Friday, October 28, 2016

My take on: Certain Dark Things

Nine times out of ten I like my books based in reality. The few times I've stepped outside of the box, I've been disappointed. But I wasn't disappointed this time. I loved Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

Vampires have infiltrated the normally safe confines of Mexico City. The cops want them out. The gangs want them out. And it's not going to be easy.

Street kid Domingo knows his way around the city. The resourceful teenager knows how to survive with next to nothing. He spends his days on the streets collecting garbage and his night in the bowels of the subway. Soon he finds himself befriending a mysterious woman, Atl. She gives him an offer he can't refuse. Let her drink some of his blood and Atl will make it worth his while financially.

Atl is a vampire, descending from a long run of Aztec blood suckers. She comes from a prominent line of vampires. But now, all of her family is gone and Atl is on the run from their killers, a rival line of vampires. Atl needs help. She's afraid and reluctant to rely on Domingo. Drinking his blood satisfies her hunger and gives her strength, but it doesn't solve her larger problem. Nick Godoy, a ruthless and bloodthirsty vampire, is after Atl. He wants to torture her and kill her for starting a war with his family. So far, Atl has been one step ahead but she needs Domingo's help if she's going to get out of Mexico City safely.

Conflicted police officer Ana is after both Atl and Nick. Being a cop is often a fruitless endeavor for Ana. Her bosses don't listen to her. Solving crimes is a priority to Ana but not to others. A lucrative offer to pursue Atl and Nick is too hard to resist. The money could lead to a better life for Ana and her daughter, but at what costs? What about her integrity? What about her safety?

With so many people after Atl and Domingo, how will they survive? How that plays out makes for a very suspenseful and compulsive read. At first, Atl is an enigma. She can friendly. But she can also be a ruthless badass. What are her motives? Does she want to kill Domingo? Or does she really want his help? There are really sweet moments between them. Domingo is very naive, but Atl is able to overlook that. To Atl, Domingo is more than a companion, he's a friend. To Domingo, Atl is a friend who happens to be a vampire.

Too often I can be a bit of a book snob. If a book wasn't based in reality, it wasn't worth my time. But this book was worth my time and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received an e-galley from the publisher (Thomas Dunne Books) in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My take on: Girl Unbroken

If I ever met the Calcaterra siblings, I would want to give them a big hug. Girl Unbroken is the story of a horrific and abusive childhood, written by Regina Calcaterra and Rosie Maloney. This is the followup to Regina's book, Etched in Sand.

Girl Unbroken is Rosie's story.

The Calcaterrra siblings, Cherie, Camille, Regina, Norm, and Rosie, were saddled with the worst mother ever. Cookie Calcaterra gave birth to five children, but that doesn't make her a mother. She was in and out of her children's lives. She was known as "Hurricane Cookie," and that's a very accurate description. Cookie drank heavily, she stole from everyone, she wrote bad checks, and worst of all she took her anger out on her kids. Rosie was often on the receiving end of Cookie's rages.

Rosie and her siblings were split off into different foster homes. Rosie and Norm were able to stay together, but at a price. They bounced between dangerous foster homes and their equally dangerous mother. As a child, Rosie held tight to her belief that her sisters would save her. Unlike Cookie, Rosie knew her sisters loved her and worried about her. While in foster care, Rosie and Norm were allowed brief visits with their sisters, but Cookie thwarted them at every turn. To the outside world, Cookie put on a show and portrayed the part of a doting mother. She fooled social workers. Rosie even started to believe her mother cared about her. After complaining about the physical and emotional abuse they suffered at their last foster home, Cookie kidnapped Rosie and Norm -- eventually obtaining legal custody. Rescuing her children from the horrors of foster care was Cookie's way of showing how much she loved them. But that "love" was short lived.

Moving from one man to the next, and one seedy Long Island hotel to the next, Cookie and her kids eventually settled in a small Idaho town. Cookie latched onto a lecherous farmer named Clyde. All the while, Rosie continued to bear the brunt of Cookie's anger. Every bad thing that happened to Cookie was her children's fault, especially Rosie. Beaten physically and emotionally into submission, Rosie was forced to work the farm day and night. Norm had farm chores, but nowhere near the extent of Rosie. When she wasn't working the farm, Rosie buried herself in extracurricular activities and sleepovers with friends. She did anything and everything to avoid going home, even to the point of physical exhaustion. How would this cycle ever end? Who was going to help them? Attempts for escape, for freedom, for normalcy were always destroyed by Cookie.

I admire Regina and Rosie for being able to go back to that dark place in their childhoods. The foster care system failed this family big time. Even in the present day, the foster care system is still failing children. This is one book and one story, but hopefully it opens some eyes. This was an engaging but hard book to read. This is a story of survival and a very worthy read.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy from the publisher (William Morrow) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours.

Friday, October 7, 2016

My take on: When the Moon Was Ours

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore was like nothing I've ever read before. I'm not even sure I understood everything. One of my main reading goals this year was to step outside of my comfort zone. Leave the contemporary reading world that I'm often stuck in and branch out to other genres. This book had a little bit of everything. Fantasy, magical realism, and a transgender boy as a main character. I was definitely intrigued.

Miel is different. As a little girl, Miel was discovered in the town's water tower. Her mother's dead, the river took her away. Her brother is dead, the river took him away. Right away people in town could tell Miel wasn't like them. There's something magical about Miel, literally and figuratively. Roses, beautiful and mysterious roses grow out of Miel's arm. Why and how did this start? Do the roses have some mystical powers? Maybe. Now a teenager, Miel doesn't find anything special about the roses or herself. The roses have caused Miel nothing but physical and emotional pain. The mean girls at school, the Bonner sisters, Ivy, Chloe, Lian, and Peyton, are also making Miel's life a nightmare. Not only are the Bonner sisters bullies, they happen to be witches. They each want one of Miel's roses. For what purpose? They won't tell, but they are willing to hurt not just Miel but the most important person in her life.

Sam was the first person to connect with Miel. He found her in the water tower. Over the years, Sam and Miel became friends. As teenagers, they're becoming more than just friends. Sam understands Miel better than anyone. Even better than Aracely, the friendly neighborhood witch. Aracely took in Miel when no one else would. But even Aracely has trouble cracking Miel's shell. The same applies to Sam. He's hiding who he really is, not from Miel but from himself. Sam used to be Samira. The hows and whys Sam came to life are an interesting cultural odyssey. Sam isn't sure who he is or who he wants to be. One day Sam was supposed to go back to his old body. Back to Samira. But it's frightening to admit he wants to stay just as he is. Who will like him? Who will love him? Will Miel love him?

This book had so much potential. The writing is rather poetic. But perhaps a little too poetic for my tastes. The story was hard for me to follow. It was hard to know what was real and what wasn't. There's long passages full of metaphors. To truly understand it, this seems like the type of book that needs to be read twice. Despite my problems with it, I think this is a worthy read.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received an e-galley from the publisher (St. Martin's Griffin) in exchange for an honest review.