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.
For someone who didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween in India, living in a cosmopolitan city like Dubai has its perks. I can already see the Halloween outfits displayed for sale. And that only means one thing for me: reading books about witches, vampires and other horror themed books.
Okay confession time. I recently went on a spree to create a Halloween themed reading list. And unsurprisingly, it had more than a fair share of books about witches. You can’t blame me, since I sincerely believe they were misunderstood and stronger feminists than we are.
So without further ado, shall we check out some of the witch books that are on my TBR?
Circe by Madeline Miller
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
‘Armageddon only happens once, you know. They don’t let you go around again until you get it right.’
People have been predicting the end of the world almost from its very beginning, so it’s only natural to be skeptical when a new date is set for Judgement Day. But what if, for once, the predictions are right, and the apocalypse really is due to arrive next Saturday, just after tea?
You could spend the time left drowning your sorrows, giving away all your possessions in preparation for the rapture, or laughing it off as (hopefully) just another hoax. Or you could just try to do something about it.
It’s a predicament that Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a fast-living demon now finds themselves in. They’ve been living amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and, truth be told, have grown rather fond of the lifestyle and, in all honesty, are not actually looking forward to the coming Apocalypse.
And then there’s the small matter that someone appears to have misplaced the Antichrist…
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.
For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.
One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic…
On Discworld, a dying wizard tries to pass on his powers to an eighth son of an eighth son, who is just at that moment being born. The fact that the son is actually a daughter is discovered just a little too late.
The town witch insists on turning the baby into a perfectly normal witch, thus mending the magical damage of the wizard’s mistake. But now the young girl will be forced to penetrate the inner sanctum of the Unseen University–and attempt to save the world with one well-placed kick in some enchanted shins!
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Born in New York, but living in Aba, Nigeria, twelve-year old Sunny is understandably a little lost. She is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. All Sunny wants to do is be able to play football and get through another day of school without being bullied.
But once she befriends Orlu and Chichi, Sunny is plunged in to the world of the Leopard People, where your worst defect becomes your greatest asset. Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children.
Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality?
Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.
But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.
While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
When a hidden prince, a girl with secrets, a ragtag group of unlikely heroes, and a legendary firebird come together…something wicked is going down.
Many years ago, the magical Kingdom of Avalon was left encased in ice when the Snow Queen waged war. Its former citizens are now refugees in a world mostly devoid of magic. Which is why the crown prince and his protectors are stuck in…Arizona.
Prince Alexei, the sole survivor of the Avalon royal family, is hiding in a town so boring, magic doesn’t even work there. Few know his secret identity, but his friend Tala is one of them.
A new hope for their abandoned homeland reignites when a famous creature of legend, the Firebird, appears for the first time in decades. Alex and Tala must unite with a ragtag group of new friends to journey back to Avalon for a showdown that will change the world as they know it.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
Toward the end of the Vietnam era, in a snug little Rhode Island seacoast town, wonderful powers have descended upon Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie, bewitching divorcées with sudden access to all that is female, fecund, and mysterious. Alexandra, a sculptor, summons thunderstorms; Jane, a cellist, floats on the air; and Sukie, the local gossip columnist, turns milk into cream.
Their happy little coven takes on new, malignant life when a dark and moneyed stranger, Darryl Van Horne, refurbishes the long-derelict Lenox mansion and invites them in to play. Thenceforth scandal flits through the darkening, crooked streets of Eastwick and through the even darker fantasies of the town’s collective psyche.
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.
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.
Last week I helped someone to pick a King book, and this book piqued my curiosity. Two sleepless nights and 500 pages later, here I am with a review of the Rose Madder. Am I a King convert? Read on to know more.
The story is about a woman, Rosie who escapes her abusive husband after a torturous period of fourteen years of married life. She makes an abrupt decision to leave, and she leaves with his credit card. The Husband, Norman Daniels, is a cop who takes pleasure in hitting, kicking, punching and oh, biting his victim.
She leaves him for good and is saved by a home called “Daughters and Sisters.” She tries to start her life anew and it takes a spin when an oil painting catches her fancy at a pawnshop, which she buys trading her engagement ring.
She also is smitten by the guy at the pawnshop, Bill Steiner. Norman eventually finds her and is resolved to kill her. On a perfectly normal plot, King takes in a supernatural twist. You should read the Rose Madder to find out more. Let me know if you have any nightmares.
The plot about a weak woman who escapes her maniac husband and starting her new life, was pretty solid and realistic. But the 20% of the book where the painting and the supernatural stuff got involved, did not actually work for me. What I actually got me continue the book was the characterization. Even the smallest character was etched to almost perfection.
Norman and Rosie were clearly in contrast – Norman being macho and sadistic at last turning into a scared and pathetic person, and Rosie the timid wife to strong and persevering woman who could handle her stuff when she had to. Gert, Anna and even Pam were well detailed. And of course Bill, the most weakly portrayed of the story – probably just to differentiate him from THE Norman.
I had not read the blurb (or whatever the description on the back cover is called) so reading the prologue was quite a shocker, as I already mentioned. Most of the abuses were narrated much later by Rosie, saving the reader from nightmares.
The scary part of the book was not the supernatural things that happen but the human monster himself. I could have liked Norman for all the villain he was – strong, no nonsense, macho, his malevolence and all that but turning him into panic stricken and delusive mode at the end spoiled him a bit for me – though it was absolutely scary and realistic.
The story could have ended well before the last 50 pages where I had to push myself to complete. In fact I would have liked the book better without the supernatural phenomenon – probably it is just a “not you, it’s me” thing.
What worked for me
I love the way King etched each character to perfection and almost every character is memorable.
The book could have been shorter by 50 pages and it still would have had the same impact to the climax.
This is a personal ME thing: the paranormal part didn’t scare/torture me as the human factor did.
I loved it. Rose Madder is the go to book I would and have been recommending if you are looking for a place to start Stephen King books. It is not too big like some of his other works, so the size wont be as intimidating. But it might still haunt you at night.