The Shape of Things Could Not be Defined: Reviewing Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno – Garcia

Hello everyone! I hope you are all doing well and staying cool this summer. Remember that there is no such thing as bad reading weather. This particular book has been on my radar for a while now and for no real reason other than it sounded intriguing. In case you didn’t know, I am a huge fan of Gothic novels and I love seeing it translated by different authors from different cultures. I find it all so interesting how so many of these tropes and trademarks are almost universal. Before I rewrite my entire thesis, let’s talk about Mexican Gothic.

Noemi Taboada is a socialite who spends her days attending lavish parties and studying anthropology in Mexico City. She is drawn away from her carefree life when she receives a distressing and cryptic letter from her beloved cousin. Suspecting her cousin’s new husband is behind this, Noemi travels to the remote estate of El Triunfo. While there, Noemi is plagued by visions of death. With the help of the youngest son of the family, Noemi must uncover the dark secrets that lie within the manner before she too falls victim to something terrible.

The main reason why I loved this novel was that it gave me similar vibes to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Charlotte Perkins- Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. Moreno – Garcia does an excellent job creating suspense as the setting is so claustrophobic for the characters and the reader. It is so atmospheric, which is something I always love to see when I’m reading. The novel takes some wild turns and I mean that in the best way possible. Visually speaking, the descriptions are equally gruesome and beautiful. The build up to the end absolutely pays off in the best way possible. I really enjoyed Mexican Gothic as it presented a fresh and interesting take on the horror genre in a way that I never expected when going into the novel

(Content Warning: The novel does contain mentions of assault, attempted assault, body horror, gore, and violence. Just a heads up in case you are not comfortable with the aforementioned topics)

‘…Men are Only Another Kind of Primate…’: Reviewing Devolution by Max Brooks

Hello everyone! I hope you are all enjoying your summer so far. It is still pretty overcast where I live so I’m just waiting to see the sun again. All weather is good reading weather, though, and I have been itching to finish this novel. I did read Brooks’ most notable novel, World War Z, a while ago in the height of the “zombie craze” and did thoroughly enjoy it. I personally love novels that are told through letters, interviews, etc. because I find them to be the most immersive. It has taken me far longer to finish this novel than I care to admit but I am more than happy to talk about Devolution, or its full title: Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre.

The unthinkable only leads to the horrifying after Mount Rainier erupts, decimating the newly founded, environmentally friendly community of Greenloop. In the aftermath of the explosion, the journals of resident Kate Holland are discovered and reveal a horrifying encounter with giant, ape-like creatures. Max Brooks inserts himself into this story in order to make sure Kate’s harrowing tale is told, while also confronting the horrifying truth that the creature known as Bigfoot is very real and very dangerous.

Max Brooks has a real talent for making these stories about the ridiculous seem the most realistic. While Bigfoot plays a huge part in this book, the focus of the book is the people and how they react to this situation. We all like to think that we could pull ourselves together during the worst case scenario, but that is rarely the case and Brooks does an excellent job demonstrating the range of ways a person could react to such an extreme situation. It did remind me quite a bit of Jurassic Park in the best way The novel challenges the idea of people thinking that they could truly live in harmony with nature, which is always an interesting topic. I should add that the novel does begin rather slowly but when it gets going, it gets good. Devolution is an interesting read for Bigfoot believers and non-believers alike. If you want a violent tale of survival, then this is the book for you.

Poor strangers, they have so much to be afraid of: Reviewing We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Hello everyone! I’m back at it again with another book review. I have been enjoying my break and needed to ease back into reading. I wanted to read this one for October since it is a horror/mystery novella, but stuff happens. Hopefully, I can get in one more novel before the New Years. Anyways, here’s my review of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.

Mary Katherine Blackwood, who is affectionately known as Merricat, lives happily on the edge of town with her sister Constance and Uncle Julian. Merricat’s quaint little world is shattered when their estranged cousin Charles Blackwood comes into town in hopes of gaining his inheritance. Now, Merricat and Constance must come to terms with their gruesome past in order to deal with their uncertain future.

Shirley Jackson uses some great techniques in her writing, as she lures you in with something seemingly ordinary but leaves you questioning who or what the real threat is. There is an interesting element of not knowing who to be afraid of by the time you finish one of Jackson’s stories. We Have Always Live in the Castle left me questioning who I should sympathize with and I loved that aspect of the story. It’s short but complicated in the most interesting way possible. There is a lot of reading in between the lines for this novel. You really have to pay attention, particularly since the story is told through Mary Katherine’s point of view. Jackson’s novellas and short stories are endlessly re-readable and We Have Always Live in the Castle absolutely fits the bill.

It’s dangerous for people who shine: Reviewing Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Hi everybody! I am here, I am alive, and my mental health is more stable than it has been. I don’t know why I have been dragging my feet with book reviews since I have had so much extra time on my hands. There was a time in my life when I could read three to four books in one day, but that day has passed and technology is partially to blame. Admittedly, I have mostly just been watching Hamilton on repeat. I am a week out from returning (albeit remotely) to university. I am trying to get in as much fun reading as I can before that. Though I am not technically finished with the novel yet, I am close enough to the end where I feel I can give you all a solid opinion. Let’s talk about Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining.

Dan Torrance has spent his entire adult life trying to escape from the aftermath of the Overlook Hotel. After relying on drugs or alcohol to silence his “shine,” he decides to start clean by getting a job as a hospice worker, where he uses his abilities to comfort the dying and elderly patients, which earns him the nickname “Doctor Sleep.” Everything seems to be going alright for Dan until he encounters Abra Stone, a remarkable young girl with the same abilities as him. The unlikely duo must work together to stop a murderous and immortal cult called The True Know, who prey on kids who “shine.” Now, Dan Torrance must battle this group of murderers while also facing the ghosts of the Overlook.

Before I begin, I will encourage you to check out my review of The Shining. Spoiler: I did enjoy that book so I was a little skeptical, but hopeful, as I am with all sequels. I will start by saying this is a slow but carefully plotted novel. King has always had a knack for build up and this novel was no exception. The scariest parts of this novel are in the smaller details, along with the use of repetition. Like its predecessor, this sequel focuses on the idea of inevitability, which is what makes it so suspenseful. You always feel like you’re waiting for that jumpscare (metaphorically speaking), but the scariest part is that it never comes. When the horror happens, it hits fast and bloody. It doesn’t feel like the most necessary sequel, but it fits nicely next to the suspenseful nature of The Shining. If you’re a Stephen King fan, then definitely read this novel as it is reminiscent of The Shining while still holding its own as a great horror novel.

The world must bow before the strong ones: Reviewing Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker

Hello everyone! I hope you all are doing well and staying healthy during this time. My university is moving to online classes at least until the end of March. While it is scary, I prefer caution over anything else. The only bright side I am finding is that I can do some catching up on my TBR pile. Why not combat scary with something scarier? I have mentioned previously that Dracula is one of my all time favorite novels so I was very excited to find this gem amongst the other spin-offs. Let’s talk about Dracul.

As a child, Bram Stoker was bedridden with a mysterious illness and his only company was his nanny, Ellen Crone. Ellen Crone, though, is not what she seems. When mysterious deaths begin to happen around town, Bram and his sister Matilda begin to put together a pattern but their nanny disappears. Years later, Matilda reveals her ongoing investigation into Ellen to Bram. Now, as an adult, Bram must confront the mystery of his childhood and the deeper, darker secrets that put everything he knows and loves in dangers.

I was mostly drawn to this novel as it was co-written by Bram Stoker’s great-great-grand nephew. I am normally hesitant with spin-off novels like these but I was thoroughly impressed with this one. It is equal parts creepy, gory, and suspenseful. The writing is great as it hops back and forth through time, increasing the mystery. The first part of the book does drag on a bit, if you ask me but the ending makes it worth the wait. The novel definitely harkens back to the classic horror I love so dearly. Dracul was thrilling and enjoyable for me and any fan of horror literature. I would definitely recommend giving this one a chance, if you are unsure like me. (Just a heads up, though: There is some serious gore in this book so be wary).

This Is My Design: Reviewing Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Hi everyone! I hope you forgive my absences. I am bogged down with academic reading now that (obviously) has to be a priority. Thank you all so much for 400 subscribers! Wow, I still can’t believe any of you are interested in what I have to say. Since I have your attention, I will be giving you my review of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, which is the novel that first introduced the world to Hannibal Lecter. I am a huge fan of the television show, “Hannibal,” so I had to read one of these novels. Also, since we are creeping towards October, it felt appropriate to do a horror/thriller novel.

Will Graham risked everything in order catch the ingenious and dangerous Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Graham was ready to start a normal life when he was called upon to catch a killer called the Tooth Fairy, who has murdered entire families. In order to find him, Graham must first understand him. Only Hannibal can help him enter the killer’s mind. Will Graham must risk it all, once again, in order to catch this new monster

I had read this novel previously and, upon revisiting it, forgot how genuinely uncomfortable it made me. I mean that in the best way, though. Any good murder mystery novel should give the reader visceral feelings and Harris succeeds at that. Even though Lecter isn’t technically a threat, he still looms over every page of this novel. It feels as though we are watching Will Graham outrun him while still trying to catch the “Tooth Fairy.” Graham and the other “good guys” are relatable and sympathetic while still being morally grey. The novel is wonderfully suspenseful. It is not afraid to reveal the gruesome details. Even in a clinical language, the descriptions of the crimes still give you chills. The cat-and-mouse game keeps you hanging on until the end. I would then recommend Red Dragon as a good fall read for anyone looking for a thrilling and complex mystery.

If you want me to talk more about “Hannibal,” the television show, I will happily create a post about that where we can have a discussion.

Yield to It or Fight It: Reviewing The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Hi everyone! In case you haven’t been able to tell, I am sucker for books that have been adapted to television and/or movies. I have watched some of the Netflix adaptation of this book, but I haven’t watched enough to properly compare the two. I just wanted to give you a heads up about that. Shirley Jackson has been on my radar for some time now. I did read her short story, “The Lottery,” in high school and I absolutely loved it. Since this novel has arisen in pop culture once again, I decided to give it a shot. Here is my review of The Haunting of Hill House.

Four strangers arrive to the infamous Hill House in order to find out the truth about the paranormal. First, Dr. Montague and his assistant, Theodora arrive to find the truth behind the mystery of Hill House. Eleanor, affectionately called Nellie, must use her knowledge of poltergeists to help them. Lastly, Luke, the heir to Hill House, is trying to clear the mystery behind his odd inheritance. Soon, the four realize that Hill House isn’t simply full of death. It is full of life that is growing stronger and stronger.

The Haunting of Hill House is the quintessential haunted house story. I have always loved classic haunted house tales and Jackson has an interesting take on this tale. The book is atmospheric in every way. The characters and setting are well-defined but also have an air of mystery that morphs throughout the novel. You feel unsettled throughout the novel as Jackson adds unsettling detail after unsettling detail. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this novel scary, I did certainly find it creepy. It is a relatively quick read also. I think all horror fans and non-horror fans can find enjoyment in this novel. I would definitely recommend The Haunting of Hill House. If you don’t feel like reading it, then at least read “The Lottery” as it is just as chilling.

See No Evil: Reviewing Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Hi everybody! I’m just out here cranking out more book reviews. I’m sure a lot of your have already heard of this novel or seen the Netflix movie based off of this book. I watched it when it first came out and, overall, I did enjoy it. I’ll be making some more comparisons in my review. For those of you who are interested, let by tell you about Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

The apocalypse started and no one saw it coming, literally. The world has been invaded by creatures that drive people to madness with a single look. Malorie, a mother of two young children, must take her chance to get her and the children to safety. With her only chance being a rough trip down a river, Malorie must embark on the perilous journey and escape whatever might be chasing her and her family or lose her mind and life in the process.

This novel carefully straddled the line between character-driven and plot-driven. Overall, the plot is certainly intriguing but the characters felt a little bland to me. It felt as though the only reason I really cared about any of them was because of their situation. The whole situation with the creatures actually gets a better explanation in the movie. In fact, the movie actually did a slightly better job depicting the whole chaotic nature of this apocalyptic scenario. I did, however, enjoy the suspense of the novel and the quick pacing. For those of you who have seen the movie, it’s not a spot-on adaptation. It is pretty close, though. The novel doesn’t hold back in depicting any graphic violence, of which there are a few instances. In conclusion, Josh Malerman’s Bird Box is a good read if you are interested in apocalyptic/survival stories. The whole thing felt a little overhyped to me, but I can’t say I didn’t find enjoyment in this novel. Overall, I’m going to go ahead and recommend reading this novel.

You do not believe although you have seen: Reviewing The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Hi everyone! I want to begin out this post by saying thank you so much for your response to my post about anxiety. I’ve been doing a lot better and I hope that you have been feeling well too. Now that we are past that for now, I’m going to talk to you about one of the more famous horror novel, The Exorcist. I should note that I’ve never seen the movie but I have seen the more famous moments. In general, I’ve always been really fascinated with the paranormal. Some of you are already rolling your eyes but, if I’m being honest, my life would be just a little more boring if I didn’t believe in the possibility of ghosts or demons or whatever. I’ll talk about this more after I give you my review of The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Chris MacNeil is a struggling single mom and actress whose only source of happiness is her young daughter, Regan. Chris realizes something is wrong after Regan begins spending time with an imaginary friend she calls “Captain Howdy.” When things begin to escalate to the point everyone in the house is in danger, Chris calls on the help of Father Damien Karras in the desperate hope that he might save her daughter. Soon, they are faced with a dangerous entity who wants to destroy everything dear to them.

I do want to give a bit of a warning. There are some very graphic parts in this novel that those who are sensitive may not want to read. With that being said, the novel delivers with all of the horror elements. It has just enough gore, scary real-life details, and the psychological elements. I liked the build up to the final event of the actual exorcism itself. It was a terrifying and interesting experience that didn’t feel too convoluted or drawn out. This is certainly a very plot driven novel if you prefer the that type of novel. If you aren’t familiar with horror then you might not enjoy this novel but horror fans should give this one a chance. I had a hard time putting this novel down and it is a surprisingly quick read. William Petter Blatty’s classic horror novel lives up to its reputation with plenty of scares and suspense.

Note: The novel is based on a real life event. If you are interested, I’m going to leave a link below. You might have heard of the Roland Doe case before. If you haven’t, it is an interesting read. You’ve been warned again as there are some graphic details.

Dead Men Tell Tales: Reviewing Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Hi everyone. First of all, I’m really proud of doing two reviews in one weekend. Since Thanksgiving break is coming up for me, I’ve had a little bit of time to catch up on my reading. This book stood out to me in particular because I remember watching the movie adaptation when I was pretty young. It was the first R-rated movie I had ever seen. It’s certainly not the most intense movie but, for an 11-year-old, it was wild. We can all just admit that we went through a vampire phase in the early to mid – 2000s. I remember being obsessed with Twilight for a time. Dracula is still one of my favorite novels.I decided I wanted to read something in between Dracula and Twilight so I will now tell you what I thought about Interview with the Vampire. 

A young man named Louis was riddled with guilt over his brother’s death when the mysterious Lestat appeared in his life. Louis soon falls victim to Lestat’s charms and finds himself transformed into a vampire. He is pulled down into a dark world of the undead and must navigate the dangerous society with the young Claudia by his side. After hundreds of years, Louis decides it is finally time to reveal his secrets to a young man and hold back nothing.

Like I said above, It’s been a while since I’ve read a vampire book and decided to give this one a shot. Anne Rice has written some of the most popular vampire novels. After reading this novel, I can see why. Louis makes for a great narrator as he is sympathetic and a bit of an underdog. He’s the closest thing to a protagonist in a book where there are little to no “good” characters. Normally, a book with one character talking would be boring to me but I found myself enjoying it more than I thought. Lestat is one of the more intriguing antagonists with his charismatic and intense nature. Claudia was even creepier in the novel than she is in the movie but it makes for a good horror element. While the book isn’t super violent or graphic outside of what you might expect with all of the blood drinking, it has enough to make it intense. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in a supernatural novel, specifically a vampire one. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and I would read it again.

Note: Anne Rice is a bit of a controversial figure but her life is pretty interesting so I’m going to leave a link to her wikipedia page if you’re interested in reading more about her.