Book Review + Giveaway: Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Moving Target 2

Reviewed by Lila Quintero Weaver

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK:

What if you could control destiny?

Cassie Arroyo’s world is ripped apart when her father vanishes. What could anyone possibly want with a middle-aged art history professor? But there’s no doubt that he’s being chased by a dangerous organization called the Hastati—and Cassie is their next target.

Cassie learns that she is a descendant of an ancient bloodline that enables her to use the Spear of Destiny: an object that in the right hands can shape the future, and in the wrong hands destroy it. But the spear has been missing for years. It seems that the Hastati will do whatever it takes to control it—and if they can’t find the spear itself, they’ll go after the ones who can use it.

On the run, with only her best friend, Simone, to help her, Cassie must stay one step ahead of the Hastati as she tries to decipher the clues that will lead her to the spear. Her life—and the fate of the world—depend on it.

MY TWO CENTSMoving Target is a middle-grade fantasy thriller starring Cassie Arroyo, a Cuban-American expatriate living in Italy. It’s the first in a series, with the sequel scheduled to release next fall. The plot rides on the journey of three teen characters: Cassie, her friend Simone, and Asher. Asher is the nephew of Brother Gregorio, the monastic figure who provides shelter to Cassie after her father is struck by a hail of bullets, whisked off to surgery, and then vanishes, as far as his daughter can tell. When Cassie discovers that she, not her father, is the main target of the assassins, she teams up with Asher and Simone to recapture the Spear of Destiny, a medieval artifact mysteriously linked to Cassie’s family line and the reason that her formerly blasé life at a private school is shattered overnight. In their quest, the kids must decode cryptic clues, navigate secret tunnels, hitch rides with sketchy characters, and elude menaces by the dozens, including the lurking possibility of betrayal from people entrusted with their care.

The setting for Moving Target is Rome and its surrounding countryside. It’s the perfect backdrop for a contemporary story with ancient implications, one that pairs narrow alleyways with Vespas, and Italian Renaissance art with cell-phone-dependent teenagers—not to mention gun-toting assassins. These combinations feel familiar and cinematic, since many of us have acquired such mental images from the world of high-adventure movies. Christina Diaz Gonzalez seems comfortable in the realm of taut intrigue. Her previous novels capture similarly tense life-and-death stories set The Red Umbrellaagainst vivid backdrops. The Red Umbrella takes place in revolution-era Cuba, with threats encroaching on the main character’s family before and after she and her brother escape to the United States, courtesy of the Pedro Pan airlift. In A Thunderous Whisper, the plot bristles with espionage and Thunderous whispermortal danger: the main character’s father fights in the Spanish Civil War, and the family loses everything in the Nazi bombing of Guernica, their hometown. The intensity remains in Moving Target, but here the author replaces history with fantasy, drawing liberally on religious iconography, mythology and elements of the supernatural.

Cassie Arroyo may be Latina, but as a plot-driven novel, Moving Target’s focus is on adventurous twists and turns. Cassie’s ethnicity remains mostly in the background, although Spanish dialogue and cultural references do occasionally find their way into the picture. In the thriller genre, where protagonists tend to be Anglo by default, books like Moving Target help to normalize the presence of Latina characters in all types of stories, even fantasy thrillers. This is something to applaud.

Christina GonzalezChristina Diaz Gonzalez is the award-winning author of The Red UmbrellaA Thunderous Whisper, and Moving Target. Her books have received numerous honors and recognitions including the American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, the Florida Book Award, the Nebraska Book Award, a Notable Social Studies Book and the International Literacy Association’s Teacher’s Choice Award.  She speaks to students across the country about writing, the importance of telling their stories and the value of recognizing that there is a hero in each one of us. Visit her website at www.christinagonzalez.com for further information.

Check out Christina’s recent guest post for this blog’s Cuban series here.

 

IMG_1291Lila Quintero Weaver is the author-illustrator of Darkroom: A Memoir in Black & White. She was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Darkroom recounts her family’s immigrant experience in small-town Alabama during the tumultuous 1960s. It is her first major publication. Lila is a graduate of the University of Alabama. She and her husband, Paul, are the parents of three grown children. She can also be found on her own websiteFacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

 

ENTER HERE TO WIN A COPY OF MOVING TARGET, PLUS A POSTER, BOTH SIGNED BY CHRISTINA DIAZ GONZALEZ.

 

Book Review: The Sowing: The Torch Keeper Series, Book Two by Steven Dos Santos

17342414By Eileen Fontenot

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: “This time, there are no choices. Lucian “Lucky” Spark leads a double life. By day, he trains to become one of the Establishment elite. At night, he sabotages his oppressors from within, seeking to avenge the murder of his love, Digory Tycho, and rescue his imprisoned brother. But when he embarks on a risky plot to assassinate members of the Establishment hierarchy, Lucky is thrust into the war between the Establishment and the rebellion, where the lines between friend and foe are blurred beyond recognition. His only chance for survival lies in facing the secrets of the Sowing, a mystery rooted in the ashes of the apocalyptic past that threatens to destroy Lucky’s last hope for the future.”

MY TWO CENTS: Wow. When I say, the action doesn’t stop, well, it just doesn’t stop. The reader is taken immediately to a dramatic fight a couple of months after newly minted Imposer Lucky finishes the trials, portrayed in the first book, The Culling. The series is set in a post-apocalyptic future in which the totalitarian Establishment, led by Cassius Thorn, really enjoys keeping Parish citizens downtrodden.

We continue to view the world through Lucky’s eyes – including struggle to protect his little brother, Cole, and the injustices he must now pretend to participate in, while actively working toward positive change. We can see that Lucky has grown and matured, but is weighed by his constant terror of losing Cole. As he is forced to return to the Trials, this time as an Incentive, he experiences old horrors in new ways – and we learn more about the mysteries of the first book as well. There are a couple shocking twists, that I won’t mention here, but suffice it to say, this is one entertaining read. And readers can see that a bigger story line is building – bound to shake up Lucky’s already precarious situation.

The amazing thing about this series, besides the edge-of-your-seat suspense that gives the reader inventively gory payoffs, is that the sexuality of the LGBTQ characters are treated totally matter of factly. In this horrific version of our future, at least society recognizes that love is love. I think LGBTQ teens who love dystopian thrillers like The Hunger Games will enjoy a similar story that focuses on sympathetic characters that just happen to be gay. Dos Santos doesn’t make a big deal out of his characters’ sexuality. Normalizing this aspect of society is a long time coming; I think today’s teens deserve to envision a future without a closet and this series supports that idea. Although it would be nice if the other parts of the future didn’t go down the drain!

This series would be great as a pick for a LGBTQ teen book group, whether for high school or in a public library. It’s an excellent counterpoint for LGBTQ books that are serious or that focuses on sexuality as the actual story. Teens will also understand Lucky’s growth and his love of family. But, most of all, it’s just a fun read.

AUTHOR: Steven dos Santos was born in New York City and raised in south Florida. He began writing at 7, but didn’t become a professional writer until after graduating with a communications degree and then spending time working in the field of law. The two books of The Torch Keeper series are his first professionally published works, and The Culling has been added to the 2014 ALA GLBTQ’s Rainbow Project Reading List. He’s currently at work writing the final book in The Torch Keeper series.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT Dos Santos and The Sowing, visit your local library or bookstore. Online he can be found at stevendossantos.com, worldcat.org, goodreads.com, indiebound.org, barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.

fontenot headshotEileen Fontenot is a recent graduate of Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science in Boston. She works at a public library and is interested in community service and working toward social justice. A sci-fi/fantasy fan, Eileen was formerly a newspaper writer and editor.