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*Review* Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Genre: Fiction Horror
Published: June 30, 2020
My Rating: 3.5/5

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 terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) 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

                 My Thoughts

There’s atmosphere galore in this one!
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was a perfect read to compliment the spooky, derelict, grey mood of October. The story was unique and blended the mystical and paranormal with sci-fi in unexpected and imaginative ways that felt novel enough to keep you turning pages.

With a perpetually cringe-worthy onslaught of unsettling and creepy passages you’re sure to feel uncomfortable on more than one occasion and Garcia does a great job at reminding you that this is as much a mystery as it is a horror. Every chapter takes you deeper into the cryptic history of High Place and then slowly reveals and untangles its mysteries in a flawlessly paced execution. The characters are intriguing and Garcia balances that quiet awe and fascination of each of them with the subtly of eeriness that wraps the reader in suspicion. The brilliant atmosphere is in itself a separate entity that, in my opinion, steals the show.
Noemi, our protagonist, is flippant, beautiful and vain. But she’s also a feminist far ahead of her time – a woman who’s intelligence is only eclipsed by her intense loyalty to her family and a fierce protectiveness. Her development is one of the strong elements to Mexican Gothic and I was happy to see a capable female lead being portrayed.

Overall, the plot was interesting and the gothic premise was exactly what I had been looking for when I picked this one up. It’s well written but not extraordinary. The characters are textbook but still unique enough to not feel overdone and the atmosphere really did win me over.

BUT

I wanted more Mexico. I wanted the culture, the history and the flare. As deliciously written as this book was (I could feel the damp in my lungs while wandering the hallways of High Place with Noemi), I was a bit disappointed by the English influence. It seemed like a cop-out to settle such an English centrepiece in a land already so rich in its own potential. The dreariness of the mysterious mansion at the centre of everything definitely stands in stark contrast to the brightness of Mexico and the life Noemi comes from, but once she’s removed from the backdrop of Mexico City there’s little blending of those worlds. If more Mexican charm had spilled over into the story, I imagine the mood would have been even more heightened and memorable.
In my opinion, this was a bit of a missed opportunity to feature Mexican lore and culture, but the result was still an interesting and very readable piece of fiction by Garcia.

Unsettling and well-paced, Mexican Gothic is a beautifully descriptive and subtly potent read that seeds away in your memory for weeks after shutting the book – a feat I really hadn’t expected.

Nonfiction November: 10 Must reads

We’re already half way through the month (holy crap…) but it’s never too late for a list of must-reads!

Nonfiction can be challenge for some – flashbacks of school texts and essays just a few of the deterrents out there. But done right, there’s an incredible wealth of knowledge, perspective and insight just waiting to be mined from their pages. It’s a genre that most people have to be in the mood for (me included). Rarely about the lovely soft moments of life, a lot of the most memorable nonfiction has a tendency to hit hard with just the right drizzle of awe to inspire humanity to get their acts together. So it makes sense that they pile up on TBR shelves waiting for their moment to shine.

That said, we’ll always be in a time where knowledge and information is the most invaluable tool to our futures. The world is shifting in so many ways that it can be daunting and down-right terrifying right now, but that doesn’t mean anything is hopeless.

I’m a strong believer in the power of words and their ability to impact change, so here are a few of my favourite nonfiction pieces that have left their mark on me:

10. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

First of it's kind and incredibly well written, In Cold Blood is a chilling glimpse into the psyche of a killer.



9. A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson

Continue reading Nonfiction November: 10 Must reads

*REVIEW* Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir
Published: September 24, 2019
My Rating: 5/5

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Goodreads Synopsis:
She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter. Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford’s campus. Her victim impact statement was posted on BuzzFeed, where it instantly went viral–viewed by eleven million people within four days, it was translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; it inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case. Thousands wrote to say that she had given them the courage to share their own experiences of assault for the first time.

Now she reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words. It was the perfect case, in many ways–there were eyewitnesses, Turner ran away, physical evidence was immediately secured. But her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial reveal the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios. Her story illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicts a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shines with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life.

Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing. It also introduces readers to an extraordinary writer, one whose words have already changed our world. Entwining pain, resilience, and humor, this memoir will stand as a modern classic.

                          My Thoughts

Let’s get real.

EVERYONE needs to read this.

I’m asking that you prioritize this one. It deserves to top lists. Whatever your gender, sexual orientation, political beliefs or race. Even if nonfiction isn’t your thing, even if you’re not ready to get into something a bit heavier, even if you’re not interested in the justice system or political correctness – Know My Name is well worth an exception to any excuses. This is a stunning and important read – a book that resonates for both good and bad. Continue reading *REVIEW* Know My Name by Chanel Miller

*Review* The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Published: March 5, 2019
My rating: 5/5

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Goodreads Synopsis:
Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….

                      My Thoughts

This was a fantastic book. The kind that makes you want to wake up the person beside you to tell them all the gory details at 3am. May or may not be a direct reflection of life…

Anyways! I loved this book!

Talk about engaging! The premise alone had me cocking an eyebrow. A woman is incarcerated for brutally murdering her husband in cold blood with what appears to be no motive in sight. And what’s more sensational about it, is her pledge to silence following the arrest. The murder can’t be confirmed, denied, interrogated or explained. The evidence speaks for itself though… she’s found holding the gun. The husband is found tied to a chair with his face blown off.

But why??

To say this book caught me off guard would be an understatement. The characters are richly explored – no one has a repeating voice. No two are the same. The writing is crisp and clean. Phrasing is important, tenses even more so. Michaelides does a fantastic job of leading the readers’ eye where he wants it without throwing disingenuous redirections and ‘clues’ as to how the book may end. I didn’t know where it was going and that kept me rapt to turn those pages. There’s a feeling of well-researched content all the way through that encourages the reader to become fully immersed and the quick-pace makes this book an easy one to devour.

I’m cutting this review there. Because trust me, that’s enough. Go get this one. You’ll want to hear the Silent Patient’s story for yourself.

The Fight to Concentrate

We’re a generation all too familiar with instant gratification and of living deep in the delusion of being multitasking phenoms. We’re one of shiny new phones with apps that buzz, ping and glow to announce all manner of distraction. One with a surplus of ‘friends’, ‘followers’ and pressures we create for yourselves out of comparison and self-consciousness.

All the makings of a complex.

We’ve bred ADD and ADHD into ourselves and those to come – an evolutionary adaptation at the whim of technology and modern convenience. Food is a click away, communication quite literally at our fingertips at all hours of the day. Need anything and the internet will answer in access. And if that’s not enough to tempt distraction, we’ve also piled on all our own self deprecating insecurities, the skepticism of older generations and stocked and lit our own fires for aspiring to create something impactful in the world. So it’s no wonder concentration comes and goes so unsparingly. It’s not an easy task to hone in on one thing, to live in a single moment and exercise patience in the times that seem most chaotic.

That said, there are still ways to boost that attention span and give yourself a much-needed break from overwhelming stimuli.

Change It Up

Really as straight forward as it sounds. Move, switch physical locations, relocate. It’s easy to find comfort in the familiar – procrastination in the ‘must-dos’. If you notice you’re efficiently tackling everything but your work, try putting some space between you and all those convenient chores. Concentration comes sometimes by pure force of having nothing else to do.

Try It Out Loud 

Whether reading, writing or buckling under the weight of a work problem, try talking to yourself. Be weird. Embrace the void.

Continue reading The Fight to Concentrate

*Review* The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: February 2018 by Martin’s Press
My Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:
Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strongmen and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

My Thoughts

What a satisfying read! This is my second Kristin Hannah read, (the first being The Nightengale), and I’m starting to get a good feel for her style. The Continue reading *Review* The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Travel Writing: The BIG Dream

I’ve had this blog going for a couple years now and hardly brought myself to admit out loud, or I suppose, in type, the reality of my big dream. That one that stays hush-hush thanks to doubt and the perpetual fear of public failure. But that said, I did quit my fulltime job, spent countless hours years training myself to work independently, practicing, editing, scraping and pitching, all while attempting to remain transparent here, so why not just say it?
I want to be a travel writer.

The dream is to fly, road-trip, sail, and hike the different continents, countries, and towns of the world, forever searching for their words. I want to share places, experiences, cultures and (at times) sidestep that ever-bubbly whisper of romanticism. As much as travel can benefit, there’s this underlying prerequisite when writing about it to fluff it up and exaggerate a growth and spirituality that supposedly comes with stepping foot onto new soil. I get it, travel is wonderful. Epic even. Do I need to reinvent myself every flight I take? No.

I think travel and the image of hiking boots toeing the ledge of a cliff and inspirational quotes plastered in calligraphy against a wide blue sky, play against the back of my eyelids.

But that’s not enough for me.

A trend has come to my attention as of late and I hate it: Women don’t have a spot carved out in travel entertainment.

Our sweet spot tends to be the romanticized, spiritual, paths of self-discovery. Those stories are love ballots to ourselves. Which in itself, I won’t deny, has a beauty to it. Emotion is a large component of honest writing and we can play that tune in our sleep.When it comes to writing about travel, can’t we be more than ourselves in turmoil? Don’t we have more to offer than that?

I do. And I’m ready to prove it.

Watch out, Bourdain and Bryson. I’m coming for ya.

*Review* The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Published: September 2017 by Harper
My Rating: 4.5/5

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Photos by me 

 

Goodreads Description:
Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her

of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

My Thoughts

Continue reading *Review* The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Seeking Breadcrumbs

A trickle of stale bread to lead the way – to find one’s way home. There’s no more useless a trick than that of marking a path with edible, highly-popular crumbs of gluten-y goodness. Destined to be sabotaged by everything from birds and squirrels to mother nature herself, you’re competing against a raucous group of scavengers and downpours that’ll wipe out your markers as they fall.

Hansel and Gretal, you done fooled up.
Continue reading Seeking Breadcrumbs

My Year Of Writing: A Reality Check

I’m an infant in the world of publications and story-telling. Young in more ways than one, really. Still small in the world of adulthood and smaller still in that of writers. In just over a year now, I’ve uprooted, reevaluated, reset and reorganized everything – unfortunately for me, in that order.

Looking back, I’m sure that those first few months were direct bullet-points from a ‘what-not-to-do’ list – A verbatim screw up impending foreshadowed from every lifestyle post in existence. So for the sake of all those itching to dive without looking as I did, or even just for the sake of my own reminiscing, here’s the reality of my poorly not planned foray into the world of writing and how you can hopefully bypass my blunders.

The Reality of Uprooting
I’d taken a step that many would applaud, balk at and ultimately praise me as being bold to my face while secretly, and realistically set bets as to when this choice would slap me silly.
I’d quit a job that demanded sixty hours of my life per week so I could pursue writing, but that job had also cushioned that same life financially. With only this vague desire to write still damp with the remnants of a recent dip into the waters of vet school, and nothing but a laptop and a story, I had torn from a system that was definite and comfortable. Peeling away from that job was both liberating and terrifying. The step I had missed here was a hefty one, though.   Continue reading My Year Of Writing: A Reality Check