thriller

ARC Review: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Let me start by saying that, even though I’m not big into vampires, Certain Dark Things was a unique and thoroughly entertaining read. This YA paranormal thriller is told from alternating viewpoints of Atl, a naïve young female vampire who’s illegally entered the vampire-free zone of near-future Mexico City; Domingo, a homeless Mexican teen; and Ana, a tough Mexico City cop.

The tenuous balance between humans and vampires, as well as clashes between vampire families and drug cartels, make for an action-packed story. However, the most compelling aspect becomes the relationship between Atl and Domingo. Domingo’s awkward courtship of Atl is genuinely sweet, i.e., this passage told from Domingo’s POV:

“Yeah. I know how it goes. I used to have a girlfriend but that’s not the case anymore,” he told her because he figured it sounded like the mature thing to say. He was attempting to go for “aloof” and “sophisticated,” like they said in the magazines.

World-building is a tricky thing. It can come across as info dumps, which it does early on in this book. However, by chapter 14 the story totally drew me in, and I didn’t want to leave the world and characters.

Moreno-Garcia has a strong writing style. Though in a couple of places descriptions went on a bit long, making me impatient to return to the story, for the most part the descriptions were excellent; for example, this one about the Mexico City district of Colonia Roma:

It was a place for sophisticated older people and hip young ones, with magnificent trees and faded mansions, a taco stand here and there to remind you it was not quite the Belle Époque and you were still in Mexico City.

The Revenant vampire Bernardino is an UNFORGETTABLE character. I also really liked Mexico City cop/single mom Ana. Armed with knowledge gained from listening to her grandmother’s folktales, Ana is one of the only humans in Mexico City with expertise on how to take down vampires. To give you an idea of Ana’s fiery attitude, here’s how she describes a sexist male coworker: “. . . skinny fucker with his cheap tie and his monumental indifference.”

I appreciated Moreno-Garcia’s subtle characterizations, like this one conveying how Atl begins to open up to Domingo. It’s simple but so effective.

He kicked the can in her direction and she kicked it back.

Lastly, don’t skip the glossary at the end. Moreno-Garcia clearly put a lot of research into the story, and it’s interesting to read about the different vampire species from all over the world, their habits, and social structures.

Image result for four and a half stars

 

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Reply Like No One’s Watching (Writing Tag) #amwriting

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Yay, I get to do a writing tag and answer questions thanks to my new writing friend, G. L. “Gwynne” Jackson. Gwynne has a lot of writing knowledge and offers great advice. I hope you get a chance to check out her blog.

G.L. Jackson’s Questions:

 1. It’s the old stranded on a desert island question! Which three books do you take with you? 

  • The Complete Works of Shakespeare because it will keep me occupied on the island for a good long while.  According to Goodreads, The Complete Works of Shakespeare is 1,745 pages long. Amazon says 2,016 (there you go exaggerating, Amazon). This book must weigh a ton. It’s probably what sank my boat.
  • Moby-Dick so I will finally finish it.
  • Whatever book comes floating my way. I like to be surprised.

2. Which author or authors would you cite as your inspiration? V.E. Schwab and Lauren Oliver.

3. What are some of your other creative pursuits beyond writing? Does blogging count? With a full-time job, part-time job, family to raise, and books to read, I’m afraid I don’t have time for other creative pursuits, but I used to be a songwriter.

 4. Tell me about the last TV show you binge-watched. What did you think? Sense8. I liked it!

 5. How did you get your start in writing?  I’ve had several “starts” in writing. In 1st grade, I wrote my first story (see exciting recap below). After college, I attended writing workshops where I learned a lot about craft. Then the “start” that finally took was an inspiring conversation with a friend. 

6. Do you remember the first story you wrote? Can you recap it? Umm, yes. A busy butterfly flies around to all the flowers and trees. A big wind comes, bringing with it a flying Christmas tree. I don’t remember what happens after that.

 7. Fast-forward 60 years into the future. What does society look like to you? (This is a big question, so feel free to narrow it down as you like.) I like to believe the human race figures things out and that the future is beautiful.

8. What’s your go-to guilty-pleasure genre to read? Thriller with a spicy sex scene.

9. Do you consider yourself to be an extrovert or an introvert?An introvert with decent acting skills.

10. What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to give to aspiring writers?Don’t believe the “tortured artist” myth. Do whatever you must to keep writing fun.

Tag, You’re It:

Let’s kick off this list off with three writing Kelly’s, shall we?

Kelly Deeny

Kelly Miles

Kelly F. Barr

Melanie Noell Bernard

Elena Johansen

Alyia J. Helms

Nicolette Elzie

Jennifer F. Santucci

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link to their blog and Twitter in your post.
2. Answer the questions that the blogger who nominated you has provided.
3. Nominate up to 10 other bloggers or Twitter followers
4. Create ten questions for your nominees and notify them of their nomination.

Eve Messenger’s Questions:

  1. What are three things you do really well as a writer?
  2. When you daydream about “making it” as a writer, what do you visualize?
  3. Do you have a regular writing routine? If so, when?
  4. Dogs or cats?
  5. What’s directly to the left of where you’re sitting right now?
  6. When do most of your plot ideas come to you? In bed, on walks, in the shower, while driving, when reading other books?
  7. What’s your most recent writing breakthrough?
  8. Are you able to write in noisy environments?
  9. Have you ever attended a book signing event for an author you admire? If so, what was it like?
  10. Are you better at coming up with titles or elevator pitches?

 

 

 

Reading While Writing – Is it a Bad Thing?

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There’s this YA dystopian thriller I’ve been dying to read.  Very hyped, mentioned in lots of blogs, highly ranked on Goodreads. I won’t mention the title because — call me superstitious, or maybe respectful or polite — I won’t publicly write negative things about another writer’s published work. Who knows, maybe you’ll guess it from the references I’m about to make. Anyway, I was excited to read this book, but I stopped myself.  I stopped myself from reading any fiction.  Why? Because I’ve heard from other writers that reading while you write can be detrimental.

But reading is the shizzle!

So two days ago I picked up this hyped novel-that-shall-not-be-named (henceforth known as NTSNBN), and I began to read.   Even though I’m working on my own novel.

And it’s been really helpful!  Possibly because NTSNBN is in a different enough genre from my own YA fantasy adventure. Or maybe because it’s a good book but not so brilliant that I’m utterly intimidated. Or maybe (and probably most significantly) because the plot and characters of my own novel are well-formed enough that reading someone else’s novel — both as a positive and negative example — gives me ideas on how to enhance what I already have.

Back when I was tapping and scribbling out the nucleus of a plot in coffee houses, libraries, and all the other free places writers and homeless people hang out, reading someone else’s novel might have been detrimental to my process. Consciously or subconsciously, another writer’s plots and characters could have crept their way into my own writing.   (Though I probably will take the chance and try it while writing the next novel.)

After two days of reading NTSNBN — while working on the 2nd/3rd major revision of my own — here’s how reading someone else’s novel has been beneficial. Throughout the narrative, NTSNBN gives a very clear sense of the main character’s emotional state. It contains too much a lot of internal self-talk. With a keener awareness of this, the next time I sat down to work on my own book, my characters started spilling their emotional guts a lot more.

I like that.

The author of NTSNBN also employs several quirky stylistic devices, such as replacing number words with the alphanumeric, as in ‘2’ instead of ‘two.’  Also, there are long passages that deliberately avoid commas. Thirdly, there is a lot lot lot of  too much  striking out of lines and words, which signify the MC censoring his/her own thoughts.   Though I probably won’t use those devices in my own writing, the stylistic experiments definitely inspire me to try new things.

Lastly, NTSNBN reads really fast. All the chapters flow really well, each with its own grabber that takes you right into the heart of the scene and an ending that propels you further into the story. All wonderful things to keep in mind while revising and polishing my own work.

E.B.M.