Book Showcase: VALLEY OF SHADOWS by Rudy Ruiz

VALLEY OF SHADOWS by Rudy Ruiz book coverValley of Shadows by Rudy Ruiz
ISBN-10: 1982604646 (hardcover)
ISBN-13: 9781982604646 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781982604660 (eBook)
ISBN: 9781982604356 (Digital Audiobook)
ASIN: B09PZK7JVZ (Audible Audiobook)
ASIN: B09W49X641 (Kindle edition)
Release Date: September 20, 2022
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction | Magical Realism | Horror | Mystery

“Discrimination is evil, but evil does not discriminate.”

1883, West Texas. In the vast desert, a gleaming river snakes beneath the blinding sun. When the Rio Grande shifts course, the Mexican city of Olvido is stranded on the northern side of the new border between the United States and Mexico.

When a series of mysterious and horrific crimes grips the divided border town, a reclusive former Mexican lawman is lured out of retirement to restore order and save the lives of a growing number of abducted children. In the face of skeptics and hostile Anglo settlers, the war-weary charro, Solitario Cisneros, struggles to overcome not only the evil forces that threaten his town, but also his own inner demons. He is burdened by the turbulent darkness of a mystical curse that has guided his lonely destiny, until Onawa, a gifted and beautiful Apache-Mexican seer, joins his mission and dares him to change the course of both their lives.

A visionary neo-Western blend of magical realism, mystery, and horror, Valley of Shadows explores the dark past of injustice, isolation, and suffering along the US-Mexico border. Through luminous prose and introspective meditations, Ruiz sweeps readers away on a journey to another time and a remote place where the universally compelling forces of good and evil dance amidst the shadows of magic and mountains. You will ponder the most basic questions regarding the human condition: Is our destiny written for us? Can we rewrite our own history and future? As lonely as we might feel, are we ever truly alone? And, can love conquer all?

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Barnes and Noble | B&N NOOK Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Advance Praise

“Ruiz’s engaging tale, peppered generously with Spanish words and smoldering with racial tension and classism, is immersive and atmospheric and features an interesting cast of characters with rich backstories. Ruiz deftly combines elements of romance, historical mystery, horror, and magical realism to deliver a richly satisfying adventure.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Ruiz offers an engrossing blend of historical fiction, ghost story, and mystery…He employs elements of magic realism to haunting effect, and the depictions of human cruelty and injustice are unflinching…This has its rewards.” —Publishers Weekly

Read an Excerpt:

In the shade of the majestic oak, Solitario dismounted. He knew all eyes were upon him, those of the prisoners along the stucco wall, those of the villagers peering out through their shutters, those of Captain Ringgold and his men, edgy and poised to fire their weapons at the line-up they’d assembled in their pursuit of so-called justice. As they all watched and waited, he took a long draft of water from his canteen. He whispered a few soothing words to Tormenta, who could clearly sense the tension. He unstrapped his guitar from his horse’s flank.

Sitting against the tree, Solitario began to pluck at the strings, tuning his instrument. He played an old Spanish lullaby, the notes carried on the wind, swirling through the square, providing a rhythm and a haunting melody for the leaves and tumbleweeds to dance. Ringgold’s men glanced at each other incredulously, but Solitario played on, the mercurial magic emanating from his guitar weaving a spell over the posse. Even Ringgold himself swayed in the stiff breeze in tandem with the tempo of Solitario’s sweet song. The underside of Solitario’s sombrero began to glow a deep cobalt blue, its silvery white embroidery glittering as he closed his eyes and let his fingers fly over the strings, summoning notes both from instinct and from memory. It was a song he had learned long ago on Caja Pinta, way before Luz had bestowed the enchanted sombrero upon him. As he played, the hue of the sombrero’s underbrim grew lighter, like a night sky shifting toward dawn.

When he finished the song, the blue glow faded from his face. And, when he opened his eyes, he saw Captain Ringgold slumped in a deep sleep over the neck of his horse, his men sprawled unconscious on the ground, snoring beneath the midday sun. As the Dobbs boys returned with Mayor Stillman in tow, Solitario motioned for them to be quiet and untie the prisoners. While they did so, he handcuffed Ringgold and his men. The prisoners all ran as fast as they could out of the plaza, but Captain Ringgold and his posse continued to slumber undisturbed despite the wind and the sun and the heat.

Excerpt from Valley of Shadows by Rudy Ruiz.
Copyright © 2022 by Rudy Ruiz.
Published by Blackstone Publishing.
All rights reserved.

Meet The Author

Author – Rudy Ruiz

Rudy Ruiz is a writer of literary fiction, essays and political commentary. His earliest works were published at Harvard, where he studied literature and creative writing, and was awarded a Ford Foundation grant to support his writing endeavors.

Seven for the Revolution was Ruiz’s fiction debut. The collection of short stories won four International Latino Book Awards.

Ruiz’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals including BorderSenses, The Ninth Letter, New Texas, and the Notre Dame Review. In 2017, Rudy Ruiz was awarded the Gulf Coast Prize in Fiction. In 2020, Ruiz was a finalist for both the Texas Institute of Letters’ Best Short Story Award as well as the Texas Observer’s annual Short Story Contest.

In 2020, Blackstone Publishing released Ruiz’s novel, The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez. The novel received critical acclaim and was named one of the “Top 10 Best First Novels of 2020” by the American Library Association’s Booklist. The Southern Review of Books stated: “Ruiz’s prose is buoyant and immersive…Its effusive descriptions are reminiscent of Laura Esquivel.” The novel was longlisted for the Reading the West Award and a Finalist for the Western Writers of America Silver Spur Award for Best Contemporary Novel. It also was awarded two Gold Medals at the International Latino Book Awards, including the Rudolfo Anaya Prize for Best Latino Focused Fiction and Best Audio Book.

Ruiz’s new novel, Valley of Shadows, was just released by Blackstone Publishing.

Connect with the author via website | BookBub | Goodreads | Twitter
This showcase and excerpt brought to you by Books Forward

Book Showcase: NUMBER ONE FAN by Meg Elison

NUMBER ONE FAN by Meg Elison book coverNumber One Fan by Meg Elison
ISBN: 9780778386155 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780369718501 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488214615 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09M985ND7 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09GB91DJ1 (Kindle edition)
Release Date: August 30, 2022
Publisher: MIRA Books
Genre: Fiction | Horror | Thriller | Psychological Fiction

“A tense ride from the start…terrific.” —Richard Kadrey, New York Times bestselling author of Sandman Slim

She created a beautiful world. Now he wants it all.

On her way to a speaking engagement, bestselling novelist Eli Grey gets into a cab and accepts a drink from the driver, trusting that everything is fine. She wakes up chained in the stranger’s basement. With no close family or friends expecting her to check in, Eli knows she needs to save herself. She soon realizes that her abduction wasn’t random, and though she thinks she might recognize her captor, she can’t figure out what he wants. Her only clues are that he’s very familiar with her books and deeply invested in the fantastical world she creates. What follows is a test of wills as Eli pits herself against a man who believes she owes him everything—and is determined to take it from her.

Terrifying and timely, set against the backdrop of convention culture and the MeToo reckoning, Number One Fan unflinchingly examines the tension between creator and work, fandom and source material, and the rage of fans who feel they own fiction.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | Barnes and Noble | B&N NOOK Book | BookDepository.com | Books-A-Million | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks.com | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

The car rolled into view, the lit decals on the dashboard letting Eli know that her driver was typical: working for all the rideshare services at once.

Gotta hustle, she thought as she quickened her pace away from the airfield. She hoped he hadn’t been waiting long.

“Elizabeth?” He seemed bored, not even bothering to turn around.

“That’s right. I go by Eli, though.”

“Sure,” he said, tapping his phone.

She settled in, her satchel beside her. “Thank you.”

The car was air conditioned against the cushion of heat that pressed against its tinted windows, and as they headed toward the freeway, she finally began to relax. She was grateful the driver didn’t seem to want to talk. She was tired of talking from the event, and her throat was dry and sore.

“There is a cold drink there in the cup holder. Down in the door.” His voice was low, a raspy baritone.

“Oh, cool, thanks.” Eli reached down and felt the blessed condensation on a plastic bottle. She pulled up a blue Gatorade and wrenched it open, suddenly very thirsty. She drank half of it in huge gulps, disliking the weird, salty taste of the electrolyte mixture but unable to stop herself. It felt good, after hours of talking and the dry air of the flight. She breathed deep and drank again, coming close to finishing it off.

Must be the heat, she thought. That and the two miniature bottles of Jack Daniel’s she’d had to calm her nerves on the plane.

Her phone vibrated in her pocket in an unfamiliar cadence and she slid it out to check.

Her notification from the rideshare app blared BRENDA HAS CANCELED THE RIDE FOR REASON: NO-SHOW. YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED A CANCELLATION FEE OF $5.

Eli frowned at her phone. Had she summoned two cars by accident?

She unlocked it with her facial scan and checked. The app showed only one ride: a black Prius driven by Brenda, which had arrived five minutes ago and canceled four minutes after that.

It wasn’t a busy day at the airfield. It certainly wasn’t curbside pickup at SFO, but it was still possible that she had gotten in the wrong car.

But he had known her name.

She leaned forward to get the driver’s attention. “Hey, just clarifying—you’ve got my info, right? I just got a cancellation from another driver, and I’m worried that I got someone else’s ride.”

The driver tapped his phone and his eyes darted between it, the rearview mirror, and the road. “Elizabeth Grey. Headed to the Sheraton, right?”

The phone displayed a highlighted blue route along the freeway. It was a map program, rather than the rideshare’s software, but Eli had seen drivers toggle between those before. She glanced up at the rearview mirror, but his eyes were on the road and he had put on a pair of dark glasses.

“Right,” she said. “Huh. Wonder what happened.”

Eli settled back into her seat. She stared out the window and thought of home, of the deep grey fog rolling down over the hillsides and the wind coming in, salty from the Bay. She was homesick. Even in the same state, the air felt wrong on her skin. Los Angeles had been an endless parade of palm trees against a blameless sky, and the tacos were so good she could barely stop shoveling them in, but the traffic had left her feeling exhausted upon every arrival.

And then there was the way that people looked you over in Los Angeles, deciding whether you were famous or fuckable or useful in some other way before sliding on to the next thing. Her audiences had been lively and engaging but draining, and after each of her events, she’d wanted nothing but some dinner, a hot bath and sleep. Maybe a couple fingers of bourbon over ice.

Traveling always left her wrung-out and unmoored. It didn’t help that the sun was so all-encompassing outside the car it could have been anywhere, any time of day, the hot, white light blinding. She couldn’t look at a surface other than the black asphalt without squinting. Living in San Francisco gave her what she had thought was a passing acquaintance with the sun, but the glare as the 10 freeway led out of Los Angeles county and into the high desert landscape was just too much.

How are people here not dog-tired all the time? Doesn’t the heat suck all the life out of them? How do they ever leave the house? Christ, it’s March. Imagine later in the year. I gotta get some sunglasses.

She set the phone beside her on the seat to avoid pawing it in and out of her jeans. She belatedly buckled her seatbelt as they picked up speed. Out the window, the freeway was sliding past, one unfamiliar mile blending into the next.

The driver turned his radio on. It annoyed her at first that he had not asked, but then she reminded herself that he probably spent the whole day in his car. She wasn’t talking; he was probably both lonely and bored. Let him have his Oingo Boingo.

He changed lanes to get into the faster flow of traffic and the motion of it made her feel a trifle ill. This heat had produced all kinds of new feelings. She ignored it, drinking the last swallow of the Gatorade.

She looked around for a polite place to deposit the bottle. The motion of her head made her dizziness worse and she tried to blink it away. “Do you have a spot for trash?” she asked him. As the words slid out of her mouth, she realized she was slurring like she was very, very drunk. She was horrified to realize she was drooling, too.

Eli tried to get a hold of herself. She pushed with her palms and worked to sit up straight but found that she could not. Her head felt far too heavy for the wet noodle of her neck to have ever supported. Her abs were slack and her spine was a worm. She sagged against the seat; the seatbelt the only thing keeping her from sliding to the floor.

“Whass going on?” The words seemed to take a long time to reach her ears.

Oh shit, I’m having a stroke. An old classmate of Eli’s had had a freak stroke event a week shy of her thirtieth birthday. Frantically, she tried to recall the diagnostic that the woman had posted on Facebook right after. She couldn’t speak clearly. She couldn’t lift her arms at all. Her hand flopped uselessly in the direction of her phone.

“Ooogoada tachme to ahspital,” she slurred at him in molasses-thick nightmare slowness. “Shumding wruuuuunnnnng.”

“Relax,” he said clearly, his voice less deep than before. “You are fine.”

With her last spasm of strength, Eli pulled at the door handle, intending to tumble out of the car. The child safety lock held her in place.

I’m not fine, she thought with her last clear and lucid moment. As her eyes fell closed like heavy curtains, she finally registered that they were going the wrong way. The steely spike of panic that stabbed at her heart was almost enough to counteract the soporific effect of whatever was wrong with her, but not quite. Fighting, terrified, she slipped out of consciousness.

Excerpt from Number One Fan by Meg Elison.
Copyright © 2022 by Meg Elison.
Published by arrangement with MIRA Books
All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Author Meg Elison - photo by Devin Cooper
Meg Elison photo by Devin Cooper

Meg Elison is a California Bay Area author and essayist. She writes science fiction and horror, as well as feminist essays and cultural criticism. She has been published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Fangoria, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Catapult, and many other places.

She is a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) and the National Writers Union (@paythewriter).

Her debut novel, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife won the 2014 Philip K. Dick Award. Her novelette “The Pill” won the 2021 Locus Award. She is a Hugo, Nebula, and Sturgeon Awards finalist. She has been an Otherwise Award honoree twice. Her YA debut, Find Layla, was published in fall 2020 by Skyscape. It was named one of Vanity Fair’s Best 15 Books of 2020.

Elison is a high school dropout and a graduate of UC Berkeley.

Connect with the author via Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Website

This excerpt is brought to you courtesy of MIRA Books

Book Spotlight: THE FERVOR by Alma Katsu

THE FERVOR by Alma KatsuThe Fervor by Alma Katsu
ISBN: 9780593328330 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780593328347 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593552421 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09FW9G5ZX (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09B8NJS8C (Kindle edition)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: April 26, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction | Gothic & Horror | Suspense Thriller

 

From the acclaimed and award-winning author of The Hunger and The Deep comes a new psychological and supernatural twist on the horrors of the Japanese American internment camps in World War II.

1944: As World War II rages on, the threat has come to the home front. In a remote corner of Idaho, Meiko Briggs and her daughter, Aiko, are desperate to return home. Following Meiko’s husband’s enlistment as an air force pilot in the Pacific months prior, Meiko and Aiko were taken from their home in Seattle and sent to one of the internment camps in the Midwest. It didn’t matter that Aiko was American-born: They were Japanese, and therefore considered a threat by the American government.

Mother and daughter attempt to hold on to elements of their old life in the camp when a mysterious disease begins to spread among those interned. What starts as a minor cold quickly becomes spontaneous fits of violence and aggression, even death. And when a disconcerting team of doctors arrive, nearly more threatening than the illness itself, Meiko and her daughter team up with a newspaper reporter and widowed missionary to investigate, and it becomes clear to them that something more sinister is afoot, a demon from the stories of Meiko’s childhood, hell-bent on infiltrating their already strange world.

Inspired by the Japanese yokai and the jorogumo spider demon, The Fervor explores a supernatural threat beyond what anyone saw coming; the danger of demonization, a mysterious contagion, and the search to stop its spread before it’s too late.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | Barnes and Noble | B&N Nook Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks.com | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Advance Praise for The Fervor

One of CrimeReads’ Most Anticipated Crime Fiction 2022
One of Book Mark‘s Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of April
One of CNN‘s Most Anticipated Reads of April
One of Crime Read’s Recommended Books of April

Advance Praise for THE FERVOR by Library Journal

“Katsu has no peer when it comes to atmospheric, detail-rich historical horror, but this volume is more unsettling than anything she’s written yet, because its demons attack readers uncomfortably close to home. A must-read for all, not just genre fans.” Library Journal (starred review)

“The action leaps off the page and has a cinematic quality. The Fervor is a stunning triumph and unfurls like a masterfully woven tapestry. It is suffused with secrets, pain, Japanese myths long thought forgotten, and above all the guilt that permeates throughout. . . . The ghosts of this story will haunt readers long after they’re finished reading.” —Booklist (starred review)

“The plot moves at a dizzying pace . . . a balance of incisive detail and steady progression . . . What appears to be a story of supernatural suspense mixed with historical fiction transforms into an important reminder of the United States’ short memory of its own atrocities and its long history of anti-Asian sentiment, violence, and racism. . . . It’s enjoyable to experience the ambitious, weblike weaving of the book’s many elements.” Kirkus Reviews

“No one does historical gothic horror better than Katsu, and I can’t wait to immerse myself in this very creepy tale.” CrimeReads

“Another enthralling historical horror novel.” Book Riot

“Katsu weaves myriad perspectives into a powerful historical horror novel centered on the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. . . . The meticulous and compassionate portraiture, placed against the backdrop of what evils humans do to one another, creates a horror that renders even the creepiest spiders merely decorative in comparison. Horror readers looking for sharp social commentary should snap this up.” Publishers Weekly

“I’m in awe of Alma Katsu’s uncanny ability to take historical fiction and infuse it with something so dark and otherworldly. I read this book in two sittings and during the night in between, I dreamt about it. A supernatural story with true heartache.” —Jamie Ford, author of The Many Daughters of Afong Moy and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Meet The Author

Author – Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu is the author of seven novels, most recently Red Widow, The Deep, and The Hunger. Prior to the publication of her first novel, she had a 35-year career as a senior intelligence analyst for several U.S. agencies, including the CIA and NSA, as well as RAND. Katsu is a graduate of the master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. She lives in West Virginia with her husband.

Connect with the Author: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

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.”