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.

 

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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.

2018 Book 43: THE CLINIC by David Jester

The Clinic by David Jester
ISBN: 9781510704374 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781510704442 (ebook)
ASIN: B0773TYH2C (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 6, 2018 
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing


An isolated rehab clinic. Three lost souls. One big secret. 

They each had their own demons to face, and none of them had much to live for. Malcolm was alone in the world, Darren might as well have been, and Eddie . . . well, Eddie wished he was. Crime wasn’t a way out for them; it was just a way to survive.

But the clinic was a job too far, a risk that didn’t justify the reward.
The isolated rehab clinic should have been an easy target. But this simple job would turn into a nightmare that none of the young men could have foreseen, unleashing an evil that was sown way before their time.

The Clinic is a twisted, macabre, and chilling tale told from the perspective of three delinquents, young men who never had a chance and are forced to make their own ways in life. They set their sights on an out-of-town rehab clinic, hoping to pilfer the prized possessions of rich alcoholics and addicts. But the clinic is not what they thought it was. Their plan inevitably goes awry and their night of petty crime turns into a fight for survival.

Can the boys make it out alive, and will their lifelong friendship remain intact once the truth is revealed?



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Eddie, Darren, and Malcolm are all only children and have been friends for as long as they can remember. Darren lives with his mother, an alcoholic and drug-addict, and her latest live-in boyfriend. Malcolm is currently living alone since his mother has disappeared and his father left years earlier. Eddie lives in a much nicer neighborhood than either Darren or Malcolm and resides in a four-bedroom house with his mother and father. These are not your average rambunctious, spirited teenage boys, as they’ve burgled homes and are looking to move up to something more. Eddie tells them about a posh rehab clinic outside of town and suggests they head out and rob the clinic. They venture out to check out the location and decide to give it a go with the thoughts that the place is far outside of town, the security guard is old and seems to be sleeping on the job, and there doesn’t seem to be a good security setup. What could possibly go wrong? Everything can and does go wrong. This isn’t a posh rehab clinic but a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane and the boys have wandered into the midst of a living nightmare. They find tortured and mutilated bodies of staff and “residents.” They have to fight, several times, to get away from the residents wanting them to play their torture games. It was relatively easy getting into the clinic, but it’s not so easy getting out. They get separated and things seem to go from bad to worse. Just when it seems like all hope is lost, they find one another and attempt to leave before it’s too late? Will they be able to escape from this night’s horror?

I’m not a huge fan of horror, by any stretch of the imagination, and although I began reading The Clinic on a Friday afternoon, I had to set it aside for awhile because it was just a bit too creepy. I finished reading it on Saturday morning and it gave my chills chills. I found it a bit difficult to get into the story primarily because I felt all three of the primary characters were pricks and I didn’t like them (sorry, but they had little redeeming qualities). This doesn’t normally turn me off, but there was just something about all three of these teen boys that set me off until I was midway through the story and they began to literally fight for their lives (okay, I still don’t like Eddie and if you read the book you’ll understand why). There’s a lot of murder and mayhem in The Clinic along with twisted characters (again, read the book to fully understand this statement). If you’re into the macabre, horror, or want a twisted read, then I can recommend you read The Clinic. Mr. Jester doesn’t provide overly graphic details, but it does get a bit gory at times. If you’re faint of heart and not quite sure about horror thrillers, then you may want to give this a pass or simply read it during the daylight (and steer clear of seemingly unattended buildings in rural areas). As I’ve previously stated, I’m not a horror fan but I actually enjoyed reading The Clinic and found that Mr. Jester provided just enough thrilling twists to keep me entertained and turning the page, hopefully, you will too.

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.”



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The Clinic: A Thriller

The Clinic: A Thriller

The Clinic: A Thriller

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The Clinic : A Thriller

Book 216: THE NIGHT STRANGERS Review

Chip Linton is a professional airline pilot. He has been fortunate in that he’s never really had to face danger until the day birds fly into his engine. His water landing doesn’t have a happy story and thirty-nine lives are lost. In an effort to start anew in a small town, he and his wife buy a home in New Hampshire. The new house has a basement with a door . . . a door sealed with thirty-nine bolts. Is this a new beginning for Chris, Emily and their daughters or will this be their end? Chris Bohjalian provides a great modern gothic tale in The Night Strangers.

It has been less than a year since the unfortunate plane crash resulting in the thirty-nine deaths, but at times it seems like yesterday. Chip was not found at fault and in fact he did everything right, but no one could have foreseen the wave caused by the wake of a boat that would result in so many lives lost. Chip knows that he did the right thing but he is haunted by that day. He’s retired from the airlines and has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Chip is also haunted by much more. Is he simply allowing his subconscious mind to create these hauntingly real delusions of dead passengers or is he being visited by ghosts? Chip keeps these visitations secret from his family but they know that he hasn’t been the same since that fatal day and things seem to be getting worse.

As Emily and her twin daughters try to rebuild their lives in this small New England town, they are also struck by bizarre coincidences. Many of the homes feature greenhouses, including their own. This isn’t necessarily strange but many of the women, including Emily’s law partner’s wife and their real estate agent, bear the names of plants: Reseda, Anise, Celandine, Clary, Ginger, Holly, Sage, Valerian, Tansy and Yarrow. They want to include Emily, Hallie and Garnet into their little group and even give them botanical nicknames: Verbena, Calandrinia or Cali, and Rosemary. This little town seems to be split between those that belong to the herbal practitioners’ group and everyone else. Because of their involvement with these “herbal witches,” Hallie and Garnet are more or less ostracized by the other kids and their families. With nowhere else to go, the girls wind up spending more and more time with the herb ladies. 

As Chip becomes more obsessed with the door in the basement and the history of the house, and Emily becomes more involved with work, the girls become more involved with the herb ladies. Emily and Garnet are both aware that there is something a bit off but they aren’t quite sure what. Emily and Chip know that their house has a sad and morbid history but that was years in the past. But is it possible the past is coming back to haunt them all? 

Mr. Bohjalian has provided a fantastic paranormal tale of mystery, psychological horror and woe in The Night Strangers. The horror is, at time physical, but often more psychological and slowly builds to create a feeling of dread. I’m not generally a fan of horror but this story pulled me in from the beginning. The feeling of dread and horror while reading was so profound that at one point I actually felt the need to verify that my house didn’t have a coal chute (it doesn’t but hey this is West Virginia so it was possible). As you read you’re never quite sure what is going to happen and when you realize what is going to happen you actually begin to hope that it doesn’t play out as you expect and it doesn’t. The Night Strangers is part gothic mystery, part paranormal ghost tale, part horror and 100 percent worth reading.  

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. 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.”

Book 154: DARKHOUSE Review

Is it normal to have had imaginary friends and an overactive imagination? Perry Palamino lives with these questions in the paranormal/horror story Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1) by Karina Halle.


In some ways Darkhouse seems to be a coming-of-age story with Perry learning to deal with her differences. The problem is that Perry apparently sees dead people and always has. Her younger sister, Ada, the fashionista, makes reference to Perry scaring her with this ability as a young child. Although Perry is 22 years old and gainfully employed — as a receptionist at an advertising agency, she feels unsure of herself and where she needs to be and go in life. To make matters worse, she was an extremely troubled teen and dabbled in drugs, alcohol and even cutting to help deal with her inner pains. Perry now feels that she owes her parents some normalcy. But Perry isn’t “abnormal” she just has an ability that others don’t have and can’t quite understand . . . the ability to see ghosts.


During a trip to the coast to visit family, Perry decides to explore an old, defunct lighthouse. Of course she’s exploring it late at night and no one knows where she’s gone (wouldn’t be as dramatic otherwise). She’s spent the day photographing nature and still has her camera, which is a good thing, because her dreams (or rather nightmares) have just come to life. Fortunately she is able to film some of her ghostly encounters but she also encounters Declan “Dex” Foray, a cameraman/producer of webcasts. Perry has the opportunity to write about this incident when Ada is down-and-out due to a virus and unable to post to her fashion blog. Perry’s ghostly encounter video becomes viral and Dex returns with the offer to host a webcast on ghost hunting. 


What follows are a series of unfortunate encounters with an elderly woman that only Dex and Perry can see, and this serves to heighten the fear factor when they return to the lighthouse. Is the lighthouse haunted or is it simply evil? Are Dex and Perry “crazy” or simply in touch with energies other’s can’t see or feel? Where will these abilities lead them? Ms. Halle has crafted a dark story filled with horrifying moments. For me this was simply an okay read (I didn’t connect to this story). Darkhouse is well written and the characters are believable with all of their idiosyncracies and eccentricities. If you’ve read Darkhouse and are looking for more paranormal/horror, then note that Red Fox (Experiment in Terror #2) is now available.


Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. 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.”