A Dowry of Blood by S. T. Gibson

This book reimagines the lives of Dracula’s brides, and tells the story from their perspective. Reminiscent of a love letter from the past, the language and imagery is dark and hauntingly beautiful.

Part 1 is eerily relevant reading during this pandemic. “Plaugetime is different. It stretches and looms.” When she talks about the ways the plague affected their community, I was reminded of the current Coronacirus epidemic and I felt more connected to history. “The world we had all known, it seemed, was drawing to a close.” Pandemics are nothing new: humans have been surviving deadly epidemics for centuries. And we always manage to come together to fight the problem as one collective group, overcome the hardships we face, and ultimately survive.

“Those years are a dark smear across my memory, everything feels blurry and hollow. Plague drains not only victims, but while cities of life. It freezes trade, decays parishes, forbids lovemaking, turns childbearing into a dance with death. Most of all, it steals time.”

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Cazadora by Romina Garber

The Cazadora cover, featuring a girl, Manu, being split in two by her inner wolf. Manu's hair grows into wild foliage, all set against a bloodred background.

If you enjoy magical realism, you will love Romina Garber’s newest book in the Wolves of No World series. Netgalley gifted me a free e-ARC of the sequel, Cazadora, and I was so excited to jump in and finish the series! In the follow-up to Lobizona, Romina Garber continues to weave Argentine folklore and real-world issues into a haunting, fantastical, and romantic story that will reunite readers with Manu and her friends as they continue to fight for a better future.

“That’s why every new generation makes improvements.”

First of all, I love that this book was filled with Spanish aphorisms and phrases, and includes vocabulary in-context to help teach Spanish to non-speakers. As someone who is constantly trying to improve my Spanish, this is something I really appreciate seeing in new books. Garber does it well, allowing the reader to infer meaning from context clues without needing to use a translator. However, I can also really appreciate having the translation dictionary available if I do need it, conveniently built into my e-reader. It saves a lot of time not having to click out of the book, and as a visual learner I enjoy seeing side-by-side translations because it really helps me to understand spelling and pronunciation.

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Aridane by Jennifer Saint

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I am a huge fan of Greek myth retellings so I was really excited to get the chance to read this story. I have seen it around bookstagram and the first thing that drew me to it was the beautiful cover art, but what kept me hooked was the story. Jennifer Saint weaves a wonderful tale full of of heroes and monsters, and brings a new twist to a classic myth. If you thought you knew the whole story, think again. Beautifully written and utterly captivating, Jennifer Saint builds a magical world for the sisters Ariadne and Phaedra to grow and discover themselves.

“To me, running through the maze of my home, it looked like a butterfly. And it was a butterfly I would imagine as I emerged from the dim cocoon of the palace interior to the glorious expanse of the sun-drenched courtyard.”

Retellings of the Greek myths and legends are really popular right now, and Ariadne is a great read for fans of Madeline Miller and Scarlett St. Claire. Most modern myths have many versions and variations, and will pull from various sources like Ovid, Homer, Hesiod, Sophocles. As a lover of Greek mythology, I was interested to see which myths Jennifer Saint would include in the world she created for Ariadne. I was excited to find the author took inspiration from various sources and included many gods and goddesses into the story, all while giving them a modern twist.

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A Lobizona Reading List

I love when books name-drop other books. Not only is it a great way to introduce readers to classics, but it instantly forges connections between the works, and it is like the authors are having a conversation with each other. By mentioning another work, you  instantly draw similar themes to mind, and in that way one author responds to another’s ideas. 

lobizonaThis book did an amazing job with this. Romina Garber used Lobizona as a platform for introducing young readers to Latin classics, and I will be looking forward to more book recommendations in the next installment of the series, Cazadora, which is set to be released in August.

“Falling hopelessly into the world of a story was always my favorite feeling.”

Manu’s character is very well-read. Her homeschooling allowed her plenty of time and enough freedom to read through both a traditional course list of white-washed classics, as well as Perla’s essential Latinx recommendations (with room to spare for Harry Potter!). For a teen, that is pretty diverse.

As I was reading, I thought it would be so fun to join a book club with Manu! So I put together a list of all of Manuela’s favorites. Keep reading to find out what Manu is reading — but be careful, because they are all still banned in Lunaris!

cienanosOne Hundred Years of Solitude

“I’ve been trying to read Gabriel García Márquez’s masterpiece as slowly as possible so I can relish the writing, but it’s so good that I’m already two-thirds of the way through.”

First of all, this specific quote is relatable AF. I can’t even count how many times I have had this experience while reading! And I love that I can connect with Manu’s character over our love of books.

Second, I love that this book is referenced so many times. The hidden town of Macondo is a great parallel for the secret world of Lunaris. For years the town is solitary and unconnected to the outside world, similar to Manu’s sheltered upbringing. Inevitably, Macondo becomes exposed to the outside world, again like Manu. Eventually, Manu and Lunaris’ secrets are revealed, and I won’t spoil the endings, but I can see some foreshadowing happening here!

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Mexican Gothic

Mexican Gothic: Moreno-Garcia, Silvia: 9780525620785: Amazon.com: Books

This was a rather disturbing read, to be honest. I think it needs a trigger warning; there is drug use, rape, cults, suicide … but the imagery is beautiful, and the symbolism is on-point. The pictures that Moreno-García paints are stunning, vivid, magical. The world building is beautiful, but the magic system was, admittedly, strange. Even though it was a bit of my comfort zone at times, I really enjoyed the story.

Mexican Gothic takes us back in time to an old-fashioned world, where women are painted as mercurial and melodramatic, and expected to “mind [their] words and learn [their] place”. In an old house darkened by rotting memories, the inhabitants desperately cling to the past. But Noemí Taboada is a modern woman, a bright light, and she will do anything in her power to save her cousin Catalina from wasting away into the darkness. But is she strong enough to save Catalina from the gloom that engulfs High Hill?

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Midnight Sun *spoilers ahead*

I saw a lot of opinions on this book, and I had worries going into it, but I honestly thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

First of all, it is fiction. We aren’t vampires, and nothing is perfect. Including Meyer’s writing. But, despite the problems with this series, it was an entertaining story and I had a good time reading it. I loved the nostalgia and the extra detail we got about Edward’s life, and that’s what makes this book a good read. And, even though Edward is a crazy vampire stalker, we know from the original books that Bella truly loved him back. And I just love a good love story!

But there is so much to unpack in this book. Lets get the problematic statements out of the way. Edwards exclusionary “you don’t belong here” comments. His true belief that humans are not “equal” to vampires. The obsessed vampire stalking. None of that behavior is acceptable, and I can understand why there is criticism around this book. But I enjoyed Midnight Sun for what it was, a new chapter to Edward and Bella’s story.

It had a very Anne Rice vibe to the writing style, with all of Edwards inner dialogue. I have seen a lot of criticism around this particular element of the writing, but I totally understood and appreciated the references to Interview With A Vampire.

I am not a super religious person myself, but I found a lot of religious symbolism in Meyer’s writing. She uses light and dark as symbols for good and bad

The very first page of the book brings up the afterlife and sin. So, I was immediately looking for that as I read through the book. I found lots of religious language, and found references to Edward committing basically all of the 7 Deadly Sins throughout the text. I also found Edward asking all of the existential questions that religion(s) attempt to answer.

“She should have died today, Edward.”

So, the vampires are playing God. Saving Bella’s life. Deciding the rapist should go to jail. Carlisle as a doctor, saving human lives, who believes “every life is precious”, pitted against Jasper’s desire to let fate take its natural course. The fact that Carlisle created another vampire like himself at all is drawing a parallel between God the Father and Carlisle the father. “We tried to live to a higher standard. A gentler, more peaceable standard. Because of our father.” What gives him the authority to make these decisions? What even controls destiny, anyway? Continue reading

Lobizona: Undocumented. Unprotected. Unafraid.

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If you enjoy magical realism, you will love Romina Garber’s newest book Lobizona. I have seen this title around on bookstagram for a while and the cover is what really drew me in. I absolutely love the art style, but the title seemed really interesting also. I was delighted to find the naked book is just as beautiful as the sleeve!

Romina Garber | Zodiac, Beautiful book covers, Book quotes

Netgalley gifted me a free e-ARC of this title, which I am so grateful for! It allowed me to start reading it, which sucked me in after the first few pages. I got about halfway through on Kindle before deciding to buy the physical copy. For one, I wanted to support this author (I devoured her Zodiac series a few years ago!) and two, I ended up taking a lot of annotations which I wanted to keep. And I bounced back and forth between the e-book and the physical copy; the e-book is amazing for reading in bed, but the physical is better for daytime reading (and is less of a strain on my eyes, TBH.)

“We use magical realism in our daily lives too. Consider our superstitions. We are always willing magic into reality—that’s our way.”

I love that this book was stippled with Spanish aphorisms and phrases, and included an impressive amount of vocabulary in-context to help teach Spanish to non-speakers. As someone who is constantly trying to improve my Spanish, this is something I really appreciate seeing in new books. Garber does it well, allowing the reader to infer meaning from context clues without needing to use a translator. However, I can really appreciate having the translation dictionary available if I do need it, conveniently built into my e-reader. It saves a lot of time not having to click out of the book, and as a visual learner I enjoy seeing side-by-side translations because it really helps me understand spelling and pronunciation. Continue reading

Internment

Amazon.com: Internment (9780316522694): Ahmed, Samira: BooksSilence is Violence was the theme for this emotional book. “If we stay silent, whats next?”

This was a crazy read. It is eerily relevant and totally frightening to imagine. Set in a dystopian future where Muslims are herded into internment camps because of the racist president’s Islamophobia, our main character fights for freedom using the only thing she has left: her voice. I liked so much about this book, because it was very realistic and illustrate the consequences if we as a people become complacent and stop fighting for our rights. Continue reading

Lotería

Lotería was the 2013 debut novel of Mario Alberto Zambrano.

With her older sister Estrella in the ICU and her father in jail, eleven-year-old Luz Castillo has been taken into the custody of the state. Alone in her room, she retreats behind a wall of silence, writing in her journal and shuffling through a deck of lotería cards. Each of the cards’ colorful images—mermaids, bottles, spiders, death, and stars—sparks a random memory.

Pieced together, these snapshots bring into focus the joy and pain of the young girl’s life, and the events that led to her present situation. But just as the story becomes clear, a breathtaking twist changes everything.

This book was stippled with Spanish aphorisms and phrases, and included an impressive amount of vocabulary in-context, to help teach Spanish to non-speakers. A full deck of Lotería cards is presented back-to-front, to mark the chapters, as if the reader is flipping a card when turning the page, reminiscent of Isabelle Allende and Salvador Plascencia’s magical realism. Image result for loteria el nopal

“I didn’t feel like remembering today so I laid out the cards close to each other so that they were touching like tiles, like El Nopal.” (175).

Luz associates her memories with the Lotería cards, using them to prompt her, to spark her memories. Than she writes about it in her journal. As we read her diary — addressed to “You”, always capitalized, in reference to the reader, or in reference to a higher power — we understand the trauma she is trying to run from. Continue reading