Review: Mexican Gothic

Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Publisher: Random House
Source: Purchased
Format: Ebook
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Rating: ★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .

From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes a novel set in glamorous 1950s Mexico. 

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed 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 Noemi’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.

Review:

Noemí is a socialite who lives with her father in Mexico in the 1950s. Her father receives a letter from her cousin one day, which sounds frantic. Her cousin, Catalina, recently married a mysterious man, and she sounds mentally unwell in this letter. Noemí travels to the isolated town where Catalina lives to get some help for her cousin. However, there are strange things happening in Catalina’s home. The extended family who lives there has strict rules, and a dark history, that Noemí has to discover to save her cousin.

This was a unique story. I’ve seen mixed reviews of this book, with people either loving or hating it. Unfortunately, this story didn’t work for me. I was expecting a twisted horror story, but the suspenseful horror wasn’t consistent throughout the book.

It’s difficult to talk about this book without spoiling it. There were strange familial relationships that influenced the horror scenes. There were also some disturbing scenes of sexual assaults. The beginning of the story didn’t introduce what was going to happen. The first chapter started some interesting storylines about Noemí’s character, but the story followed her cousin’s new married life, rather than Noemí’s life.

This was a strange book that didn’t work for me, but other readers have enjoyed it.

What to read next:

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Have you read Mexican Gothic? What did you think of it?

First Lines Friday – October 30

This is a weekly meme hosted by Wandering Words, where you give the first few lines of a book to hook your readers before introducing the book.

Here are my first lines:

“The parties at the Tuñóns’ house always ended unquestionably late, and since the hosts enjoyed costume parties in particular, it was not unusual to see Chinas Poblanas with their folklore skirts and ribbons in their hair arrive in the company of a harlequin or a cowboy.”

Do you recognize these first lines?

And the book is… Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

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Goodreads synopsis:

An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .

From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes a novel set in glamorous 1950s Mexico. 

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed 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 Noemi’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.

Have you read Mexican Gothic? What did you think of it?

Review: Winterwood

Title: Winterwood
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Be careful of the dark, dark wood…

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why.

From New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep comes a haunting romance perfect for fans of Practical Magic,where dark fairy tales and enchanted folklore collide after a boy, believed to be missing, emerges from the magical woods—and falls in love with the witch determined to unravel his secrets.

Review:

Nora Walker lives in Fir Haven near the woods. Her family has always had a special connection to the woods, which are alive. The Walker women can enter the woods on a full moon and take the lost things that appear in the woods. One evening, Nora finds a boy in the woods. He’s a boy who went missing from a nearby camp a couple of weeks before. Nora is surprised that the boy, Oliver, is still alive. However, Oliver wasn’t the only one who went missing that night. Nora has to use her family lore to figure out what really happened to Oliver the night he went missing.

I loved the magical setting in this story. The woods near Nora’s home had specific rules for her family. They could only enter on the night of the full moon because the woods were asleep. Things that went missing would appear in the woods, including the missing boy, Oliver. The woods were a character as well, because they would come alive on the other nights, meaning no one should enter. There were some natural elements that played an important role in this story as well. There was a big storm, which cut off access to the town from everywhere else. There was a life changing fire at the end. I loved how important the setting was in this story.

The ending of this story was perfect. All the clues to what actually happened were throughout the story, but I didn’t catch on until the answer was revealed. This was a clever magical story. It could be solved by the reader, but it was a pleasant surprise for me.

This is a beautiful story.

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Have you read Winterwood? What did you think of it?

TBR Thursday – October 29

TBR Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly Faye Reads, where you post a title from your shelf or e-reader and find out what others think about it.

My pick this week is Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour.

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Nina LaCour delivers another emotional knockout with Watch Over Me, the eagerly anticipated follow-up to the Printz Award-winning We Are Okay.

Mila is used to being alone. Maybe that’s why she said yes to the opportunity: living in this remote place, among the flowers and the fog and the crash of waves far below.

But she hadn’t known about the ghosts.

Newly graduated from high school, Mila has aged out of the foster care system. So when she’s offered a job and a place to stay at a farm on an isolated part of the Northern California Coast, she immediately accepts. Maybe she will finally find a new home, a real home. The farm is a refuge, but also haunted by the past traumas its young residents have come to escape. And Mila’s own terrible memories are starting to rise to the surface.

Watch Over Me is another stunner from Printz Award-Winning author Nina LaCour, whose empathetic, lyrical prose is at the heart of this modern ghost story of resilience and rebirth. 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Review: Hurry Home

Title: Hurry Home
Author: Roz Nay
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of Our Little Secret comes a suspenseful new thriller featuring two estranged sisters desperate to keep their deepest and darkest secret where it belongs–in the past.

Blood is thicker than water… And it could cost you everything.

Alexandra Van Ness has the perfect life. She lives in an idyllic resort town tucked away in the Rocky Mountains, shares a designer loft with her handsome boyfriend, Chase, and has her dream job working in child protection. Every day, Alex goes above and beyond to save children at risk. 

But when her long-lost sister, Ruth, unexpectedly shows up at her door, Alex’s perfect life is upended. Growing up, Ruth was always the troublemaker, pulling Alex into her messes, and this time will be no different. Still, Alex will help Ruth under one condition: we will never, ever, talk about the past. But when a local child goes missing, both women are forced to confront the secrets they’ve promised to keep buried.

Utterly engrossing and claustrophobic, Hurry Home is a tantalizing reflection of the chain-and-shackles relationship between sisters that asks: what lines wouldn’t you cross for your own?

Review:

Alex Van Ness is a social worker in Colorado. She works to keep children safe and place them in safe homes. One day, her long lost sister, Ruth, arrives on her doorstep, pregnant. Alex doesn’t trust Ruth and is unsure if she should help her, but Ruth ends up staying with Alex and her boyfriend. Ruth was running from a dangerous boyfriend, who is now after her. But it turns out, Alex has been keeping secrets. She doesn’t want to talk about their past. Both sisters are hiding secret pasts, that could ruin their lives if they’re revealed.

This was a fast paced thriller. The story moved along quickly, with thrilling cliffhangers at the end of chapters. Secrets played an important part in the plot. Both sisters were keeping secrets, from each other and from the reader. The secrets that were revealed also affected the character development. My opinions of the characters had completely changed from the beginning of the story to the end.

There were some predictable twists in the story. I figured out the ending fairly early in the story. However, this story was still a quick, suspenseful thriller!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle

Have you read Hurry Home? What did you think of it?

‘Waiting on’ Wednesday – October 28

This is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. In this post we highlight a book that’s highly anticipated.

The book that I’m waiting on this Wednesday is Dark Tides (The Fairmile #2) by Philippa Gregory. The expected publication date is November 24, 2020.

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Midsummer Eve 1670. Two unexpected visitors arrive at a shabby warehouse on the south side of the River Thames. The first is a wealthy man hoping to find the lover he deserted twenty-one years before. James Avery has everything to offer, including the favour of the newly restored King Charles II, and he believes that the warehouse’s poor owner Alinor has the one thing his money cannot buy—his son and heir.

The second visitor is a beautiful widow from Venice in deepest mourning. She claims Alinor as her mother-in-law and has come to tell Alinor that her son Rob has drowned in the dark tides of the Venice lagoon.

Alinor writes to her brother Ned, newly arrived in faraway New England and trying to make a life between the worlds of the English newcomers and the American Indians as they move toward inevitable war. Alinor tells him that she knows—without doubt—that her son is alive and the widow is an imposter.

Set in the poverty and glamour of Restoration London, in the golden streets of Venice, and on the tensely contested frontier of early America, this is a novel of greed and desire: for love, for wealth, for a child, and for home

What books are you waiting on this week?

Blog Tour Review: Whispering Pines

Title: Whispering Pines
Author: Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski
Genre: Middle Grade, Horror, Science Fiction
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A young boy and girl who must protect their small town from otherworldly forces threatening to destroy it.

Rae’s father vanished without a trace—and Rae knows what happened to him. But no one believes her when she says that her father didn’t run off, that he was actually taken. Now, a year of therapy later, Rae’s mother decides they need a fresh start, and so they move to a new town in the hope that life can return to normal.

The problem is, there is nothing normal about the town of Whispering Pines.

No one knows this better than Caden. He’s lived in Whispering Pines his entire life, and he’s seen more than his fair share of weird—starting with his own family, as the town is the perfect home base for his mother’s ghost hunting business.

When several kids go missing and then show up like zombies with their eyes removed, many locals brush it off. Just another day in Whispering Pines. But Caden has a dark secret, one that may explain why someone is stealing eyes. And Rae, who knows how it feels to not be believed, may be just the person Caden needs to help him put things right.

Review:

Rae’s father disappeared after making a disturbing discovery at his job. Her mother moved her and her older sister across the country to a small town called Whispering Pines after her father’s disappearance. Whispering Pines is a strange town that has people who walk goats, and a rule at the school that you can’t walk around with garlic around your neck. Rae moves in across the street from Caden, whose family has a ghost hunting business. Caden’s brother also disappeared, during a ghost hunting mission. Now more students are disappearing, and the ones who return are missing their eyes. Rae and Caden investigate what is happening in their town, before they disappear too.

This story reminded me a lot of Stranger Things. There is a large science laboratory in the town. One of the men who works there, Patrick, always seems to show up just when something goes wrong in the town. There seemed to be something supernatural happening, as well as some science experiments gone wrong.

I loved the quirky town of Whispering Pines. This setting was a character itself. It was named after the woods, that make a whispering sound in the wind. There were odd rules for the town, such as no wearing garlic. It was known for people walking their goats, which was also odd. These elements were strange but also funny.

I was so surprised at the ending. The epilogue started a new storyline for the next book, which sounds even more exciting than this one. I’m going to have a hard time waiting for the next book!

Thank you Margaret K. McElderry Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Last Pick by Jason Walz

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

About the authors:

Heidi Lang managed to stumble upon the two best jobs in the world: writing for kids and walking dogs. If she’s not out on the trails surrounded by wagging tails and puppy kisses, she’s probably hunched over her laptop working on her next book. She lives in northern California with her husband and two adventure-loving dogs, and she is the coauthor of the Mystic Cooking Chronicles and Whispering Pines. Find her on Twitter @HidLang, or visit the website she shares with her writing partner at HeidiandKatiWrite.com.

Kati Bartkowski was originally drawn to illustration before she got swept up in the world of words. Nowadays she’s a fan of creating fantastical creatures and feisty heroines in both mediums. If she’s not reading, writing, or drawing, she’s probably chasing after her high energy little girl. She lives in northern California and is the coauthor of the Mystic Cooking Chronicles and Whispering Pines. Find her on Twitter @KTBartkowski, or visit the website she shares with her writing partner at HeidiandKatiWrite.com.

Blog tour schedule:

Have you read Whispering Pines? What did you think of it?

Top Ten Tuesday – Halloween Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and it is now hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is a Halloween Freebie, so these are the best Halloween books. Here’s my list:

1. There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

2. Horrid by Katrina Leno

3. The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

4. Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

5. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

6. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

7. The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh

8. Lobizona Romina Garber

9. A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth

10. Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

(All photos taken from Goodreads)

What’s your list of books on your Top Ten Tuesday?

Happy Pub Day – October 27

Happy Pub Day to all of these new books!

Tell Me My Name by Erin Ruddy

Waiting for a Star to Fall by Kerry Clare

Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella

Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

The Forgotten Daughter by Joanna Goodman

Magic Dark and Strange by Kelly Powell

Warriors of Wing and Flame by Sara B. Larson

What books are you most excited for this week?

Review: Kingdom of the Wicked

Title: Kingdom of the Wicked
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: October 27, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

From the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series comes a new blockbuster series… 

Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

Review:

Emilia and Vittoria are twin witches who live among humans in Sicily. One night, Emilia finds her twin sister’s body with her heart torn out. There is a man standing over her body, who Emilia assumes is her killer. Emilia starts investigating her twin’s murder, which leads to her summoning a demon prince from Hell, named Wrath. She is drawn into the mystery of disappearing witches and demons invading the city.

I loved the mysterious atmosphere of this story. It was dark and mystical, and some parts were gruesome and bloody. There were dueling systems in the town, the religious group and the witches. Though these two groups didn’t seem to have much in common, they were often found in the same places.

The murder mystery played an important part in the plot. While Emilia was investigating her sister’s unusual murder, she also learned about the murders of other witches nearby. The murders were similar, with the hearts being cut out of the witches. Since these murders happen at the same time that demons start showing up, Emilia suspects a connection. I was really surprised at the solution to the murder mystery. The answer seemed so obvious when it was revealed, but I didn’t guess it.

This was a great witchy mystery. I can’t wait for the next one!

Thank you JIMMY Patterson for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

Have you read Kingdom of the Wicked? What did you think of it?