As the first read of the year, I picked up Mexican Gothic – a book I have been wanting to read for a while now. Read on my book review of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia to see how it worked for me.
When her father sends Noemí Taboada to High Palace in the Mexican countryside as a response to her newly-wed cousin’s alarming letters about her husband, she is not enthused.
Noemi, a flighty, party loving 23 year old in the 1950s, who wants to get her father’s approval to her dreams of attending university considers this as an opportunity to win him over, as well as to help her dear cousin Catalina.
When she first arrives at the ancient, crumbling mansion, the welcome from her cousin’s husband Virgil Doyle and his family is less than lukewarm. She finds out that Catalina’s health, physically and mentally is fragile and the Doyles’ family doctor doesn’t seem helpful.
With frosty and unhelpful relatives and a house that squeaks and creaks at every turn, Noemi begins to believe that her cousin was correct. And it was up to her to save herself and Catalina.
Was she able to do that? What is it about the house that does not let them escape form the rest of the story in Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Book review of Mexican Gothic
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a well written gothic fantasy thriller, leaning more towards fantasy than the thriller part. I had a huge expectations and I was left with a mixed feeling about it.
I really liked the first few pages of the book, but it took me more than fifty pages to actually get into the story. But until the last fifty pages or so, it moves really slow.
I love reading about dysfunctional families and the Doyles were definitely one of them. An aged patriarch who believes in “natural selection” and eugenics, a creepy, manipulative son, a controlling and matronly aunt and shy young man who is interested in fungus definitely wins the title.
If you like atmospheric horror like the Haunted of hill house, you are in for a treat. But being more of a “The Shining” fan, I was drifting off mentally often. Of course, it is definitely a “me” thing.
Apart from Noemi, Francis is the only other character to catch my attention and has some sort of character arc. But I am definitely not sold on their romance and strongly believe that they would be better of as friends. (I dunno why all stories have to have a romantic angle!)
What worked for me
I liked Noemi and her character development from a socialite who was a brat to a person to a matured young lady was interesting.
It was interesting to read about Marta and her stories about her ancestors and their culture. I wanted hear more from her about the colonialism and its effect on its Mexican subjects.
The whole creepy vibe of the mansion and the family is very well done. I felt sorry for the ladies for having stuck into the mess in the first place, even before realizing what it was about.
What may have been better
Mexican Gothic is definitely a slow burn, it takes about 50% of the book to garner the speed.
The mystery part is thinly veiled. If you paid close attention, you would stumble upon it quite easily and pretty early on.
Sexual assault(s), incest, murder, cannibalism, death of children, stillbirth, miscarriage, death of parent.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a must read for the fans of The Haunted hill house and other haunted house mysteries. But if you are someone like me, who wants more action than just the eerie atmosphere, you might find your attention wavering.
How much does an author’s name influence your liking or disliking of a book, consciously or otherwise? How far would you go before it changes your opinion? And I got to finally pick up Elevation by Stephen King, who is one of my favorite authors. Read ahead to see how it worked out for me!
Set in the much beloved Castle Rock, the recent divorcee Scott Carey has a peculiar problem. He is constantly losing weight even though his form doesn’t change and he has been eating quite well.
He nor his doctor can find the reason and Scott doesn’t want to make a spectacle of himself by undergoing tests. What would happen to him when he finally reaches zero on the scale remains a mystery either of them.
Meanwhile his lesbian neighbors faces pressure from their conservative towners. While Scott doesn’t get along with them initially, he befriends them and tries to help them win over the others as well. What does it have to do with his losing weight?
You might have to read Elevation by Stephen King to know more.
Book review of Elevation
Obviously I picked Elevation because it was written by Stephen King and all the hype it received on the Goodreads. Well, he nor his writing disappointed me. I usually love him making his political stands in the story, even if they seem overdone sometimes. And well, I was given what I asked but the Castle Rock was color red? That was shocking.
I am not into Science Fiction, like at all. So I wasn’t prepared for sci-fi (I am being really generous about the label) to be sold as horror. It is not horror. I can’t believe how Elevation won the Goodreads Choice awards for horror in 2018. (What were you all thinking when you nominated/voted, people?)
Like many other books of his, it left me with a few unanswered questions. I wish it were a bit longer and gave a bit more depth to the characters. Well, I can only wish.
And to answer my own question, yes, I read and enjoyed Elevation only because of King’s name on it. And I can only wonder if I would have done either if it were someone else’s or even if it labelled correctly as fantasy, instead of horror.
Things that worked for me
I loved King’s not so subtle dig at the USA’s political scenario.
I liked the writing (obviously) and made me wish it was a bit longer.
It is not the usual “horror” that we are used to in Stephen King’s books, and it is not entirely bad thing.
Things that didn’t work for me
Well, it is not quite your usual King’s horror and it definitely not going to keep you awake all night.
If you are someone who wants politics away from reading, then this might be a distraction.
Elevation is a novella that will hold your attention and won’t haunt you like the other Stephen King’s. But that may not be entirely a good thing.
How far would you go for some peace and stability in your life if you have a family heirloom that has a life changing magical power to it? Would you choose to take the risk for the betterment or will gamble with the known problems of your life? The protagonist of The Clockmaker faces the same questions. Find out how it turned out for him!
Disclaimer: I received the copy for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. And it has not changed my opinion on the book any manner.
Ashish is a passionate clockmaker who runs his family legacy business. His not so happy family consists his financially demanding wife and a son who has no interest in his business. He finds a family heirloom that has magical capabilities and a history of its own.
With his wife trying to impress her arch rival Rashmi and his son falling in love with a girl who is not interested in him, he is now having trouble sleeping due to recurrent nightmares and hallucinations. He is not sure if he should use the clock’s powers for his selfishness or continue suffering.
How his decision affects his family and its legacy forms the rest of the story in The Clockmaker.
My initial thoughts
Though it has some supernatural themes, for me The Clockmaker was essentially a family drama. I was thoroughly intrigued by the premise and the prologue was bang on. I enjoyed reading the familial issues and the differences in the attitude of each character towards those issues.
My problem was with the execution of the plot and the lack of uniformity in the pacing. For a horror novel, it felt kinda dragging and not suspenseful.
Things that worked for me
I liked the family drama part more than the horror element.
The intriguing premise and the prologue deserves a mention.
The simple narrative style might work for most of the readers.
Things that didn’t work for me
The pace was not uniform and it disturbed the flow of the plot.
If you picked the book for want of supernatural stuff, you might be left wanting.
If you wanna read a Bollywood style family drama, with a bit of supernatural elements, The Clockmaker might be a good fit for you.
Let us chat
Do you read books that focuses on slow moving family drama? What would you do if you have a chance to turn your life with a snap of your finger? What will you ask for? Let us talk.
I don’t read that many fantasy books that are not horror based. That is not because I don’t like them but the premises are usually harder for me to get into. When I was approached for the review of YA fantasy fiction ‘Tribal Affairs’, I loved the relaxed narrative style, and I hoped I would like it. Read more to know.
Book Name: Tribal Affairs Author: Matt Dallmann
Genre: Fiction – Paranormal Fantasy
Characters: Liana, Dahlia, Taffi, Jamison, Stefan, Amon
Disclaimer: Thanks to the Author and iRead Book Tours for the Review Copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Liana is a teenager whose magician father is losing his charm, and she decides to wear her late mother’s anklet. Little does she knows that she is about to set forth a great chaos in the realms of humans as well as genies alike. Dahlia the genie that is trapped in the anklet tries to connect to Liana through her dreams.
Liana suffers from depression and is being treated by Dr Rattner, just as her mother did. She believes she is losing her mind, as she sees and feels things that are not real. How much of what she sees is real and which is not?
As if things were not already complicated, Liana gets herself cursed to disappear, and she is pursued by a strong and powerful, evil genie. Does Liana solve the mystery about Dahlia and the evil genie? What is wrong with her mentally? Read Tribal Affairs to know more.
The story alternates between the tale of Dahlia and Liana, a genie and a teenager in the present. The shift in the story was kinda abrupt and hard to grasp initially, but later on, it becomes better. The conversations and the writing style is easy to follow, given that it is primarily aimed at the YA crowd. But Tribal Affairs might suit to all age group alike.
There are a few moments in the story that you might feel outta place if you had jumped in thinking only of Aladdin’s Genie.The Djinn/genie world seems much more complicated than that. They have even feuds between their tribes (thus the name Tribal Affairs, get it?) and lots of restrictions on their power. So much for the shape-shifting goofy genies! sobsob. But kudos to the strong world building that even a genie noob like me could understand.
If you are a fan of YA fantasy, then you should pick this book Tribal Affairs right away. Even if you are not, try the book you might end up liking it thanks to its interesting narration.
Read more about the book and enter a giveaway here
What happens after you die? Depending on your religious beliefs, it may be afterlife, reincarnation or nothing at all. If you read a lot of YA literature zombie life may not be far from your thoughts. What if you were resurrected and your religious world was all ready to believe in it until you literally are resurrected? Would they understand you are the one that fulfills that prophecies? How would the modern world accept it? Moshe Karlin’s life just would answer those questions in An Unexpected Afterlife.
Book Name: An Unexpected Afterlife
Series: The Dry Bones Society #1
Author: Dan Sofer
Genre: Fiction – Paranormal
Characters: Moshe and Galit Karlin, Avi, Rabbi Yosef Lev
Setting: Jerusalem, Israel
Disclaimer: Thanks to the Author for the Review Copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Moshe Karlin wakes up naked at a cemetery at the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem the morning after his 40th birthday. He catches a taxi to his house, trying to remember what prank his best friend Avi had pulled on him the previous night, only to find Avi and his wife Gallit in bed together. As if that was not enough to enrage him, Avi throws him off his house, saying Moshe has been dead for two years.
He reaches out to the local Rabbi Yosef, the one who buried Moshe when he was dead and tries to understand his situation. Without an ID, place to live or family to depend upon he stumbles on trying to win his old life, his wife, and his daughter. The Rabbi and Moshe are startled to find more ‘dead’ people are resurrected, and they seek their help. Some remember who they were; many don’t. Some are Jews, and few are not. Didn’t Torah promise that only Jews will be resurrected?
Meanwhile, not far from this chaos, the Prophet Elijah himself is stuck in an unforeseen situation. According to the scriptures and the destiny, he was supposed to save the world, but how can he when His world is changing. To make matters worse for the Rabbi the Great Council (of religious wisemen) discards the Rabbi’s theory of resurrection and pronounces the resurrected as ‘ Sitra Achra!’ (other side / unholy world).
What does the Rabbi choose – his free will and understanding of the Torah or the words of the Council that has guided him all through his life and also can change the stability and peace in a teacher’s life? How do Moshe and his clan move ahead? Did they find what they are seeking? The An Unexpected Afterlife and the series will answer your questions.
An Unexpected Afterlife is a steady paced narrative that kept me engrossed until the end, well, end of the first book of the series. Thankfully the book didn’t end in a cliffhanger perse, though the series would answer many questions. The writing is crisp, and the tiny streak of satire kept things interesting. I loved the strong world building, and all the central characters had depth
The one thing that kinda annoyed me at the was that the stories of Moshe and Elijah did not seem to be related all, at least in the first book. Maybe they will merge somewhere down the lane in the following books of the series. I am not a great fan of fantasy and the zombie/undead world and have avoided them for a while. An Unexpected Afterlife made me realize what I have been missing out.
The story is primarily set in Israel, and I loved how the book let me have a glimpse into the world of Jews and their beliefs and culture. It is one of those things that made say yes when the author Dan Sofer approached for a review of his book, and I am glad I chose it. If you are interested in reading a religious take on the resurrection An Unexpected Afterlife is your pick.
Who in their right mind would reach out for a horror novel when they already know that they are not sleeping well at night? Who chases witches when they are being haunted by demons in their own nightmares? No one, except yours truly I suppose. But again how does one let go off a chance to read about the witches and their crafts, and probably have a bit of nightmare contributed by them as well? So how did Forsaken by J D Barker fare on the scare scale? Read more to find out.
Author: J D Barker
Genre: Fiction Paranormal
Characters: Thad, Rachael, Ashely McAlister, Clayton Stone, Christina
The story revolves around the McAlistair family – Thad a bestselling writer, Rachael his pregnant wife and their daughter Ashley, and a deal that was made years with the Forsaken by one of them unwittingly. Though Thad’s first novel failed to hit the roof, his second and third novels shoot him up to the stars. He barely questions it, even when he understands subconsciously something was amiss.
Rachael takes pride in her loving husband, adores her daughter Ashley and expects her second with equal zest. She has not quite forgotten the rough start they had and that her husband had cheated her once. When the Forsaken wants to take back what was promised to Her, they have to deal with it in their own respective way, separately. Do they give in to their weaknesses or they put their family first, forms the present day storyline?
The story that Thad writes set in the 17th century, rather a parallel universe, narrates about the life of the witch and how She ends up hunted. We are taken to the magical world where time is subjective and manipulatable by Her. Physical appearances are mere disguises and often deceptive. The narrator and the reader oscillate between the sides – the young girl whom the narrator is attracted to or the witch who haunts people. She much like the folktales forces people to sign their souls off with the blood. Who is real and where does the fiction stop and reality begin?
The novel alternates between different point of views and time-lines, which works pretty well. The pace of narration is consistent and doesn’t slacken a bit. The storyline might seem familiar and the climax quite a bit overused, but the real strength of the novel is the vivid description of the scenario and the terror that engulfs the McAlistair family. The author makes it look like we are watching a movie, a scary one at that. Realising the story uses a famous character from Stephen King‘s novel creates a thrill that only a fan would understand.
I am no scaredy cat in general, and the nightmares are something I have to accept as a part of the life of a horror addict. But just as I started reading Forsaken by J D Barker, I realised it was going to be much harder because it involves a pregnant woman and it somehow made me queasy. Thankfully, the writer did not take us down that road.
Despite all these strengths, I took a day more than usual to finish. Why? I couldn’t get to understand the characters, much less like them. I would have liked to have known the characters better and deeper, I felt they were pretty one dimensional. There was just a small part (less than a chapter) to explain the witch’s effect on the young girl, which could have been a tad longer and stronger. It might just be me, but I couldn’t help imagining ‘the minions’ from the ‘Despicable’ movies instead of the creepy, evil witch worshipers. My bad but I just could not.
For someone who is eagerly awaiting the release of the movie ‘IT’ and is gathering her wits to read the book, Forsaken acted as the right place to start. With an obvious and expected influence from Stephen King, Barker could be an author I might have to watch out. If you wanna read quick, fast, creepy thriller, I recommend Forsaken by J D Barker.