Friday, May 30, 2008

Tarnished Beauty by Cecilia Samartin

Tarnished Beauty by Cecilia Samartin (ARC)
Released March, 2008
Atria books - fiction
339 pages

When Carmen came home, she stood frozen in the doorway. The grocery bag she held in one hand slipped through her fingers and dropped to the floor with the unmistakable clunk of a six-pack. Her purse was the next to go.

"My God," she said, tugging on the loose flesh under her chin. "I didn't realize how big this place is." [p. 58]

Who can deny the beauty of the first days of spring, when tender buds begin to yield their secrets, and the sun spreads its glory across the land with unparalleled brilliance? I suppose there are some who when confronted with such beauty are not affected by it. The very same who happen upon the most spectacular of sunsets and continue their daily routines with little more than a glance. I am the sort who stops in my tracks to consider each subtle phase, every errant beam of light that dances across the sky. I am spellbound until the end, and so I was with Rosa. [p. 153]

T wo steaming cups of coffee, one with plenty of cream and sugar, were waiting at the bedside once the morning chores had been completed. The trays and clothes had been moved into the corridor and still needed to be taken downstairs, but the room was spotless and the linens on the bed crisp. Jamilet opened the window and midmorning sun stretched across the room like a soft golden arm, beckoning them to sit and meditate upon the warmth of its embrace.

What led you to pick up this book? Tarnished Beauty is an advanced reader that was sent to me by Simon & Schuster (thank you!).

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Jamilet is a girl born in Mexico with a huge, ugly birthmark that villagers believe is the mark of the devil. Because of the mark, Jamilet must dress with extreme modesty and endure vicious taunts. She's unable to attend school because of the villagers' beliefs about her birthmark, yet she is a sweet, angelic girl. Eventually, Jamilet manages to cross the border, find her aunt in Los Angeles and obtain illegal documents. With her forged documents and the advice of a friend, Jamilet finds a job at a mental institution, caring for a single patient who calls himself Senor Peregrino. The nurse has warned Jamilet not to listen to Senor Peregrino's ramblings, at risk of losing her job, but when Peregrino saves Jamilet's life and hides the real documents that give away her true identity, Jamilet agrees to hear his story in return for her papers. As the story unfolds and Senor Peregrino eventually teaches her how to read, Jamilet realizes that she and Senor Peregrino have much in common and, in turn, learns how to follow her own heart.

What did you like most about the book? I loved the characters, the way the story is told (with Senor Peregrino telling his story, little bits at a time, when he feels like it), the contrast of beautiful descriptions with realistic dialogue, the relationships -- I really had a terrible time putting the book down, I liked it so much.

What did you think of the characters? You can't help but love Jamilet and Senor Peregrino. Jamilet's aunt Carmen is kind of bizarre and a little disgusting but hilarious. There's an excellent blend of characters.

Share a favorite scene from the book: I'm particular fond of a scene near the end of the book, when Jamilet puts all the pieces of Peregrino's story together and she finally stands up and does what she knows is right rather than what others desire of her.

Thumbs up - Completely captured me. I had so much difficulty putting the book down that it pretty much dominated my weekend. Definitely worth the time; I was particularly fond of the fact that there were likable, unlikable and dubious characters but they were all plain-spoken and easy to visualize. I loved the contrast of beautiful prose with blunt dialogue.

In general:
Excellent reading. I did figure out the mystery of Senor Peregrino long before it was revealed and that was a bit of a let-down. But, otherwise, I was utterly captivated.

Tarnished Beauty was also reviewed by Kris at Not Enough Books.

Just Finished: The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Just about to: Take a nap. I can't keep my eyes open. Hope everyone has a terrific day!


  1. Anonymous4:40 PM

    Figuring out the mystery shows how smart you are.

    Sounds like a captivating read!

    I want to nap too.

  2. Carrie,

    I think it's just kind of obvious, but the book was good enough that it didn't matter too much.

    It was definitely captivating.

    I must have been a cat in a former lifetime. I took a nap, but I'm not satisfied. Need another. :)

  3. It sounds like another one I'll eventually check out.

    And I can't wait for your review of Sugar Queen!


  4. Just the quotes you posted are enticing! Who wouldn't love coffee with cream by the bed waiting for them?! Sign me up right now. It sounds so intriguing, and I'm glad Simon and Schuster had the sense to ask you to review for them.

  5. I didn't think I was going to like the sounds of this one to be honest based on the cover...looked like it would be very chick-lit, but it sounds really good! I'll have to give this one a try...

    love the new profile pic by the way ;) And that's so cool that you scored The Sugar Queen for free! (sorry to comment on older posts on this one :/) I'm playing blog catch up!

  6. CJ,

    That makes me oddly nervous. LOL I hope you love it when you get around to reading the book. I really think it was worth the day's addictive reading (although I've got to start running some of the reading fat off these hips).

    I'm working on my review of The Sugar Queen, bit by bit. It's going on the good shelves, if that tells you anything. :)


    The descriptions in Tarnished Beauty are really luscious. For some reason Cecilia Samartin's writing has a familiar cadence, but I can't figure out where I may have read a book with that kind of touch. Maybe I read too much. Har. Okay, yeah, that's impossible. :)

    I heard about Simon & Schuster's advanced review program from listserv friends. When they open up, again, I'll let you know. Every now and then, the UPS guy will drive up and plunk a fat envelope of books by the door. Well, you can't beat that with a stick! :)

  7. Chris,

    It's not chick-littish at all. I'd classify Tarnished Beauty as literature. And, yet, the characters can be pretty funny at times. I can't say whether or not I think you'd like it -- the mental health bit might be a stretch, but I think it's set during a time period when people could be "put away" pretty simply.

    Thanks, I'd been sick of that little thinking-cap image for a long time but couldn't find anything that worked for me as a replacement image. And, then one night I tried a photo of me (ewww, awful!). Didn't like that, so I tried several other things before realizing how much I love that Gray Kitty photo because the cat looks like she's laughing. That just seemed to fit the blog concept, you know?

    No worries on the catch-up post. I'm having a little trouble keeping up, myself -- getting ready to go to OK to work on my mom's house. Since it's the house I grew up in, I have some pretty strong emotions attached to selling it, but I don't think I have any choice.

  8. Nervous? Why in the world would that make you nervous? I've yet to read a book that I got from your blog that I haven't liked!

    That's great to hear about Sugar Queen! I love finding new authors.

    As for the house - I cannot imagine how draining that's going to be. Is your sister going to be there to help? Just remember to take it a little at a time when you need to. I mean, the housing market isn't doing great right now so if it takes you more than one trip to take care of things...

    I'll be thinking about you.


  9. Great review Bookfool! I recently read another glowing review for this book on one of our blogger friend's blog, but can't remeber who. I put it on my TBR at the time, not quite sure, but now that you gave it a thumbs up, I'll have to read it.

  10. I finished this one yesterday and loved it!

    Here's a link to my review, if interested:

  11. Sounds great--I love a book where the characters are so well-written that you form a strong connection with them or grow to really know them. I'll have to keep my eyes open for this one.

  12. CJ,

    Because I want everyone to love the books I love and when they don't it makes me crumple. I always worry that people will hate a book I recommend. I know, pitiful.

    Me, too! It's exciting to discover a new author to follow.

    My sister has been traveling over from her house (about 75 miles -- not bad, but she's worn out) for about 6 or 7 weeks, now. She won't be there during the weekdays because she works, but she'll be over on the weekend. I'm personally not in any hurry to sell the house. I feel like I need a little time to get used to the idea. It'll probably sell quickly, though, because it's so well-kept. My parents added on a beautiful den with bay windows and French doors and had the kitchen cabinets refaced. And, my mother just recently got a new roof and replaced all the windows. It's a great house. I'd just buy my half if I could.

    Thanks. :)

  13. CJ,

    I meant I'd buy my sister's half. I guess I already own my half. LOL

  14. Teddy Rose,

    Thanks. I haven't read any other reviews, yet. I'll have to look around. I've been curious to see what other people think. It's definitely one of my favorites for the month. I'll look forward to reading your thoughts, when you get to it!


    Oh, cool! I do want to read your review. I'll be over in a minute. ;)


    That is exactly how I felt -- I loved the characters because they were so well-rounded. I really felt like I could visualize them. They were nicely 3-dimensional, beautifully described. Hope you get to it soon, so I can hear your thoughts!

  15. Sheesh...I've only been reading your blog for a few weeks now, and already you're murder on the old wish list! I really want to get my hands on this one now!

  16. Debi,

    That's what I want! I've been just aching to earn some blame points. LOL It's a really good book. If you read it, tell me! I think it's worth talking about.


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