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)

In my mind are all the tides…: Reviewing Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Hello everyone! Instead of sleeping, I have decided to write this review because I simply could not wait to talk about this book. One of my favorite things is picking up a book at random and having no real expectations, only to have the book take you aback with its quality. This is exactly how I felt reading Piranesi and I want to share my thoughts with you.

Piranesi lives an an infinite house, filled with gorgeous statues and countless corridors, hallways, and other rooms. Within the house, there is an ocean which Piranesi loves deeply for its power and beauty. He spends his days exploring his house and relaying his information to The Other, a mysterious man who uses Piranesi’s evidence for his pursuit of A Great and Secret Knowledge. Piranesi’s solitary and peaceful existence begins to fall apart when he uncovers evidence to a darker truth that lies within the infinite house.

I am a huge fan of surrealist literature that involves magic and Piranesi fit the bill in every way. The book is written in an almost fairy tale – like way that draws you into the world with each paragraph. Even though the novel is fairly short, it has a rich world that you only want to know more and more about. I love novels that have rich aesthetics, which Clarke creates in her writing. I also loved the mystery element that lies at the heart of the novel. It made it all the more un-put-downable. It was definitely reminiscent of Neil Gaiman and Erin Morgenstern, both of whom I love. This was an absolutely fantastic read I will absolutely be re-reading over and over in order to fully absorb every detail of Piranesi.

Bloody, Bold, and Resolute: Reviewing If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

Hello everyone! I have officially survived my final semester of grad school and tomorrow I will have officially have a Masters degree. Needless to say, I am equal parts exhausted and excited. I am mostly looking forward to being able to read what I want for the foreseeable future. In all my excitement, I am going to give you my review of If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio. (Side note: Many of the books I’m reading I found on the book side of Tik Tok or Book Tok).

Oliver Marks is one of seven eager Shakespearean actors attending the prestigious Dellecher Classical Conservatory. Their days are filled with friendly, but fierce competition as they rise above the ranks and get the leading roles. Each member, though, plays their own role in the group that reflects the characters they play on stage. As tensions begin to rise and the competition turns fierce, a mysterious tragedy strike the group. Now, Oliver and his fellow thespians must uncover what happened and use their skills as actors to convince everyone else of their innocence.

As a fan of Shakespeare (and theater in general) and dark academia, this book had my name written all over it. I also loved a good whodunnit mystery. If We Were Villains is a perfect combination of all of those elements. Rio does an excellent job combining the prose and play narrative structures while also emphasizing the richness of theater and the sketchy reality of prestigious university. You all may know that I am a huge fan of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and this novel is very much in the vein of that genre. Overall, I thoroughly enjoy the way this novel unfolds and I would consider it essential for any fan of dark academia novels.

Most things aren’t. Most events haven’t: Reviewing It Devours! by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Hi everyone! We have officially left 2020 in the rearview and 2021 is ahead, uncertain but hopeful. I wasn’t expecting to get a book review out this soon, but I fell into one of those wonderful reading spells where you just don’t want to put down the book. In this case, the book is another one based off of my favorite podcast, Welcome to Night Vale. You can check out my review of the first novel inspired by the podcast, which has the same title. Now, let’s get into It Devours!

As an outsider, Nilanjana navigates her strange new home of Night Vale with logic and reasoning. Working with fellow outsider and Night Vale’s most handsome scientist, Carlos, she is sent to investigate the giant sinkholes appearing around the town. This leads Nilanjana to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, where she meets and develops feelings for one of its members, Darryl. The two must question their beliefs as they realize that there is something darker beneath the surface that could mean the end for Night Vale.

As for anything related to Welcome to Night Vale, I really didn’t know what to expect with this novel. I did, however, love the way it expanded on the already bizarre world of Night Vale. It was equals parts profound, bizarre, and romantic as the novel explored complicated topics like religion and science. There was also plenty of tension and action that made this such a compelling read. I love how Fink and Cranor put so much care into their world building. It’s somehow realistic among the trademark weirdness that one would expect. Any Night Vale fan in guaranteed to love this novel and, if you haven’t listened to the podcast, you may still be able to appreciate what the novel is saying.

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.

Look Beneath the Surface: Reviewing The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal

Hi everyone! I’m back sooner than ever with another book review. It has been a while since I read a book in day. I haven’t done that since I was a kid. Thankfully, I found the perfect book to breeze through. In undergrad, I discovered Good Mythical Morning and it has been part of my morning routine ever since. I watch way too much Youtube, by the way. When I saw Rhett and Link were coming out with a novel (and a mystery one at that) I was pretty excited. Normally I am rather hesitant with debut novels but I am always willing to give them a chance and I was glad I gave this one a chance. Now, let’s talk about it.

Bleak Creek is a quaint little Southern town where incoming freshman, Rex McClendon and Lief Nelson spend their days trying to film their magnum opus, PolterDog. With the help of their friend, Alicia, the boy are determined to make history with their film. After an accident happens while filming during the church barbecue, Alicia is sent off to the infamous Whitewood reform school. Rex and Leif decide to take in upon themselves by teaming up with Janine, a film student looking to film her own documentary. As the group investigates, they begin to uncover the dark secrets that lie beneath the unassuming town of Bleak Creek, one that may put their lives in danger.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I started reading this novel but I was certainly (pleasantly) surprised by what I got. The novel is way darker than I assumed, with plenty of twists that kept me reading onward. The town of Bleak Creek feels perfectly real as well as shockingly terrifying. There were parts were my jaw dropped from how dark the book became but that was the best part. The novel also had just the right amount of nostalgia that didn’t overpower the scarier elements. It definitely filled the Stranger Things void in my life. You don’t have to be a fan of Good Mythical Morning, either, to enjoy this book. It was a swift read with plenty of twist, turns, and shocks to keep me on the edge of my seat.

Warning: There are instances of blood and violence. It’s pretty PG – 13, though.

Rather die than doubt: Reviewing Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Hello everyone! I was finally able to knock a book off my TBR list! As much as I don’t like isolation or quarantine or whatever you want to call it, it gives me a good excuse to lock myself in my room and read to my heart’s content. This book is also one that has been on my radar for quite some time now. It was one of those books I picked up, read the description, and thought “This is right up my alley.” Now let’s talk about Ninth House (not The Ninth House).

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is a survivor. After finding herself in the worst of circumstances, including being the sole survivor a multiple homicide, she is given the chance to join Yale’s freshman class, but this new opportunity comes at a price. Alex is paired up with the charming but arrogant Darlington who is tasked with guiding her through Yale’s secret societies. These societies thrive on magic and are home to many powerful figures. When a girl is murdered and Darlington goes missing, Alex must delve deep into the Eight Houses where she learns of the forbidden magic they use that brings back the dead and preys on the living.

Lately, I have had a fascination with the dark academia genre of novels and Ninth House is a perfect fit for the category. I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of mystery and magic, all wrapped up in the politics of higher education. The main character, Alex, initially annoyed me but she becomes more sympathetic and charming, while still maintaining a deadly presence about her. I enjoyed the way that Bardugo set up her magical world with clear rules among the sensory rich and disturbing acts of magic. This book wasn’t too graphic or gory but did have just enough to make the stakes higher. Overall, I did enjoy this novel and would recommend it, whether you enjoy dark academia or not. (Note: I have not read any of Leigh Bardugo’s books so I can’t make a fair comparison there but let me know if they are worth checking out. I have plenty of time.)

Warning to readers: This novel does contain scenes of sexual assault and violence.

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).

To devour what they left behind…:Reviewing The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Hi everybody! I know, I know. It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to finish this novel, but I’m super excited to share this with you. Lately, I’ve been on a historical mystery kick. I feel the genre is very under appreciated. Despite this book taking me forever to read (not because of length, but because I’m lazy), it was absolutely worth my time. Now let’s talk about The Shadow of the Wind.

Daniel Sempere was just a young boy when his father took him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He immediately found himself drawn to The Shadow of the Wind, written by the enigmatic Julian Carax. Being the son of a bookseller, Daniel uses his father’s connections to find more books by Carax. Soon, he finds out that all of Carax’s books have been destroyed and he may have the only remaining book of Carax. Daniel’s search for the truth reveals the dark and tangled web of Barcelona, full of murder, lies, and forbidden love.

Zafon’s twisted and intricate novel is worth the deep dive that requires to read it. Admittedly, it can be a bit of the struggle to keep up with the plot as so many characters are being introduced at every turn, but it all ties together in the end. There are points in this book that made me audibly gasp. Some people might say I’m spoiling the book by saying it has plot twists, but they are amazing plot twists. It is a mystery, after all. That is part of the genre. This novel is immersive, suspenseful, and thoughtful all at once. The atmosphere of Zafon’s depiction of Barcelona in 1945 is enough to pull the reader into the story. The novel has bits and pieces of many other genres, which is what makes it so interesting to read. I highly recommend The Shadow of the Wind to just anyone at all as it has something to satisfy every reader and will keep you hanging on until the very end.

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.