Claire: Hello, and welcome to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Paperbacks, a cheerful and irreverent book club podcast all about genre fiction, fandom, and the things that make us happy.
[Malt Shop Bop by Kevin Macleod plays]
Chelsea: Welcome, everybody, back to another episode of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pod-oh my God. Sisterhood of the Traveling Paperbacks. I hate my life.
Chelsea: Today on our episode we will of course be talking about what we’re currently reading, and then talking about the book of the fortnight, which is Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and then moving on to what is coming up in the future. My name is Chelsea.
Claire: I’m Claire.
Kay: And I’m Kay.
Chelsea: Alright, and, uh, let’s see. I will start off with what I’m currently reading. I am currently, since I literally just finished the book for this podcast —
Chelsea: — as I’m a super professional podcast participant.
Chelsea: [laughs] I am actually getting ready to start a couple of things. So I am getting ready to start, um, Pretty Face by Lucy Parker.
Chelsea: Which, um, yeah. Kay has recommended and I read her first book Act Like It and really enjoyed it. And, I mean, this book was a little dark so, I’m like —
Kay: You could use some fluff.
Chelsea: I could stand to lighten things up a little bit with some romance. Yeah, a little bit of fluff in there. And then I am, yet again, down the rabbit hole of Sons of Anarchy fanfiction because I have weaknesses.
Kay: I didn’t even know that was happening right now.
Chelsea: I have weaknesses. I own that.
Claire: That feels like the kind of thing that you would enjoy.
Chelsea: Yeah, I just, you know. People who know me are not surprised that in a super homoerotic show about dudes on motorcycles —
Chelsea: — I’d just decide that they didn’t need to have sex with any ladies and they should just have sex with each other instead.
Kay: Well, there you go.
Chelsea: And it’s, it’s just the best. I’m feeling very, like, because I am doing everything I can in, like, the actual political spheres to, like, wreck difference and it’s still ughhhh, I can’t do anything about it. I’m just like, ‘What can I do in my own mind that would really piss off the GOP the most?’ And I feel like the Sons of Anarchy rabbit hole —
Chelsea: — is just, like, where that’s gonna hang out. So it’s also just like some inner rebellion going on.
Chelsea: But that, that’s what I’m reading at the moment. Uh, Miss Claire, what do you have going on?
Claire: Well, much like yourself, I have just finished reading the book for the podcast —
Claire: — because I make great life choices.
Chelsea: It’s cool.
Claire: Because I make great life choices, probably I should be reading some ARCs I have piling up on my NetGalley, but instead I have been reading a lot of Les Miserables fanfiction. Also, I have started actually reading Les Miserables, which I have not read more than a few excerpts of it for school.
Claire: A very, very long time ago.
Chelsea: [sighs] That’s a, that’s a big one, Claire.
Kay: It’s a real doorstopper.
Claire: I have it on my Kindle, so it was free. I have it on my Kindle in French, because I’m French so I thought, you know. It makes no sense to read a translation.
Chelsea: Just like, ohmygod.
Claire: And, uh, I just started it and it opens with this epigraph that is a quote about this book will always be relevant so long as there is injustice in the world. And the quote is like two pages long. And it’s a single sentence. And…
Claire: I think that sets me up about right for the entire book. Which is, in fact, enormous.
Claire: And that, that makes me happy —
Chelsea: Yeah, it’s huge.
Claire: — but I haven’t, uh, bought an actual copy of that because I know my mother has a very beautiful leather bound copy in many, many volumes that belonged to my grandfather, back in the day. And, uh.
Chelsea: Aw, that’s cool.
Claire: Yes. I’m…you know. I think I might buy a copy in English, but that one is, like, the copy in French that I will have one day. So. Yes.
Chelsea: Mmhmm. That’s very cool. What about you, Miss Kay? What are you reading?
Kay: Um, I’m temporarily distracted by someone who just got a hole in one outside my window. Sorry, there’s, like, people jumping and shouting.
Chelsea: By the way, Kay lives on a golf course, if you think that’s a weird thing to be happening.
Kay: I live on a golf course, I get a really good deal subletting from a relative because it’s Phoenix and no one wants to live here in the summer. And, um, I’m right on the, like, tee box of a par three, so, like, every once in awhile there’s just, like, people screaming outside my window ‘cause they got a hole in one. Which, like, I don’t blame them for being excited.
Chelsea: Yeah, that’s cool.
Kay: But it’s always hilarious. Anyway! Things that I am reading right now.
Kay: I just finished rereading Hard Knocks by Ruby Lang. Um, which is this adorable romance between a neurologist and a hockey player.
Kay: And she’s, like, obsessed with concussions and her dad has, like, post-concussive syndrome because he was a boxer when he was a young man.
Kay: And he is, like, having health difficulties. So it’s very fraught and great. ‘Cause I was looking for some hockey romances to put together for a Book Riot piece. So I reread that and then I realized the sequel was coming out. So I also just finished reading an ARC of Clean Breaks by Ruby Lang, which is also really cute. And then I also, literally like twenty minutes before we started recording, in the car finished the audiobook of Abaddon’s Gate.
Kay: Which is the third book of Men Fail at Everything: A Space Opera. Also known as The Expanse series.
Chelsea: Yeah, man, you are really chugging along. Yeah.
Kay: Yeah, so, those books are always super long. Like this one, if I wasn’t doing the audiobook, it’s like 530 something pages.
Chelsea: Damn. That’s a lot.
Kay: And I feel like the pacing on them is very strange. People, feel free to argue with me on this, but I feel like the first quarter of them’s always really slow, and then it’s breakneck for 300-odd pages. I don’t know why you’d do that?
Kay: Like, it’s fine, but I always go into it being like, ‘Why is this so slow?’ And then I’m like, ‘My heart is beating so fast,’ for the rest of it. I dunno. I liked it.
Kay: But I didn’t quite like it as much as the second one.
Chelsea: Mmkay. And there are four books or five out in that series?
Kay: I think the sixth one just came out…last fall?
Chelsea: Oh, okay. Did it?
Kay: I’m probably wrong.
Chelsea: I knew there was a bunch of them.
Kay: Renay is gonna mock me mercilessly for not knowing this, it’s fine.
Chelsea: Renay is, like, screaming at us in her car right now.
Kay: She’s screaming at us right now. The second series of the tv adaptation just started, though. And it’s, like, all of my favorite lady characters from the second book are showing up, now, so I’m really excited about that. Everyone watch The Expanse.
Chelsea: Speaking of tv, and especially good overlap with today’s book, uh, I started watching Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix.
Kay: How is that?
Claire: That’s next on my list.
Chelsea: With Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant. It’s so good.
Kay: I do love her.
Chelsea: It’s hilarious.
Claire: I do love her and zombies.
Chelsea: I do love Drew Barrymore. Yes. I’m okay on zombies, but Timothy Olyphant as her husband fucking makes that entire show.
Kay: Okay, is it zombies or cannibals? Or kinda both?
Chelsea: It’s zombies.
Chelsea: Like, you learn in the first episode that, like, you don’t know how or why, but like in the first episode you definitely learn that she’s undead.
Chelsea: Like, she is a zombie. Um, so like, you know, if there’s, if like gory bothers…she does eat some people.
Claire: It looks very tv blood from what I’ve seen.
Chelsea: So if that bothers you. Yeah.
Claire: From what I’ve seen in, like, the tv trailers and whatever, it doesn’t really look gross in the way that, you know.
Claire: I dunno. Hannibal, for instance, was made to look very beautifully gross.
Kay: Is it more like iZombie? Or have you not seen…?
Chelsea: Um…it’s a little. I would say because it’s a Netflix show and it’s kind of, it’s definitely more of an HBO or Showtime kinda thing, I’d say it’s maybe a little bit more extreme than iZombie.
Chelsea: I mean, I would say it’s a realistic amount of blood for eating someone.
Chelsea: It’s not, like, comically gross, but it is definitely like…
Chelsea: It happens onscreen. So. You know. It’s not so much that you couldn’t just close your eyes or take a bathroom break and come back and it’s be fine.
Chelsea: But I just, it’s cracking me up. It really is hilarious. So. Gonna do a little bit of shoutout to that non-book piece of media.
Kay: It’s going on the list of things I’ll think about watching. I’m bad at tv, mostly.
Chelsea: Yeah, yeah, put it on your consideration list.
Chelsea: But, um, I guess then we will go ahead and transition to talking about Certain Dark Things, which is our book of this podcast.
[Malt Shop Bop by Kevin Macleod plays]
Chelsea: Uh, Claire, you want to do a little plot recap for us?
Claire: So, this was my pick and I picked it because I read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s other novel, her debut novel Signal to Noise and I really, really loved that book. So, I thought, you know. Certain Dark Things. Why not? It is a vampire book.
Claire: And it is quite a dark and gritty vampire book.
Kay: [high pitched whisper] Yeah.
Claire: It’s not, uh, you know.
Claire: It’s not nice sweet vampires. We follow this story, well, we follow a lot of different characters, but our main kind of point of view character who introduces us to this whole world is a kid called Domingo who is a garbage collector. And he meets this beautiful girl in the subway and immediately he’s intrigued. She invites him over, uh, to her place. He follows her and then we realize very quickly she is, in fact, a vampire. But she’s not your traditional vampire from pop culture. She’s, uh, a vampire who is descended from a very long line of Aztec vampires. And, um, there are a lot of vampire, kind of, breeds in the novel that are really well described.
Claire: So she, she’s called Atl, she’s on the run from some really bad people who, uh, killed her family in a drug bust.
Kay: Really bad people.
Chelsea: Really bad. [laughs]
Claire: And, um, so we follow Domingo and Atl and, uh, the people who are after them including a very, very nasty guy called Nick Godoy, who’s a vampire —
Claire: — and also, just, like, the worst. I think we can all agree.
Chelsea: Yeah. So awful, but it’s so good.
Kay: He’s a terrible dude.
Chelsea: Oh, yeah.
Claire: He’s just a terrible man, person.
Claire: Yeah. And we also follow the cop who’s trying to kinda catch them. Um.
Kay: [sighs] Oh, Ana.
Kay: [sadly] I love her.
Chelsea: We’ll get there.
Claire: I mean, like, there’s a lot of kinda very, very, very graphic violence.
Claire: And, uh, Kay I know you’re not massively into body horror. I wanna say I’m sorry I made you read this. [laughs]
Kay: [keening] There were some parts of this book —
Chelsea: I warned you about that scene with the eye stuff.
Kay: — where I’m just like oh. He just threw a knife into someone’s eye. OKAY.
Chelsea: I warned you there was eye stuff.
Kay: I appreciated the warning. [laughs]
Chelsea: ‘Cause I know that that’s a squick for a lot of people.
Claire: I was reading this and going, ‘Oh my god, poor Kay.’
Chelsea: Yeah. Which, like, I was thinking ‘poor Kay,’ but at the same time I was also like, ‘Yessss.’
Claire: Oh, well, same.
Chelsea: All the good, bloody vampires!
Kay: Like, people always think it’s really strange that body horror in books bother me ‘cause I love horror movies, but, like, a horror movie or tv show I know is really fake. My imagination is, like, super vivid.
Kay: So when I’m reading things I’m like, ‘Oh, GOD.’ Ugh.
Chelsea: Yeah, yeah. It’s just, and like. That’s, I will say, I’m usually pretty neutral on vampire books. Vampires aren’t, like, my jam when it comes to supernatural creatures?
Chelsea: But if you’re gonna give me vampires I don’t want any of these, like, sparkly, trying to blend in with humanity kinda vampires.
Chelsea: I want my vampires ripping out throats.
Chelsea: And, like, hunting down, like, badass, just those are the vampires that I want.
Kay: You want the apex predator vampire.
Chelsea: Yeah. Yeah, so that worked for me.
Claire: Obviously I am more into zombies and werewolves. Because they are just —
Claire: — objectively better magical creatures.
Chelsea: Oh my god, we’re going to get so many angry tweets after this podcast.
Claire: But, like, yeah. Vampires are kind of on a lower level for me where I’m not that, ya know, I can take it or leave it. If it’s well done I can be into it.
Claire: I thought that the vampires and the, like, different breeds and races of vampires were really well done. Like, that wasn’t my main…I was…
Claire: Yeah, I just found it a bit difficult to get super engaged with the story. I don’t know if it’s just that there were too many point of views.
Claire: Characters. We didn’t really get enough time with each of them. I dunno.
Kay: You know what my big problem was? I thought the worldbuilding was really cool. Every time she got into worldbuilding stuff I was like, ‘This is awesome.’
Kay: I like that she’s giving scientific kind of explanations for things. I love when you do that with fantasy stuff.
Kay: But every time she would mention a character offscreen I was like, ‘I want their story instead.’ Or like, I want the story —
Chelsea: That’s what I was gonna say!
Kay: — of this old man vampire being a surgeon in, like, the Mexican Revolution or whenever he was. I want that story! I don’t really care about these narco vampires.
Chelsea: I don’t want the, like, perspective of the girl who is hiding in the cooler when her whole family was murdered.
Chelsea: I want the story of her whole family as they’re battling this other vampire clan.
Claire: I just didn’t really think that, uh, I had trouble with, like, Domingo and Atl? Both of them. Like, I just, you know —
Kay: I liked Domingo more than anyone else in this.
Claire: — I didn’t understand what was driving him apart from the fact that there’s a girl and she’s hot.
Claire: Which, like, is not enough for me. Even though he’s not, like, a disgusting dude like Nick.
Chelsea: Yeah, he’s just, I guess I didn’t like the way the romance, I thought it was forced in there very awkwardly at like the end.
Chelsea: The whole book Atl is like no. No. Not having it. No. Except —
Claire: I thought that was really cool.
Chelsea: — at the very end.
Claire: I didn’t really expect it to turn.
Chelsea: Yeah, it would’ve been so much better if she had just not. If they had just not gone down that path.
Kay: If there was either no romance or way more romance. It needed to be one or the other.
Chelsea: Yeah, exactly.
Claire: It was. I just. I didn’t buy the idea that at the end, they, you know, the very end of the novel hinges, uh, on him saying, ‘I love you. Do you –’ and he doesn’t ask her if she loves him. And she doesn’t say anything and somehow he like takes that as understanding that she loves him. And I’m like, you don’t know her well enough for this. You do not know that woman and just. Yeah. I mean.
Chelsea: ‘Cause this book takes place over, what, like a week? Not even?
Kay: I think so.
Chelsea: So it’s not like they have tons of time together, to like —
Claire: And it’s like —
Chelsea: — fall in love and have a deep, intimate relationship.
Claire: — you know, sometimes, when people fall in love over a stupidly short periods of time, it’s okay because they’re cute and they’re Marius and Cosette. And in this case —
Claire: — it’s not because, you know, she wants to eat him.
Chelsea: Yeah, no, it’s not okay with Marius and Cosette either.
Claire: But in the book —
Chelsea: And just, like, Eponine is right there and we just can’t go, we just can’t have that conversation.
Claire: Yeah, but in the book.
Chelsea: And that’s, like, a rabbit hole down which we cannot walk. Anyway. Yeah. Sometimes it doesn’t read as forced as it did in this context, in this book. I really liked the idea of, like I wanted more of the story of why Mexico City had walled itself off.
Chelsea: And become a city-state. Like, they talk about it a little bit, with, like, kind of trying to stay safe from the vampires and keeping out different drug cartels. But this clearly is taking place in some kind of, like, near future, like, kind of, not post-apocalyptic, but there’s clearly a reason Mexico City has formed its own city-state.
Chelsea: Outside of the rest of Mexico.
Claire: Right, we’ve got this alternative universe —
Chelsea: I wanted more of that story.
Claire: — that up in 1967 or something when they found out vampires were real.
Kay: I thought it was ‘58. Right? Yeah.
Claire: And I find that super interesting. It’s just that I, like, I mean. I don’t think that Moreno-Garcia was trying to write something that was, like, super uplifting or whatever.
Claire: Like, clearly.
Claire: I don’t think that as she was writing it she’s thinking those characters are, like, fabulous people that we will root for forever.
Claire: You know. I mean, perhaps she has a bit more sympathy for them than we, as readers, do. But I think, generally, for me, because of how bleak the future is and because of how violent the vampires are I feel like I would like, I would have more affection, I feel like I would like the narrative better if it had something more uplifting to give me. And I feel like —
Kay and Chelsea: Mmhmm.
Claire: — if we’d been following Ana longer and if she’d been more successful. I mean, at the end of the book you don’t even know what happens to her kid. Like.
Claire: You know.
Chelsea: Yeah. And I think that that’s, I think that that, for me, I think that that’s a pacing problem.
Chelsea: Because the end of the book happened very fast.
Chelsea: Like, the whole book is building up to this showdown between Nick Godoy and Atl, and they are literally settling this, like, blood feud. But then, like, several important characters get, like, not offscreen deaths, but it’s just a very brief mention and then you move along.
Chelsea: It’s just. Everything happens very quickly.
Kay: The final showdown is, ‘cause I was reading an ebook —
Claire: On Kindle.
Kay: — the final showdown is like 5% of the whole book. And, like.
Kay: You lose a bunch of the main, even several of the viewpoint characters, in that 5% and I’m like, ‘Waaaaitttt. What, really?’ [laughs]
Chelsea: Yeah, exactly. And, like, I had to go back and reread so they’re, like, actually dead. Like.
Chelsea: I didn’t just, like, read it too fast.
Kay: I kind of had a Sirius Black moment, where I was like, ‘Wait, is this like a curtain situation? Did I miss something?’ And I was going back several pages to make sure someone’s actually dead.
Claire: I was particularly annoyed with the thing with the dog at the end. Because what happens is they’re in the final showdown and Atl’s dog, which has been with her all along, is shot by, um —
Chelsea: Yeah. Yeah, that was totally unnecessary.
Claire: — the cop and I was like, ‘Noooo. Puppy!’ Even though it was like —
Chelsea: Well, it was shot and then you find out later that it dies.
Chelsea: Like, it doesn’t make it explicit —
Claire: It doesn’t die. Does it die?
Chelsea: — so I’m sitting there thinking.
Claire: Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? ‘Cause they shoot it and then —
Kay: Doesn’t he have the dog in the epilogue? Am I crazy?
Claire: No, no, the dog doesn’t die. My point is that Atl leaves Domingo. And Domingo walks back and finds the dog still alive. And she’s left five minutes ago. And it’s like, you can’t just take this girl’s dog that’s like. What? How?!
Chelsea: Yeah. Yeah.
Claire: That’s the only thing.
Kay: He has the dog. I’m double checking this right now. The dog lives.
Chelsea: I was gonna say, I must’ve not, I must’ve just read it too fast and missed that part of it. I. Yeah.
Claire: And on the one hand the dog lives and on the other hand she left her dog.
Kay: How come the dog gets to live?
Chelsea: Right? Like you didn’t stop to double check that shit and make sure it’s actually dead before you just, like, moved along? It’s been your only companion for, like, years?
Claire: Domingo doesn’t say to her the dog is dead. He says to her the cop lady shot him. Which is accurate.
Chelsea: Mmhmm. And then she just, like, assumes. Yeah. Um. Although. I will say. I did like Nick Godoy.
Claire: Well. I mean.
Chelsea: I will throw that out there. I really liked not liking Nick Godoy. I thought he was one of the better characters we got in the novel.
Claire: Yeah, the love hate for–
Claire: — I feel he made a lot of sense as a character and you can imagine —
Claire: — he’s quite realistic.
Chelsea: And he’s such a good villain. Ugh. I love a good villain.
Claire: I mean, he’s like one of those Umbridge-type characters, right? He’s just irredeemable. And it’s just lovely to, you know, just see him get his comeuppance. Um.
Chelsea: Yeah. Well, it’s nice, because not only is he an awful person just because he’s a ruthless bloodthirsty vampire, but he’s also got that spoiled rich boy syndrome going on.
Chelsea: He just wants literally everything his way and if he doesn’t get it he literally calls his dad and throws a tantrum till he gets things to be his way. So it’s two different kind of really fucking awful in like the same.
Kay: I like how young the two main vampires we see for most of the book are.
Kay: It’s very clear how young they are and not just for like, us, but as vampires they’re super young.
Claire: Yeah, and I think if we didn’t have Nick as a villain and if we didn’t have Nick as a villain also being as young as Atl, like, she would seem a lot worse. Because she is very spoiled, but at the same time, like, she is shown to care about things like, you know, well I don’t want to murder people, I don’t want to kill humans for no reason —
Chelsea: Unless I have to, yeah.
Claire: — ‘cause it’s dishonorable. I mean, you know, there is a lot of humans are neanderthal and they’re beneath me, they are nothing, I could just crush them, muahahaha.
Claire: As she thinks that she’s like, no I can’t just be, she has some kind of restraint which we’re shown he very clearly doesn’t and I think he’s a good foil for her. I quite like the, um, the bit where, um, we’re told where they first met and it’s in a club.
Claire: And he goes to talk to her and she’s like no. That’s why he hates her, really.
Chelsea: Yeah. [laughs]
Claire: The true reason behind him hating her.
Claire: And I’m like, yeah, yeah, that feels realistic.
Chelsea: Mmhmm. Yeah. I think, and I really like the way that both of them because they’re so, the background they come from, is so wealthy and Domingo is so not, like he literally lives in the underground sewer tunnels and collects trash for a living.
Chelsea: So we get to see a lot of cool, like, not outright discussions, but clearly implied differences in, like, class, and the way their backgrounds in terms of class and socioeconomics like really influences the way that they see things and the way that they’re interacting with the world. And that plays into because there’s a lot of interclass stuff between the vampires. Like.
Chelsea: We’re given several different vampire races and they all have, you know, their views of one another based on, you know, the unfair assumptions that beings make on other beings that are different from them.
Claire: Right. I quite liked the um.
Chelsea: That just happen to be vampires.
Claire: I quite liked the kind of, uh, aristocracy versus, uh, rich, like, uh merchant families kind of vibe that you have going on between the Aztec vampires whose name I’m not gonna try to pronounce because that would be terrible.
Chelsea: Yeah, no. I mean, I got nothing.
Claire: But the vampire race that Atl is and the necros, which is what Nick Godoy is. Where, um, the necros are the youngest vampire race and Atl’s family is descended from these Aztec vampires who were priestesses and goddesses and whatever, and so there’s very much this, like, who are these new rich people? Who do they think they are? We were so powerful so long ago we were revered, blah blah blah. And there’s a lot of, you know, stuff about the sanctity of the bond between the vampires and their human servants in that, in that family.
Chelsea: I like that they’re called Renfields. I like that they make that, several straight out, like, homages to Dracula. I thought that was a nice little touch.
Claire: Right. But she doesn’t like that term because it’s, like, crass.
Claire: You know, there’s very much this, like, no, I’m actually better than you, not because I’m a vampire and you’re a human, but because I’m a vampire and you’re a, like, shitty vampire, basically. [laughs]
Chelsea: Yeah, basically. It’s like old money versus new money.
Claire: Yeah, that’s my point.
Chelsea: And now, we are, exactly. Yeah.
Claire: And so I quite like that and I. I dunno. I felt that the only way that it was even barely acceptable for me that there was this weird romance between Domingo and Atl was the, like, bond between a loyal human servant and a vampire.
Chelsea: Mmhmm. Yeah. Which. And I agree, I think they probably could’ve done that without any romance at all.
Kay: [sighs] Yeah.
Chelsea: Or they could’ve up the romance from the beginning. It was. Yeah. But. Is there anything that we didn’t, like, was particularly that we did not enjoy about the book?
Claire: Nah, I quite liked the graphic violence.
Chelsea: In particular?
Chelsea: Yeah, I was okay with how bloody it was. [laughs]
Claire: Sorry, Kay.
Kay: Kay did not enjoy the graphic violence.
Chelsea: Which all probably could’ve predicted.
Kay: But it’s whatever.
Chelsea: Favorite parts?
Claire: I didn’t realize quite how violent it was gonna be when I recommended it. Um.
Chelsea: And it has, like, some down points. At least it’s not, like, nonstop graphic violence and people being eaten. Like they take naps. There are some scenes of recovery.
Kay: Yeah, I didn’t think any of it was gratuitous, either. There was nothing in there that was gross to just be gross. It was all plot relevant. But, yeah.
Kay: That’s not my personal favorite thing.
Chelsea: Yeah. And I don’t blame you, but if you’re gonna make bloody vampires you’re gonna need to–
Claire: I mean.
Chelsea: You’re gonna need to shed some blood on the page. [laughs]
Claire: I think it succeeded at what it was trying to do, but I would say that, uh, probably what I wanted it to do, what I wished it would’ve done was a bit different. Like, like Kay, I really, really enjoyed the worldbuilding stuff and I would’ve wanted to know more about that, for instance. Um, I really, really liked the detail that, um, Atl’s vampire powers are kind of bird-like. So.
Kay and Chelsea: Mmhmm.
Claire: She doesn’t change into a bat.
Kay: She has wings!
Claire: Or a wolf, or whatever, but she’s almost harpy-like. She has these beautiful black feathers and whatever. And so, she, she has sharp features, almost looks like a beak at times, and she sleeps in a nest!
Chelsea: Yeah, it’s really cute.
Claire: She has a little cupboard with some blankets.
Chelsea: I also thought harpy when, yeah. Like when she was described I also thought harpy. I also thought that evoked some really cool stuff, there. I…I dunno. I think my favorite part was a part we could’ve gotten more of, and that is, like, the interactions of vampires with history. We get it a little bit when they talk about Bernardino serving in the early wars. And obviously Atl’s family is descended from the Aztecs. So obviously that is, like, an entirely different book than what book Garcia is writing, but I would really like to see her try and tackle, like, a sequel that essentially just tells the story of Atl’s mom and how she kind of like became this vampire queen.
Chelsea: ‘Cause all of Atl’s family sounds really awesome. Like, descended from a line of, like, religious badass Aztec warrior women? Like, I’m here for that.
Chelsea: So just the little bits of that were my favorite parts.
Kay: I do like all the nods to vampire lore that we do get, though. The Renfield thing, and the various different types of vampires all have different like, kinds of nods to vampire stuff. One of my favorite moments is, I actually bookmarked it, um, Domingo knocks some salt over and the tiny grains rolled across the table. Atl stared at them. If she didn’t count them she was going to scream.
Kay: So, like, the obsession with counting goes way back to, like, old school vampire lore.
Chelsea: Oh, yeah.
Claire: Oh, really?
Kay: Like, you could get away if you could knock over a bag of rice and they would have to stop and count them all.
Kay: So you could run away while they were counting the rice.
Chelsea: I was gonna say, that’s like old school vampire mythology.
Kay: Old school vampire stuff. And just the tiny little moments like that, I loved. This book is really beautifully written.
Kay: And the worldbuilding is so cool. I wish I liked the actual plot of it more.
Chelsea: The plot?
Claire: Yeah, I would say —
Chelsea: [laughs] Yeah.
Claire: I, I was super interested, also, in, like, not just how Atl’s mother became this badass vampire queen, but just, like, their culture in general. Because it was like, almost this —
Kay and Chelsea: Mmhmm.
Claire: — well, I’m assuming, matriarchal thing, where she tells Domingo, who, like, wants to protect her and stuff, which, like, mmhmm.
Chelsea: Okay, buddy.
Claire: Bless you, child.
Chelsea: That’s cute.
Kay: Poor seventeen-year-old boy.
Claire: And, um, she tells him that in her family, in her, like, race of vampires, the men are weak and they, like, have to go and live separately and, like, be instructed in what the menfolk do. Then the women are instructed in, like, politics and combat and she’s a warrior and all that and I thought that would’ve been, that would’ve been, uh, cool to see.
Chelsea: Yeah, I agree. I think that ‘cause they talk about distinctions of power, which I think is interesting in terms of Ana. Ana has a lot of interesting insights into the, like, actual human world of gender politics and she works in the Mexican police department and she deals with a lot of bullshit.
Chelsea: Because she’s a woman in the police force, and not only is she a woman in the police force, but in the Mexican police force, which comes with, for her, an extra level of, like, gendered bullshit to have to put up with. So, like, I thought that was a really interesting, like, seeing her and how she interacted with, like, men and seeing Atl and how she interacted with Domingo. I thought that was a cool, like, kind of counterpoint to one another.
Claire: Yeah, I just. I just wish that we’d had more um, um, I just wish that plot line had been tied up a bit more cleanly.
Claire: Because Ana goes, I mean, she’s subdued by, um, she’s subdued by Nick because his type of vampire can control minds and stuff.
Chelsea and Kay: Mmhmm.
Claire: And basically, he’s telling her that people are threatening her daughter and that if she doesn’t let him bite her so she can be mind controlled by him her daughter’s gonna die. And then, at the end, Ana, like, dies in a field and that’s, you don’t know what’s happened to her daughter, you don’t know, like, if the, um, you don’t know if the gang that she —
Chelsea: Yeah, you don’t know anything.
Claire: — double crossed under duress is going to, like, take revenge. I mean.
Chelsea: Mmhmm. Yeah. And it feels, it feels awkward that it’s not mentioned because so much of Ana’s storyline has to do with —
Kay: Her daughter.
Chelsea: — trying to provide a better life for her daughter and wanting to have a good relationship with her daughter.
Chelsea: And we see her daughter a couple of times, so —
Claire: And she thinks about her. She also thinks about her.
Chelsea: — it feels like an ending that didn’t get. Yeah.
Claire: She obviously also thinks about her daughter, she thinks about her daughter’s safety, which is something you expect from any parent, really, but she also thinks about her daughter because, as we said before, the vampires are so young. And so they look like her daughter’s age and she thinks about them in that context, as well. Which, you know, is uh. Yeah. Yeah.
Chelsea: Is interesting. Is. Yeah. Is interesting. Um, I think that, on the whole, having read this one and Signal to Noise, I think that if you, if vampires aren’t your thing, then the writing style is very similar between the two. So I would definitely pick up Signal to Noise. Signal to Noise is a lot more, like, magical realism stuff, but it’s also set in Mexico City so there’s a lot of, like, similar cultural things happening, but I really, I preferred Signal to Noise. So if you’re just not quite sold on vampires definitely still check out Moreno-Garcia’s work, because she’s got beautiful sentences.
Kay: I mean, I’m planning on reading that. You guys have both read that before, right? I’m the only one who hadn’t?
Claire: Right. And the thing is, Signal to Noise —
Kay: I’m definitely gonna read it.
Kay: ‘Cause her writing is beautiful. But this one was not, as much, For Me.
Claire: But Signal to Noise only has the one point of view character in a dual timeline. So instead of having being divided into like five or six different points of view, which makes it a bit difficult to really dig into the characters, it’s one woman as an adult and then her as a girl when she was in school. And although she’s not, like, 100% likeable, like, she has flaws, she is —
Chelsea: Yeah, it’s. Mmhmm.
Claire: — a character that makes a lot more sense as a character, I think, because we have more time to focus on her.
Chelsea: Yeah, it’s just definitely not as dark, either, like, obviously since it’s not about vampires it’s kind of a different tone and thing, but I definitely, obviously, Signal to Noise is definitely the lighter.
Chelsea: Not only in terms of, like, physical violence, but just in tone it’s not nearly as, kind of, uh, grimdark as Certain Dark Things got. At times.
Kay: I find it super interesting that Claire did not love the multiple points of view, ‘cause that was one of the things I liked the most about this. And I don’t normally read things with a lot of points of view —
Kay: — cause that’s more of a fantasy thing, and, again, I don’t read a ton of fantasy, and it’s really more of a high fantasy thing, which I almost never read.
Kay: Which, I liked that there were lots of points of view in this because it’s, I would say it’s kind of urban fantasy. Borderline. Ish? Um, and you almost never get multiple POVs in urban fantasy. It’s almost always first person, one narrator.
Claire: And I love multiple POVs, and I read more fantasy than Kay does, including high fantasy.
Claire: And I love a good multiple point of view when, like, it’s well done, but. And I don’t think that it’s badly done, I just think there’s not enough time.
Claire: You know, the thing about those multiple points of view epic fantasy books is that they’re, like, twice as long as this. And this is not a short novel, it’s like normal length of 300 pages, right? But. You know.
Kay: 320-something, yeah.
Chelsea: Yeah, but that’s not a ton of time if you’re gonna set up —
Claire: Right. And, I, I —
Chelsea: — three or four different relatable. Yeah.
Claire: — you know, I have my issues with it, but I love the writing in A Song of Ice & Fire. I love how the points of view are done in that.
Claire: But there’s a lot more of it.
Chelsea: But again —
Claire: There’s more time for each character, you know? I mean, this is also Moreno-Garcia’s second book, so. You know. Like, I’m looking forward to reading everything else that she puts out. Basically.
Kay and Chelsea: Mmhmm.
Claire: And I’ll definitely be, be looking at the next thing that she puts out. Because it’s one of the, one of the lovely things about noticing the debut novel by an author that you like, is being able to see them get better and better and better. ‘Cause, you know. I mean.
Chelsea: Mmhmm. Yeah.
Claire: That’s how, like, a career works.
Chelsea: Mmhmm. I’m excited to see her third one. I’m excited to see, again, her prose when she’s not dealing with vampires and something that, just, by nature I’m not, like, it takes a lot to win me over to a vampire novel.
Chelsea: Like, I will admit that it’s a bit of a bar. So. Um, alright, do we have any other big thoughts on Certain Dark Things?
Kay: I feel like you guys don’t like Domingo even close to as much as I do. Like, he was by far my favorite part of this book.
Chelsea and Claire: Really?
Claire: I just thought he was a bit naive.
Kay: Yeah, for, like, a lot of reasons. So I’m like.
Chelsea: Yeah, he’s okay. I just have, like literally zero thoughts about him, which maybe is not a great thing.
Chelsea: Just, he was alright.
Kay: I feel like you guys think his motivations make no sense, but, like, there’s all these moments where he says things and it’s just like, ‘You poor abused child. No wonder.’
Kay: Like there’s a point where he literally says, ‘It was nice being needed. It made you feel special.’ And I was like, oh, you poor baby.
Kay: I just can’t. And there’s another point where he’s like, ‘Garbage is good. Trash pickers work hard. We sift through the crap and find treasures. It doesn’t pay too much and there are people who get a lot more than you do, but there’s no one beating you at the end of the day.’ And like, if those are your life expectations Atl is great to him.
Kay: And I totally get why he is obsessed with her and wants to continue to, like, help her.
Kay: But oh, I just had a lot of feelings about him.
Chelsea: See now I feel all callous and heartless ‘cause I’m just like, ‘meh.’
Chelsea: Domingo. Whatever. Human.
Claire: I dunno, I have a lot of feeling, I have a lot of not great feelings about the way that things get wrapped up. I think if there hadn’t been a romance I would’ve liked him much better. But I’m just generally annoyed with the idea, I, I find it difficult to enjoy any male character who’s like, ‘So I’m gonna get together with this girl,’ and she’s like, ‘Nah, you’re not,’ and he keeps thinking that. And I realize that in his case it doesn’t come across as threatening in the way that it comes across in a lot of other things, but it’s not like he knows her.
Chelsea: I was gonna say it’s very sweet in the way that he does it, it’s not creepy like it does at other times, but yeah.
Claire: It’s not like based on him having deep feelings for who she is as a person, he’s just, she’s, she’s pretty and she’s nice to him and that’s obviously something that you know.
Chelsea: But, like, here’s my thing! She’s not nice to him. [laughs] She’s really not nice to him.
Kay: No, she’s not, but she’s nicer to him than most people have been in his life.
Chelsea: Yes. She is. In, in the fact that she’s been willing to give him time and attention and —
Chelsea: — and like give him money for the things, like the functional things he needs in his life, but like. I think my thing is I, I feel bad when he’s like, buying her nice things.
Kay: The watch!
Chelsea: And he’s buy her watches and she’s like, ‘Nah, bro, don’t do that.’ And I understand she’s pushing him away because she has her own emotional trauma.
Chelsea: But at a certain point I just wanna be like, Domingo. Honey. Sweetie. Baby. She’s not having it.
Chelsea: I just. You’re so sweet. But it’s just not gonna happen.
Claire: Yeah, and I mean, mostly I was going, ‘No, don’t do this!’ when he was, like, buying her a watch. I was like, ‘No, dude, you could be eating for a month!’
Kay: I knowwww.
Claire: Don’t do that!
Kay: Darling, this is a terrible decision.
Chelsea: Right? [laughs]
Kay: But his thinking, there, I’m fairly sure is, I can just go back to picking garbage like before and I was fine.
Kay: Because he always thinks that he’s fine, even when his situation is fairly dire to, you know, our point of view.
Chelsea: Yeah, and he is very, he is very intrepid. And, I mean, you know, he’s a survivor, man. He literally has survived a very shitty childhood on the streets and is making do and relatively okay with his life of becoming what he’s become. And it’s very. I did think that was very realistic. He’s very. He doesn’t know what to do when Atl first gives him money.
Chelsea: And he’s very, kind of, lost. Like, he doesn’t, like, he feels very odd just going and buying clothes and going and buying a meal of food. And it’s something that’s, just, very out of the ordinary for him. And I thought that whole, like, series of scenes was handled really well.
Claire: I mean, that’s —
Kay: And the moments when he’s telling her he knows what it’s like to be hungry.
Kay: And he keeps trying to get her to feed on him? That. That. Oh my god.
Chelsea: Yeah. And, like, especially because then she looks at him and she gives him crap about it. You are right, I do imagine you do know what it’s like to be hungry.
Claire: And also she’s like —
Chelsea: Like, starvingly hungry.
Claire: — she says she’s fine in her body, but she’s psychologically not fine. She’s never had to be hungry before. She’s always, she’s never really had to think how am I going to get my meal of human blood that is, like, young and fresh and whatever, you know?
Chelsea: Yeah. [laughs]
Claire: So she understands that even though her hunger is very different from his, you know, he’s, he’s just able to deal with it better than she is.
Chelsea: Yeah. He’s, yeah.
Claire: And so, I like those discussions between them. I just, yeah. I wanted to hug him.
Claire: And make him make better life decisions.
Chelsea: I know.
Chelsea: But, and I mean, I dunno. At the end there are ways that it’s handled that she tries to cut, like, she pushes him away and she leaves him for the betterment of his life so as not to involve him in all of her vampire struggles going forward. But it still is, just, like. Nothing works out for Domingo, man. Like. [laughs]
Claire: At the end of the book he ends up with, like.
Chelsea: He ends up with a private bank account, he ends up with, like, money, he has that, but like, he loves her.
Claire: Right. He ends up with money and also a dog that the gangs of the city know belonged to her and they are after her and that dog is not going to, like, look, is not going to be inconspicuous. Right?
Claire: And he also ends up having killed someone for her. You know? And it’s like, well, it’s not like he didn’t have a lot of trauma already. Just add it to the tab. Just like, poor guy.
Chelsea: Awww. Poor Domingo.
Kay: Poor Domingo.
Claire: Yeah, I was just a bit. Like, the epilogue is him having a dream about her and I was just like, could the epilogue not be him being settled and happy, please? Like. Having moved away, couldn’t —
Chelsea: Right? We can’t get one little glimmer of sunshine?
Claire: — the epilogue be, like, he’s moved away to the countryside and has a small vegetable garden?
Claire: That would’ve been nice.
Kay: I mean, we’ll just have to write the fic, okay?
Chelsea: There you go. We’ll just have to write some fix-it fic.
Kay: Post-canon fluff where he’s got a vegetable garden and a dog.
Chelsea: Oh, man. A dog that is known to the narco gangs of Mexico.
Chelsea: Totally chill future lifestyle. [laughs] Oh, man.
[Malt Shop Bop by Kevin Macleod plays]
Chelsea: Well in that case, I will go ahead. The next book we are going to read is my pick. And we are reading The Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. This is a piece of young adult fantasy that is set in Prague and tells the story of Karu, who has spent her entire life with a found family of monsters and halflings and hybrid animal creatures um, until one day some angels show up and rob her of her family and she doesn’t know why. So she goes in search of answers. Which lead her down a rabbit hole of some super, uh, big revelations. I am recommending this book because this is one of my lifelong, ride or die, heterosexual OTPs.
Chelsea: Of which there are very few. So. Yeah. We’ll be back in a couple weeks to talk about that.
[Malt Shop Bop by Kevin Macleod plays]
Chelsea: Otherwise, what does everyone have going forward on the docket. Anybody have big stuff?
Claire: Um, I did some recording last weekend, as we’re recording this podcast, last weekend I did some recording of videos and then completely failed to edit them for an entire week. So, um.
Claire: I’m gonna have to do that, um, coming up. And then these will come out as we go in the month. I did a couple of, um, I’m probably going to have out, by the time this podcast comes out, a couple of On My Shelf videos, where people on Twitter told me, like, a bunch of numbers and I went and picked books according to that on my shelf. So just kind of random.
Chelsea: I love those videos.
Claire: A lot of them are from my TBR shelf, actually, and even those that aren’t I haven’t read a whole lot of them.
Claire: So it’s going to be an entertaining one. But it’s a really nice mix. The ones that, the books that ended up on that list, and I still have a whole, like, bunch of stuff that I do want to record, but, uh, it’s, uh, you know. It’s always difficult to find the time. So, uh, gonna be stuff on the YouTube channel.
Claire: As ever. And also it’s not anything that I’m doing, but I did want to squeal about it with you guys, ‘cause I’ve just found out I went to add Certain Dark Things on my Goodreads now, and —
Chelsea: Do you have the reread?
Claire: — they’ve added a reread function!
Kay: So excited.
Chelsea: Yes, this is so exciting for everyone who uses Goodreads. It’s only taken them a million and a half years.
Claire: I know.
Chelsea: But Goodreads now has a reread function.
Claire: But, yeah, Goodreads has a reread function where you can enter the date that you started and finished a book as before, but then you can enter more dates that you started and finished a book. So I’m gonna go and, like, tweak a couple of things on my, uh, history. Like Nimona and the Harry Potter books which I’d had to enter, um, in —
Chelsea: Although, double check because Goodreads says that they, if you’ve added different editions or counted before how many times you’ve read it, they’ve already combined a lot of that data.
Claire: Aw, yeah.
Chelsea: So just double check.
Claire: Because Nimona, like, the only edition I could add was, like, in Spanish. So.
Chelsea: Yeah, but that’s the thing. There’s always been a way to do it, but this way is just —
Claire: I’m so excited.
Chelsea: — so much more straightforward. And you just add the date. Just thank you, Goodreads.
Claire: Yes. Thank you, Goodreads.
Chelsea: I mean, for finally hopping aboard that bandwagon.
Claire: Because I was so annoyed that I had to have, like, several editions on there and that some of them didn’t really match. Um. Yeah.
Chelsea: Yeah. Yeah, but it’s way better. So, yes. That’s always a good thing. Uh, Miss Kay? What do you got coming up in the future?
Kay: Just all of my same standard things.
Kay: I may have one or two more Book Riot pieces out. And we have the continuing Star Trek fanfiction Rec a Day. Which, I think by the time this goes live it’ll be at least two hundred.
Kay: So. That’s a lot of Star Trek fanfiction to go through.
Chelsea: Oh, it’ll. Probably more than that. You were at 180-something the other day when I saw it. You’re getting up there.
Kay: Mmhmm. Getting up there.
Chelsea: You’re gonna do a whole year of Star Trek fic recs. And it’s gonna be, like, the project of your life.
Kay: I hope it’s not a whole year, y’all. I hope it’s not a whole year. ‘Cause that means they’ve put off the premiere again.
Chelsea: I hope it’s not either, but you’re, like, halfway there. So.
Chelsea: It’s already been, like, six months.
Kay: If you’re just now tuning in to this project, people, I’m just doing it until the new Star Trek show premiers, so if it’s a whole year tha t means it’s gotten pushed, like, eight months from the original airdate. And I’ll be really sad. [laughs]
Chelsea: I was gonna say. It was technically supposed to already be out.
Chelsea: But you know. We’re gonna keep going strong.
Kay: Fingers crossed.
Chelsea: Alright. Fingers crossed. But, yeah, that will, of course, be linked in the show notes. There’s tons of good, all different kinds of, um, ships and AUs and all different kinds of stuff in that rec list.
Chelsea: Otherwise, I guess my big thing is by the time this goes up I should just be getting ready to or just have launched my new Etsy store. So.
Claire and Kay: Yay!
Chelsea: That’ll be super exciting. Uh, it’s called Fandemonium Fibers. We are doing all kinds of fannish and geek related knits. I will have dragonscale fingerless gloves, and I’ll have mug cozies for everything from Les Mis to Gay Pride and Harry Potter and just all kinds of fun stuff. So if the shop itself is not out, the Instagram will definitely be full of preview shots. So any links I have will, of course, be down in the show notes. So if you have some spare dollars and are looking for yarn-based craft gifts.
Kay: Super cute things.
Chelsea: Then, uh, gift it a look. I’m really excited.
Chelsea: But that’ll pretty much be it for me. That’s pretty much sucking up the entirety of my life, right now.
Kay: That’s fair.
Chelsea: Other than, you know, like, my actual job. But, yeah, I think that about wraps it up. We’ll be back in a couple of weeks talking about Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Until next time, hit us up on all of our places you can get in touch with us at. And, uh, we’ll talk to you guys in a little bit. Bye!
[Malt Shop Bop by Kevin Macleod plays]
Chelsea: You’ve been listening to Sisterhood of the Traveling Paperbacks, a podcast made by three online besties and all-around lady nerds. Channel art provided by Claire Rousseau. Music credits to ‘Malt Shop Bop’ by Kevin MacLeod. You can get in touch with the sisterhood at email@example.com, @PaperbacksPod on Twitter, or at our website paperbacksisters.wordpress.com. You can reach Kay @kaytaylorrea on Twitter, Claire @ClaireRousseau, and Chelsea @anoutlawlife. Additional credits and show notes will be available at our website. Thank you so much for listening. [Double speed] No paperbacks were harmed in the making of this program.