Sazón Book Tours: The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring (Review + Photo Shoot)

I’m so exited to share my post today for Sazón Book Tours. For those unfamiliar, Sazón was created by Caro @ Santana Reads, connecting Latinx authors and Latinx bloggers. Check out their Twitter page here to sign up for future tours.

Title: The Tenth Girl
Author: Sara Faring
Series: N/A
Pages: 464
Publisher: Imprint
Release Date: September 24th 2019
**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher which does not influence my review**

      “Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.
      At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.
      Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.
      One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.”

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TW: suicide, self-harm, statutory rape, miscarriage

In 1978 Argentina Mavi Quercia makes the trek to the cold region of Patagonia where a teaching post has been made available at Vaccaro School, a finishing institution for young girls. Mavi hopes here she can escape her past, to outrun the people who hunted down her mother. As Mavi begins to find her place amongst the staff and students, she begins to suspect that Vaccaro School is not the charming, antiquated establishment it looks to be on the outside, but may house spirits who roam the abandoned halls at night, feeding off the inhabitants. As children begin to fall ill and unexplained disappearances befall the school, Mavi races to find answers, but the truth threatens to unravel her world.

With her debut The Tenth Girl, Sara Faring builds a memorable setting and a twisted story that is sure to get readers talking. The setting for this one is unsettling and yet still draws you in. Vaccaro School has a very Gothic feel. Its history is woven into its very fabric. It’s dark, dilapidated, and has secrets it would rather not be discovered. While the backdrop for The Tenth Girl is beautiful and awe-inspiring, Vaccaro School is very isolated. Once Mavi arrives, her only source of human contact is with the other inhabitants. For better or for worse, they become her whole world and when things begin to take a turn, her list of allies is limited. There is a growing sense of imprisonment as Mavi begins to learn that not only is the school haunted by unseen forces, but the odds of escaping dwindle with each passing day.

Though the synopsis focuses on Mavi, there is a second point of view weaved throughout the story. Angel is one of these spirits who haunts the school. Like Mavi, he is also trying to outrun his past and when he possesses the body of the owner’s son, he soon finds a kindred spirit in the young English teacher. But the more invested he becomes in her life and the lives of those at Vaccaro School, the more difficult it is to detangle himself from what is happening. He isn’t quite ready to accept that he is like the others who skulk about, looking to feed off innocent victims, but in order to help Mavi, he will have to confess the truth, even if the truth means no one gets a happy ending. The novel does have issues with its Indigenous representation. The story hinders on the Zapuche tribe casting a curse on the land Vaccaro school was built on. It’s a problematic depiction that includes references to human sacrifice and with no Zapuche characters among the cast, it feels like they are almost mythical rather than a people who were forced from their land because of colonization.

The Tenth Girl is a slow-paced horror that does not give up its secrets easily. Surprising and at times unnerving, this debut will make the insightful reader think twice about what they are reading.

The Tenth Girl Photo Shoot:

This book is so photogenic and I love that it’s fall because it feels like the perfect time to take photos of this creepy read. You can also find these photos on my Instagram here.

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Snapshot (ARC) Review: Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal

Title: Five Midnights
Author:
Ann Dávila Cardinal
Series: N/A
Pages: 288
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: June 4th 2019
**Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley which does not influence my review.**

TW: ableism

      “Five friends cursed. Five deadly fates. Five nights of retribución.
      If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other’s company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping though Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends. And if they want to catch the killer, they’ll have to step into the shadows to see what’s lurking there—murderer, or monster?”

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  • The concept – I love the concept for this one. Cultural myths coming to life in a modern setting and two teens desperate to solve the mystery with a body count that continues to grow.
  • Javier – I love reading about a teen character who didn’t always make the best decisions, but who is doing their best. Javi has been clean for two years, but he still struggled with his drug addiction on a daily basis.
  • A too curious for her own good MC – I’m fondly referring to Lupe as the Latina Nancy Drew. She is driven by her insatiable curiosity and doesn’t easily back down. When there is a mystery to solve, she is going to do whatever it takes to solve it.
  • Family – Lupe doesn’t have a lot of good adult role models in her life, so her relationship with her uncle is so important. I loved scenes between these two and loved that so much of Lupe’s drive to solve mysteries was nurtured over the years by her uncle.
  • Puerto Rican myths – I need more horror books in my life that explore more Latinx myths. I loved the monster in this one, the concept of retribution, and that the past can sometimes come back to haunt you.

  • Lupe – As much as I enjoyed Lupe’s stubbornness, I found her need to argue about everything grating. Any time someone tried to help her or maybe got in her face, Lupe was ready for a fight and/or argument. I was never sure if the author meant for this to be an example of a teen sorting out who she is in the world or if Lupe’s behavior was meant to somehow “prove” what a feminist she was. If the latter, the text completely missed the mark. While I could appreciate how much Lupe longed to feel validated as Puerto Rican, she never fully acknowledges her privilege as white-passing and expected everyone to immediately make her feel accepted. This made me root against her more than anything else.
  • More banter – I love banter and the synopsis promised banter. What I got was a couple of teens arguing maybe once and one making some poor decisions because she had to prove she was tough.
  • Marisol – I had high hopes when this character showed up. I pictured Lupe and Marisol forging an important friendship, but this character was so mistreated. We aren’t supposed to like her, but she made a lot of sense and most of the characters were so dismissive of her. Her interactions with Lupe especially bothered me because all they seemed to do was tear each other down.

Ann Dávila Cardinal’s Five Mightnights is refreshing when it comes to its monster, but suffers from overplayed tropes like girl-on-girl hate and a protagonist that mistakes combativeness with strength.

★★
(2/5)

Snapshot Review: Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie

Snapshot reviews are a new format I am trying out here at A Kernel of Nonsense that helps both me the reviewer get straight to the point and you the reader find out if a book is for you without having to read a longer review.

Title: Suffer the Children
Author: Craig DiLouie
Series: N/A
Pages: 343
Publisher: Gallery/Permuted Press
Release Date: May 20th 2014

**I received a free copy of this book from the author which does not influence my review**

Trigger Warning: death of children, suicide, and sexual assault.

      “From an acclaimed horror writer, a chilling tale of blood-hungry children who rise from the dead in this innovative spin on apocalyptic vampire fiction.
      Suffer the Children presents a terrifying tale of apocalyptic fiction, as readers are introduced to Herod’s Syndrome, a devastating illness that suddenly and swiftly kills all young children across the globe. Soon, they return from the grave…and ask for blood. And with blood, they stop being dead. They continue to remain the children they once were…but only for a short time, as they need more blood to live. The average human body holds ten pints of blood, so the inevitable question for parents everywhere becomes: How far would you go to bring your child back?”

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“A massive roar of grief and rage washed over the crowd. One after another, the children went limp in their parents’ arms. The father who’d shouted at the camera howled and tore at his clothes while his wife screamed.”

  • The set-up – Much of Suffer the Children is devoted to getting to know four adult characters and their relationship to their children. There is the devoted stay-at-home mom Joan, her blue-collar-working husband Doug, single-mom Ramona, and pediatrician David, who lost a child years ago.
  • The surprise character arcs – Based on the synopsis, I expected the focus to be on the children and how they change after coming back from the dead, but DiLouie instead stays with the adult characters and takes readers on a journey of grief that ultimately leads in desperation.
  • Aftermath of Herod’s syndrome – The story doesn’t shy away from the devastation that follows: the collecting of bodies, grief that manifests itself in self-destructive behavior, and how easily the characters resort to violence to achieve their goal.
  • The real horror – While children dying all over the world is a horrifying and then them coming back from the dead with a need for blood is terrifying, the real horror of this story are the parents who find out just how far they are willing to go to have a one more day with their children.

  • My own expectations – I went into this thinking it was going to be more about the kids and how creepy it would be for them to be walking around needing blood, so was a tad disappointed that it took so long for this to come about.

  • Craig DiLouie’s Suffer the Children is unlike any vampire novel I’ve come across and the behavior exhibited by the adult characters is as terrifying as it is plausible.

★★★
(3/5)

Mini Reviews: Down Among the Sticks and Bones + Not Even Bones

MiniWhoops, I meant to post this set of mini-reviews before the last, so these are very very late. I wrote this set of mini-reviews back in October, but ended up going on a little hiatus in November and so this post has been sitting in my drafts for several weeks. They were both stellar reads for me and I’m a little sad that I wasn’t able to share my reviews of them sooner. If you’re on the fence about picking up either of these series, I say throw away all your doubts and dive in now. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Author: Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children, #2
Pages: 187
Publisher: Tor.com
Release Date: June 13th 2017 

      “Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
      This is the story of what happened first…
      Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.
      Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.
      They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.
      They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.”

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“It was an uncomfortable thing, feeling like their parents weren’t doing what was best for them; like this house, this vast, perfectly organized house, with its clean, artfully decorated rooms, was pressing the life out of them one inch at a time. If they didn’t find a way out, they were going to become paper dolls, flat and faceless and ready to be dresses however their parents wanted them to be.”

Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway introduces readers to what happens to children after they step back into the real world after spending time on the other side of magical portals. Jack was instantly one of my favorite characters and after the ending of the first book, I was happy that this next book in the series covers what happened to Jack and her twin Jill when they found their magical door. The contrast between these to characters is so stark, but in Down Among the Sticks and Bones, we discover that these two girls used to live very different lives. Jill was the tomboy, always running around wild, while Jack was always too afraid of getting dirty. But this says more about their upbringing than either child as their parents had quickly made up their mind about who their children were before letting them discover it for themselves. When Jack and Jill stumble into the Moors, they are given a chance to be who they’ve chosen to be for the first time. The Moors is not a bright, happy place and the two girls grow up to be reflections of their mentors. Seanan McGuire once again impresses with her storytelling ability. It isn’t hard to fall into the story, to become invested in the characters. I cheered when Jack was able to be herself and be valued for more than how she looked and even though things work out a little differently for Jill, she was still able to do many of the things that were once barred to her. The story is heartbreaking as both characters end up losing something precious to them, but is mesmerizing in its darkness and the tragedy of twins who were never able to come to fully love the other because the adults in their life always set one against the other. 

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: Not Even Bones
Author: Rebecca Schaeffer
Series: Market of Monsters, #1
Pages: 368
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 4th 2018

      “Dexter meets This Savage Song in this dark fantasy about a girl who sells magical body parts on the black market — until she’s betrayed.
      Nita doesn’t murder supernatural beings and sell their body parts on the internet—her mother does that. Nita just dissects the bodies after they’ve been “acquired.” Until her mom brings home a live specimen and Nita decides she wants out; dissecting a scared teenage boy is a step too far. But when she decides to save her mother’s victim, she ends up sold in his place—because Nita herself isn’t exactly “human.” She has the ability to alter her biology, a talent that is priceless on the black market. Now on the other side of the bars, if she wants to escape, Nita must ask herself if she’s willing to become the worst kind of monster.”

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“I felt my head lifted up and my neck bared, somewhere distant between all the pain. Tears streamed down my face and my body twitched uncontrollably. I wondered if this would, at least, put an end to my torture.”

Rebecca Schaeffer’s Not Even Bones is a bloody romp which explores morality in a world that has little room for things like mercy. Nita has spent years dissecting bodies and helping her mother sell various parts of “unnaturals”, humans with strange abilities that can be both deadly and odd, on the black market. Nita finds conversing with the dead far easier than with the living, but this way of life has kept her in part ignorant of the world outside. When her mother returns from a hunting expedition with a living, breathing young man as a prisoner, bent on selling his body parts one piece at a time, Nita must decide what kind of person she is going to be. If you’re easily squeamish when it comes to blood or severed body parts, Not Even Bones may not be the novel for you. But if you’re like me, you’ll appreciate that Schaeffer takes her gloves off in this one, so to speak, embracing the gruesomeness of the story and testing her characters at every turn. There are no clear-cut good and bad characters in this one. Though you may root for someone like Nita, she isn’t without her flaws. But she like many of the other characters are very human. They show selective empathy, making good and bad decisions in equal measure. Sometimes they are forced to ignore other people’s pain and sometimes they even delight in it. In the end, they are just trying to survive in a world that decided they are less than human. Not Even Bones is the start of a unique and deliciously disturbing series that challenges both its characters and its readers.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★