Guest Post/Review by Savannah Cordova of MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Good day, book people. We’ve made it to the end of another month, yay! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been spending my days either reading or thinking about what I should read next from my alarmingly huge TBR list. (I know, if I stopped re-reading, I might actually be able to whittle down the TBR list. Hey, let’s not get crazy people!) While I ponder what to read next and get ready to celebrate my youngest brother’s birthday (our birthdays are exactly one week apart minus a bunch of years), I’m pleased to welcome a guest writer/reviewer today. Please help me welcome Savannah Cordova as she provides us a with her review of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Thank you, Savannah for stopping by today and providing us this review. I can’t wait to see what your thoughts are on this book.

MEXICAN GOTHIC - SMGarciaMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
ISBN: 9780525620808 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780525620792 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593213865 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B07YK1K1YK (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B082TKH2K7 (Audible audiobook)
Release Date: June 15, 2021 (Paperback edition)
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Horror | Science Fiction & Fantasy

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

 

bookreview.png

Mexican Gothic: A Bold Postcolonial Promise That Doesn’t Quite Come Through

Creepy gothic mansion? Check.
Page-turning, thrilling plot? Check.
Confident female protagonist? Check.
Stayed up late to finish it? Cheeeeck.

And yet, for a book that features so many of my favorite literary ingredients, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic fell short of my expectations. Before we examine why, let’s talk about the book’s premise.

Mexican Gothic begins in Mexico, 1950. Noemí Taboada and her father have just received a disturbing letter from Noemí’s cousin Catalina, who has recently married an Englishman, Virgil Doyle, and gone to live in his family’s mansion in the Mexican mountains. Urged by her father, Noemí heads to the mysterious old house to assess her cousin’s health, understand what prompted her letter, and rescue her if necessary.

Certain key strengths immediately stand out in this novel: the setting of the story, for example, is immaculately realized, rich in detail, and highly immersive in its creepy atmosphere. Similarly, it’s hard not to appreciate the tightly controlled story structure Moreno-Garcia employs. What at first appears to be a realist narrative gradually builds suspense through quietly observed bizarre moments, gaining seriously page-turning momentum and reaching a climax where — if you’ll pardon my language — shit really hits the fan.

Much like a murder mystery, it’s impossible to resist the draw of the book once it gets going, and that takes real skill to accomplish. More than that, the thriller dimension of this book didn’t feel cheaply done, like the author had just thrown in a few random ideas to shock the reader; rather, it felt like a steady, deliberate effort that was successfully horrifying (I won’t give specifics to avoid spoilers, but consider this your trigger warning for body horror and sexual assault).

Returning to the premise of the novel, Mexican Gothic is based on a genuinely cool, exciting concept. Unlike the Gothic classics it evokes (Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and The Yellow Wallpaper all lurk in the shadows), it is written from a postcolonial perspective, and dares to tackle things that Jane Eyre, for example, famously overlooks (though perhaps Moreno-Garcia was inspired by Wide Sargasso Sea). Colorism, racism, and eugenics all come into play in the clashes between Noemí and the Doyle family. Unfortunately, this is where my qualms with the novel begin.

I don’t think I’m giving too much away to say that near its resolution, Mexican Gothic takes a sharp turn toward fantasy, leaving most of its postcolonial dimensions behind — which seemed a shame. The fantasy elements, in contrast to the ideas introduced earlier in the novel, felt rushed and vague, filling me with all sorts of last-minute questions about the world-building and how things worked. So while the novel swept me along with the force of a powerful wave, I did feel a bit like the ending dropped me flat on my back.

Another frustrating thing about this book was its somewhat lazy characterization, especially in comparison to the vivid realization of the setting. I found out an awful lot about Noemí’s fashion choices, for example, but not so much about why she likes what she likes or why she behaves the way she behaves. Similarly, the entire Doyle family, and Catalina, struck me as shockingly flat characters, whose personalities aren’t explored in much depth. There’s a reason the “show, don’t tell” rule exists, and Mexican Gothic is not the book to provide an exception.

Style and dialogue were another distracting issue in this novel. Inconsistently shifting between vaguely dated, formal-sounding language to contemporary informal speech (e.g. Noemí exclaiming “what the fuck?”), the novel failed to convince me that it was set in the mid-century. Instead, it comes across as temporally insecure and adrift between time periods.

In summary, this was a book I wanted to enjoy, and one I read with hungry enthusiasm, but which didn’t quite meet my (admittedly high) expectations. When style is among a book’s weaknesses, it becomes frustrating to read; it’s like you’re persisting in spite of your various issues with the language.

That said, I’d still recommend this book to readers of creepy, thrilling, or suspenseful fiction who don’t mind the occasional stylistic lapse — precisely because it’s a novel that still succeeds in building tension, creeping you out, and thrilling you out to an impressive degree.


Meet the Reviewer

Savannah Cordova headshot newSavannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that helps authors self-publish their books by connecting them with the world’s best publishing professionals — and helps aspiring authors with their creative writing so they can get there. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and low fantasy, as well as writing the occasional short story.

2021 Book 133: LEGACY by Nora Roberts

LEGACY by Nora Roberts book cover, water front, possible creek or river, fall foliage with leaves on the ground, and red, wood covered bridge crossing the water in the background

Legacy by Nora Roberts
ISBN: 9781250272935 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250272942 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250802378 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250802354 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08H8V21KC (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08FGVFNP7 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: May 25, 2021

The #1 New York Times bestselling author presents a new novel of a mother and a daughter, of ambition and romance, and of a traumatic past reawakened by a terrifying threat…

Adrian Rizzo was seven when she met her father for the first time. That was the day he nearly killed her—before her mother, Lina, stepped in.

Soon after, Adrian was dropped off at her grandparents’ house in Maryland, where she spent a long summer drinking lemonade, playing with dogs, making a new best friend—and developing the stirrings of a crush on her friend’s ten-year-old brother. Lina, meanwhile, traveled the country promoting her fitness brand and turning it into a billion-dollar business. There was no point in dwelling on the past.

A decade later, Adrian has created her own line of yoga and workout videos, following in Lina’s footsteps but intent on maintaining creative control. And she’s just as cool-headed and ambitious as her mother. They aren’t close, but they’re cordial—as long as neither crosses the other.

But while Lina dismisses the death threats that Adrian starts getting as a routine part of her daughter’s growing celebrity, Adrian can’t help but find the vicious rhymes unsettling. Year after year, they keep arriving—the postmarks changing, but the menacing tone the same. They continue after she returns to Maryland and becomes reacquainted with Raylan, her childhood crush, all grown up and as gorgeously green-eyed as ever. Sometimes it even seems like the terrifying messages are indeed routine, like nothing will come of them. Until the murders start, and the escalation begins…

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | BookDepository | Downpour Audiobook | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Lina Rizzo was a relatively naïve Georgetown college student when she had an affair with a married professor and wound up pregnant. She was told that he was in the process of getting a divorce. He lied. She left school. Had the baby and began a fitness and health company. She never told her daughter, Adrian, the whole truth about her conception other than she fell in love in college and she was the result. Seven years later, Lina, Adrian, and Lina’s best friend as well as Adrian’s nanny — Mimi, are back in Georgetown when the college professor shows up drunk and begins to beat up Mimi, before turning his attention to Adrian and then Lina. Fortunately, Lina fights back and the professor unfortunately dies in what is classified as self-defense. It is that year that Adrian gains her first childhood friend while staying with her maternal grandparents, Dom and Sophia Rizzo in Traveler’s Creek, Maryland. Maya Wells is the daughter of the new cook at Rizzo’s, Jan Wells. Her older brother, Raylan, is a gifted artist whose main interests are comics and graphic novels. A few years later, Adrian is in high school in New York and makes three new friends, Teesha Kirk – who later becomes her business manager, Hector Sung – who becomes her fitness videographer, and Loren Moorhead – who becomes her business lawyer. Meeting Teesha, Hector, and Loren changes Adrian’s life for the better and sets her on the course for the rest of her life, fitness her style. It also introduces her to an anonymous poet that begins to threaten her life and continues to do so for the better part of ten years. Who is this poet and why does he or she want her dead? Will the police or FBI be able to find the anonymous stalker before it’s too late?

Legacy is the latest romantic suspense thriller from the talented Nora Roberts. I’ve got to say that initially I felt that this book had a bit of a “been there, read that” feel to it, but the more I read the more it began to feel different from previous books by this author. Yes, there are some elements from previous books, namely shades of Hideaway with the child of a talented parent discovering their own talent and building their niche, Black Hills with the child of divorce (although Adrian isn’t the child of divorce, her circumstances with her grandparents are quite similar) spending time with the maternal grandparents, and Tribute with the graphic artist theme. Although there are similarities, there are also major differences. Adrian respects and loves her mother as well as adores her maternal grandparents. She also loves spending time in a small town, something her mother never truly enjoyed. Adrian has made life-long friends in both New York and in Traveler’s Creek. She has purposefully made her own path in the fitness industry without trying to use her mother’s influence. Legacy deals with a lot of themes, including friendship, family – those we’re born into and those we choose to make, love, physical abuse, school shootings, mental illness, murder, and warped ideas of vengeance. Yes, there’s a lot happening in this story, but I loved the diversity of the characters, their friendships, and the way they related to one another, as well as the whole small-town vibe (not that I can fully understand it even though I’m from a small town myself). One of the many things I appreciate when reading a Nora Roberts story is that I’ll be sucked into the story by the writing, complex characters, and involved storylines. Legacy is an outstanding addition to the Roberts collection and one I recommend to romance readers or those that enjoy complicated suspense thrillers. Legacy is yet another book going on my to-be-reread pile for the year. I’ll also be ordering a print copy of this one for my 86-y.o. mother to read.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2021 Book 132: MOTHER MAY I by Joshilyn Jackson

MOTHER MAY I by Joshilyn Jackson cover, toy animal carousel laying on the grass

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

ISBN: 9780062855343 (hardcover)

ISBN: 9780062855367 (ebook)

ISBN: 9780063092068 (digital audiobook)

ASIN: B08QDSNDPT (Audible audiobook)

ASIN: B08FT7MQHH (Kindle edition)

Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: April 6, 2021

 
 

Revenge doesn’t wait for permission.

Growing up poor in rural Georgia, Bree Cabbat was warned by her single mother that the world was a dark and scary place. Bree rejected her mother’s fearful outlook, and life has proved her right. Having married into a family with wealth, power, and connections, Bree now has all a woman could ever dream of: a loving lawyer husband, two talented teenage daughters, a new baby boy, a gorgeous home, and every opportunity in the world.

Until the day she awakens and sees a witch peering into her bedroom window—an old gray-haired woman dressed all in black who vanishes as quickly as she appears. It must be a play of the early morning light or the remnant of a waking dream, Bree tells herself, shaking off the bad feeling that overcomes her.

Later that day though, she spies the old woman again, in the parking lot of her daugh­ters’ private school . . . just minutes before Bree’s infant son, asleep in his car seat only a few feet away, vanishes. It happened so quickly—Bree looked away only for a second. There is a note left in his place, warning her that she is being is being watched; if she wants her baby back, she must not call the police or deviate in any way from the instructions that will follow.

The mysterious woman makes contact, and Bree learns she, too, is a mother. Why would another mother do this? What does she want? And why has she targeted Bree? Of course Bree will pay anything, do anything. It’s her child.

To get her baby back, Bree must complete one small—but critical—task. It seems harmless enough, but her action comes with a devastating price, making her complicit in a tangled web of tragedy and shocking secrets that could destroy everything she loves. It is the beginning of an odyssey that will lead Bree to dangerous places, explosive confrontations, and chilling truths.

Bree will do whatever it takes to protect her family—but what if the cost tears their world apart?

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | Audiobooks.com | AudiobooksNow.com | BookDepository.com | Downpour Audiobook | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Two women raised by single parents in poverty in rural Georgia had very different life experiences. One went to a state university, married well, and has three beautiful children along with a loving husband. The other lost her scholarship over a scandal, devolved into a spiraling cycle of drugs and crime. Both women are linked from an event that took place over thirty years ago even though they may not know it until the unimaginable happens.

Sabreena “Bree” Kroger Cabbat simply wanted to watch her eldest daughter’s play rehearsal. Her infant son is sleeping, so she leaves him in his car seat and watches. When she turns back around to check on her son, he’s gone and her nightmare begins. A fellow parent and old hometown friend, Marshall Chase, is on hand and takes her daughters to her mother’s for the weekend after claiming a bout with a stomach virus. When he sees her later that evening, he quickly realizes that there is much more going on than a “stomach virus.” A baby is missing. A man is murdered and Bree, her husband, and his deceased law partner – Spencer Shaw seem to be at the center of this problem. Bree, Marshall (a private detective at the law firm where Bree’s husband works), and another lawyer – Gabrielle Baxter, are working as quickly as possible to try and find the perpetrator as well as the possible motives for the kidnapping and murder. When they discover what Robert Cabbat the Third aka Trey — Bree’s husband and his partner Spence did in college it doesn’t justify the actions of the kidnapper/murderer but it does seem to explain it. What would or wouldn’t a mother do to try and protect her child or avenge the damage and injustice done?

Mother May I is more than a story of mothers protecting their children, it’s a story of bad behavior in college and those who ultimately pay for that behavior. When something bad happens, whether it involves star athletes or the wealthy versus a scholarship or student from a poor family, whose version of the story is believed. This is not just a story of “boys will be boys” but of boys doing something that will have repercussions for years. Mother May I deals with many harsh themes including campus sexual assault, drug abuse, workplace sexual assault, kidnapping, murder, and more. Everyone has a story to be revealed but which version is accurate? No, I won’t tell you! This is something you’ll need to discover for yourself by reading this book. I will say that Ms. Jackson has crafted a nuanced story that kept me wondering where it would lead until the final page. I enjoyed all of the characters, even the bad guys, and even felt some empathy for the reasons why the kidnapper/murdered felt compelled to do what was done (trust me, that makes a lot more sense when you read the story). If you enjoy reading taut mystery thrillers with believable characters, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Mother May I. This is one I’m putting on my to be re-read list.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”