main character would go on a tangent and the flow would stop. The author even tried to help us readers by repeating a few clues so we wouldn’t have to flip back, but even that felt overdone to me. I think authors should trust their reader’s which means trusting us to remember. Last good thing, there were a few really good quotes. The main is witty but her humor doesn’t always land, but when it does, out pops a few very clever quotes.

As a mystery fan I really wanted to love this. I think the biggest thing is stylistically this was not for me. When I’m having trouble even understanding what is going on, I know a book is not working for my tastes. There is going to be a sequel but I think out of fairness to the author and myself, I have to stop here. This is a book that may work better for others. I would suggest downloading a sample on Amazon -if they have one- so you can see if style wise this book might be for you.
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Sadly I wasn’t able to finish this book and provide a full review. I tried to get into it a number of times but never succeeded.

I wasn’t fond of the fact the storyline is based on the murder of a sex worker and the writing style didn’t work for me. 

I really wanted to enjoy this as it’s clearly a queer positive book so I’d say that if you like queer fiction you should give it a try - it just wasn’t for me.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you to NetGalley and ECW Press for the copy of The Adventures of Isabel. This is a voluntary review.

The Adventures of Isabel handles some very difficult, complicated subjects realistically and with strong dialogue. If you like detective stories in Canadian cities this is for you. I appreciated the diversity and interactions of all the characters. They are from all walks of life, but their lives intertwine in different ways as Isabel investigates. And it's very queer!!! (Yay!) 

At times I found the pacing of the story difficult to get into. While entertaining, occasionally it read as if it was trying too hard to be funny or 'quirky'. However, it just might not be my type of humour. Overall, it was an interesting read with themes that were explored well.
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Narrated by an ambisexual social worker turned amateur detective, this is notable for its diversity and the rapid pace of the one liners.  She's trying to find out what really happened to Madeline, whose murder has been written off as yet another death in the sex worker community in their Canadian city.  I wanted to like this- I really did- but it just got to be too much.  Make no mistake, other wisecracking  detectives also annoy me after a bit so that's on me not on Dorsey.  I'm hopeful that there will be a followup and that some of the snark will be pared back a bit because there's a very good character in here.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ArC.
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I did not finish this book, I didn’t even get to page fifty.

I just felt like it was trying to hard to be quirky and it was a bad eyeroll moment
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The Adventures of Isabel was a fun mystery. Set in Canada with an interesting cast of characters, Isabel is a recently “retired” social worker who is struggling to make ends meet. When a friend’s granddaughter is murdered, she is talked into poking around to try to find out the truth about what happened. I enjoyed the fun characters and the overall story. The author had a sarcastic style so I can see it being hard to follow for some. There was also a fair amount of LGBTQ+ references that maybe unknown to some. Also, and this isn’t any part of the story itself, but my advanced digital copy was organized very oddly (the lines were all over the place and the footnotes were in odd places and stuff) and that also added to some difficulty for me. Overall, I think it would be an acquired taste for many but a fun read for those looking for LGBTQ+ stories.
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I'd like to thank the author, publisher and Net Galley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Wow, there is a lot packed into this book!  This is a new author and a new genre for me.  I've read LGBTQ+ books, and even some mystery/humor, but this just felt different.  It also felt very 'now'.  Like this is the book written for - well, maybe not 2020 because there was no explosions and what a year this has been! - this era.  We are led through the story by an unseen/unnamed narrator who 'breaks  the fourth wall', through a very complicated story and main character.  But some of the MC's musings took over in the scene and the mystery was pushed aside a bit.  I know others authors do that as well, but here it was a bit much.

I was left wondering about this MC, though, and would be curious to read more of her back story.  IT looks like the author has other books published, so I'll keep an eye out for more.  It was a fun read, certainly something different, and hey, it's set in Canada!
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I’m going to preface this by saying that I’m not an OwnVoices reviewer for this book. I probably would have given 3.5 stars, but I’m upping it to four because, since I’m not an OV reader, it doesn’t seem right for me to downgrade a book that it’s entirely possible I didn’t understand all of the nuance, meaning, and importance of and that wasn’t written for me as a cis-het woman. 

The easy-to-love: Dorsey has done a remarkable job making this story very naturally diverse and inclusive. The diversity and complex, intersectional identities of many of the characters are implicit and accepted rather than always having to fight for acceptance based on their identities  I loved that aspect of Dorsey’s character and narrative development. The plot itself was also entertaining and I quite enjoyed reading the story. There are a few fun twists in it that were definitely fun to experience!

The slightly-harder-to-love: the book, to me, is just so...quirky. That isn’t a bad thing! This 100% goes down to preference in style. I found the protagonist’s relationship with the cat and what, again - to ME - felt like somewhat more intentional quirkiness took me out of the story a bit. It’s like the idiosyncrasies and peculiarities of the characters would have been believable if they’d stopped just shy of where they ended up. But I also have to say that the author is clearly creative, clearly is an outstanding writer, and this comes down to what your own sense of humor is and what kind of prose and characters you personally relate to most. 

I also don’t doubt that perhaps people from within the community will greatly appreciate the representation that’s in The Adventures of Isabel, the way the characters are not tropes or predictable but are realistic, quirky like all humans are, and shown with enough respect to avoid tokenizing any person or identity. That’s important and I respect Dorsey a great deal for her work on this. 

Overall, I did really enjoy this! It’s a fun read that’s captivating and creative. I think the author’s voice comes through strongly and it’s definitely an asset. Thanks so much to the publisher and NetGalley for this advance e-copy!
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What I loved about this novel was the inclusion of a diverse group of fully developed characters and how their varied identities have an impact on their lives without referring to the character's choices in life. Neither didthe genre consume the book, but instead allowed for the social commentary from the nightlife of an urban Canadian city; It's up to you if you view it as seedy or not. 

Is that the key to postmodernism? Well-written and realistic dialogue and not letting the reader in on every single movement of the daily minutiae of the narrator's everyday life gave the plot a good pace. In particular, the descriptions of pain were accurate and devoid of the usual cliches, and I'm grateful to Candas for using such explicit creativity to put a voice on the pain I sometimes experience. 

The realities of detective work give the story some realism, and I loved the red boots, the use of the list and how they acted as a developed presence throughout the story; an excellent shortcut for pain too! I felt that the author dealt with heavy subjects and combined them with a realistic view and dialogue of a feisty and irreverent narrator to ensure it was palatable.  I recognised lots of myself in the narrator; mostly frustrated by systemic gender inequalities and a savagely sweary womxn in their 30's. 
 
I loved everything from the witty chapter titles, the non-conformity of genre stereotypes and increasingly the nascent, unnamed detective who is so quirky and fun that I can't wait to read the next instalment.
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Would I recommend this? Sorry but no. 
I am an ally of the LGBTQ+ community and was excited about that aspect of the book.
As for the book... It was so hard to like the characters. 
As a cat lover, I did not think the whole cat thing worked, also Bunnywit and then calling it F*ckwit.... Come on. They are cats. Cats are weird.
The protagonist is a language purist, though ends up with a Chinese woman who can barely understand her, and she keeps using "big" words in conversation with her. 
Also I felt like the Jian thing was uncomfortable... might have worked better if she was from a different nationality?
I haven't read a lot of fiction that has strong confident LGBTQ+ characters, so it was an extra let down. I'm sorry for the frank review.
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Quirky and strange are really the only descriptors I can think of here. Well worth a read but the writing style isn't for everyone.
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I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review of the story. 

I LOVED THIS BOOK.

The entire book made me fell I was sharing a rich, mellow red wine while a friend kept me on the edge of my seat as she recounted her day.

If you like strong narrative, strong characters who blindly keep pushing through to find answers, THIS book is for you.
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I did like the that this book was all about the LGBTQ+ community and did discuss some important topics such as harassment, sexism, and racism. That's why I had requested this in the first place, as well as the cute cover. However I found that it tried a little too hard to be quirky or weird and I can't stand that. I ended up having to stop reading this - I got uninterested too fast. Perhaps at another time I will be able to revisit this for a fair review. Thank you for the advanced copy!
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The Adventures of Isabel follows an unnamed protagonist and her cat, Bunnywit, when she is suddenly brought onto a case as an ameteur sleuth. Hep is a good friend of hers whose daughter, a sex worker, is murdered. Knowing that individuals with "high-risk" occupations don't get the same treatment when it comes to investigations, Hep asks the narrator for her help. In that time, the narrator helps other friends, explores her identity as an ambisexual, and revisits her past. 

What I liked the most about The Adventures of Isabel was its call for diversity and how it brought attention to issues that certain groups face. The most obvious based on the synopsis is the treatment of sex workers and other "high-risk" people, but we see other issues discussed as well. The narrator was let go from her job after her employer discovered her sexual orientation, which, while illegal, is also reality for many. Then there's Jian, a woman who became homeless due to domestic issues. There's a lot of different groups of people represented in this book, and throughout the book you can see how their identities impact them in different ways.

Despite the diverstiy in this book, I was surprised by some of the characters and the dialogues they took part in. Apparently this book was sensitivity-read, but there were some instances where I stopped and questioned whether I read what I just did. And the narrator in particular was just not always likeable to me. She had an interesting backstory, and her snark was there for comedic purposes, but there were so many times where she came off as too abrasive.

Additionally, the story was organized in such a way where the mystery wasn't really at the forefront of the novel. I understand why this is, but I think that this story is just so dialogue-heavy and not reliant enough on descriptions that some elements of the story get lost in it. For example, there are many times where the narrator discusses her ambisexuality, but I think that these scenes could have been more powerful with more reliance on description and action rather than dialogue.

Overall, I liked the concept of The Adventures of Isabel and what it aimed to do in terms of not only a mystery novel, but also one that embraced diversity. But I do also think that this book could be improved with a more organized storyline and more consistency overall.
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Synopsis
The Adventures of Isabel is about an unnamed, ambisexual protagonist who is helping her friend solve the murder of her granddaughter. What she thinks will be a street-murder of a drug-using prostitute, is actually much more than expected. This book is filled with sex, lies, betrayal, and an interesting group of friends who band together to help solve a murder. 

Rating: 2/5
This book was, in my opinion, just okay. It wasn't anything special in my mind and I was unsure of a lot, but it was certainly a different take on mystery. 

I did love the fact that this book was all about the LGBTQ+ community and did discuss some important topics such as hate crimes, harassment, etc. against this community. I think that this portion of the book was what kept me going because Candas did it well.

I did love the character dynamics and how witty and sarcastic they were. The dialogues made me laugh, whether intentional or not, and I did appreciate the character development.

Now, there was certainly some mystery to this book, but I think in a way that was unintentional. There were some times when I read something and thought to myself, "what did I just read?" or "where is this going?" To be fair, our main character is a little odd, but some of it just didn't come together for me.

I was really excited to read this because who doesn't love a good LGBTQ+ mystery? I did, however, make the mistake of looking at Goodreads prior to reading it and saw that it only received a 3/5 star rating. I try really hard not to do this because I want to go into my reads (especially ARCs) completely unbiased. That being said, this book still wasn't for me. 

Overall
I think it's a cutesy-fun read if you want something with witty characters and are interested in something different. If I were to sum this book up in one word, it would probably be "quirky." It was a cute little mystery and does discuss important topics, but I think it missed the mark for me in terms of a true mystery.
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A lot of people will probably enjoy this mystery with queer protagonists, but I found it too dense with self-conscious jokes. Isabel is an out-of-work social worker, who has been tasked by an elderly friend to unravel the mystery of the friend's granddaughter Maddy's death. Maddy was a sex worker and drug addict, so her death doesn't appear to be that big a mystery, until Isabel finds some strange items in the apartment Maddy had shared with another girl, who goes missing herself. Then Isabel's apartment gets trashed, and she's attacked outside a club.

If there were fewer jokey asides and footnotes, I might have made it through. Note to the publisher regarding one of the footnotes: "Oprah, Uma" was David Letterman, not Billy Crystal.
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"The Adventures of Isabel" was an amusing book.  The story deals with some heavy subjects -- murder, assault, drugs, fraud, harassment and physical attacks on LGBTQ individuals -- and the author treats these issues seriously.  However, some of the characters, especially the main character, Isabel, are rather irreverent in how they talk about their experiences.  This is in part a defense or coping mechanism, but Isabel is also just somewhat snarky.  As a result, it makes for some rather amusing dialogue.  The main character, Isabel, is an ambisexual former social worker who lives in an apartment with her cat, Bunnywit, and, unable to find another social work position, is considering making a business of the other thing she does well (if you catch her innuendo), when she receives a phone call from her very gay best friend Denis, who wants her to accompany his neighbor, Maddy Pritchard, otherwise known as Hep (due to her striking resemblance to Katherine Hepburn), to the morgue to check out a dead body that is likely her granddaughter, also named Maddy.  Hep and Denis convince Isabel to try to solve Maddy's murder, knowing that a dead prostitute is not exactly going to be high priority for the police.  The efforts to solve the murder result in Isabel making some new friends, making some dangerous enemies, becoming reacquainted with some former associates, and having some rather interesting (and at times very unpleasant) experiences.  

I don't want to say anything more about the storyline because a lot of what makes the story so enjoyable is finding out what happens next and how the characters react to the new revelations or events.  The characters are creative and well-developed and there is some rather good dialogue.  There is also some significant personal growth/reevaluation of past beliefs with some of the characters, which proves critical in solving the murder and preventing additional crimes.  The author includes some pretty good surprise twists in the story.  I would certainly recommend this book.

I received a copy of the e-book via NetGalley in exchange for a review.
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This books was... ok. I try to be positive in my reviews, so this book was ok. Would I recommend it? Not particularly. There was a mystery. There were evildoers. It all worked in a way. It is told in first person from the unnamed MC. She’s ambisexual or pansexual depending on what she remembers to say. She has a cat named Fuc- I mean Bunnywit. There were definite moments where I laughed. I wasn’t always sure if I was supposed to be laughing though? This book felt like the definition of “quirky” from the characters and narration to the formatting. Lots and lots of tiny chapters got very tedious, very quickly. Overall, a fun romp. Not sure I got much more than that from it.

I read this book as a free digital ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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