Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia #MexicanGothic @JoFletcherBooks @silviamg

Today my review is part of a book tour – the details of which can be found below along with the poster detailing all the bloggers taking part.

MexicanGothicMy TL:DR Five Word Review : ‘Open Your Eyes’: Read it.

She only went and did it again.  Silvia Moreno-Garcia is positively a wordsmith.  I sometimes feel she writes simply with me in mind and manages to conjure up a book that is full of all my, not so secret, loves.  Mexican Gothic is truly gothic horror at it’s finest.  There’s a fantastic set up where we get to meet our storyteller, a forward thinking and intelligent woman who is not averse to a little romantic thinking.  There’s the light touch of fairy tales intertwined with myth sprinkled throughout the pages and there’s the most gorgeously decadent horror story that brings to us a house in the style of Usher and a family with more secrets than you could shake a stick at.

Set in 1950s Mexico the story begins with an introduction to Noemi.  Noemi is our central character and is very well imagined.  Beautiful, wealthy and a tad spoilt, although certainly not enough to make her unlikable, Noemi is no shrinking violet.  She’s used to the power that her family name brings and the doors it opens and this gives her a confidence that belies her age.  Not content to settle for a suitable marriage Noemi wants to go to University, she wants adventure and so when her father receives a disturbing letter from a recently married cousin Noemi is eager to make the journey and find the root of the problem.  So, suitcases in hand, lipstick in purse, and heels suitably high she sets off across the country to see her cousin and solve the mystery of her recent illness.

To be fair to other readers I’m not going to elaborate further on the plot.  Wild horses couldn’t drag any spoilers from between the lines of this review.  You’ll have to pick up Mexican Gothic yourself to discover it’s hidden secrets.

So, why did I love this?

Firstly, the writing.  This is not a new-to-me author.  I’ve already read and loved a number of her books including the rather brilliant Certain Dark Things, which I never miss an opportunity to wax lyrical about, and I have to say her writing is polished and persuasive.  I swear that this author could turn her hand to any genre and pull it off with ease.  Here she spins a tale that gradually pulls you in.  A lonely house atop a mountain, a family with a dark history and an overall sense of growing dread as a light is slowly shone into the darkest corners to reveal the horrors lurking there.

The main character Noemi is a wonderful creation.  She has a level of intelligence that keeps her thought processes and actions intriguing.  She has been brought up with privilege and this gives her a strength and confidence that would otherwise lack credibility and she’s not afraid to stand up for herself or take action.  Yes, Noemi could be described as vain, but, again, her vanity is never overtly irritating, more that she gives free rein to her desire to dress stylishly and is aware of the effect she has on others. Of course, this beauty can also attract the wrong sort of attention, as Noemi is about to find out.

The story itself reminded me of my love of so many gothic stories whilst at the same time standing on it’s own two feet.  It provoked thoughts of The Haunting of Hill House, Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, The House of Usher to name but a few.  The house itself is like a character.  Perched atop the mountains, High Place is aptly named, chilling, dilapidated and suitably eerie.  It has its own cemetery which hosts the many workers who once worked in the, now abandoned, family silver mine and a family mausoleum.  A thick mist frequently shrouds the house and grounds making it easy to become disorientated and the interior is poorly lit and outdated, not to mention damp and creepily quiet.

As the tension mounts the horrors and family history are revealed – and they’re not pretty.  Here is a family whose wealth and status suffered as a result of revolution but who are stuck in the past like a needle in the groove of a record.  They’re determined to regain the power and wealth of a bygone era and not above marrying into money – and yet this is the least of their transgressions.

In terms of criticisms.  I have very little to mention except maybe a slight disjoint as the pace increased, a feeling that the last quarter of the book was a little more rushed than the rest of the story but it wasn’t a feeling that lingered as I was quickly chasing the words on the page.

Now, as it is I’m struggling to say too much more without revealing spoilers that could ruin the pleasure of discovering firsthand the secrets of this story.  I can warn you that this is gothic horror, it doesn’t shrink away from some cringe inducing scenes and it ventures into an almost hypnotic, psychedelic phase of storytelling as events escalate so be prepared to read things that could make you flinch.  As it is I have to admit that I love the way the author can make me feel such a rush of emotions.  I really felt for the main character as she went from one awful extreme to the next and whilst I could second guess some of the events before they took place I was never sure what the final outcome would be.

I have no hesitation in recommending Mexican gothic.  It was positively gripping, beautifully written, packed with atmosphere and delivered another great read by an author that certainly knows how to push all my buttons.

My rating is 4.5 of 5 stars

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above opinions are my own.

Finally, today’s post is part of the blog tour organised for Mexican Gothic.  Below are the details of the other blogs taking part so please give them a visit and check out their thoughts and feelings too.

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Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia #GodsofJadeandShadow

GodsofGods of Jade and Shadow is the third book I’ve read by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.  I was so excited to see this one pop up and I’m pleased to say it doesn’t disappoint.  Steeped in folklore and taking inspiration from fairy tales this is the story of one young woman’s journey across Mexico, accompanied by a God, Hun,-Kame – the Lord of Shadows – or Mayan God of Death.

Casiopea Tun is the Cinderella of the story.  Downtrodden and treated as a servant by her family she spends all day cleaning and running errands.  And all this for one of the wealthiest and most respected families in the small dusty Mexican town in which she lives.  She daydreams about the simple pleasures in life, travelling, seeing the ocean and dancing and although she holds little hope of achieving these things she remains optimistic, particularly in the face of her cousin Martin who is constantly tormenting her.  Casiopea’s life changes dramatically when she one day opens a locked chest in her grandfather’s room releasing a long imprisoned spirit and in the process tying herself to his fate.  Has anybody heard about Pandora and what she released – or maybe curiosity killing the cat??  Anyway, to an extent, downsides notwithstanding, Casiopea finally gets her wish to leave the confines of her family home and travel – and with a dashing and sometimes daunting God no less.  What could possibly go wrong?

So, this is told in a fairly linear fashion.  Casiopea and her companion must travel across Mexico, collecting various ‘items’ along the way, in order to return Hun-Kame to his former self and render him capable of standing against his twin brother, Vucub-Kame, and reclaiming his throne that was most treacherously stolen from him.  We travel from place to place making the acquaintance of a number of fantastical characters.

To be honest, what I loved about this most was the difference.  It’s set in the Jazz Age, beaded dresses, art deco and the Charleston are in full swing.  It’s a new era and a lot of the elements, short bobbed hair for example, are shocking in the extreme. I loved seeing all of this afresh from Casiopea’s perspective and watching her gradually awaken to the multitude of possibilities.  She goes from strength to strength and along the way she also falls a little bit in love.  But, don’t think this is a romance, it isn’t, that’s just an aside to the story.  Really this is more about Casiopea’s own journey, about her finding herself, gaining confidence along the way and being strong enough to do the right thing.  Casiopea is a young woman poised on the brink of possibility.  On top of that, although she has help along the way she basically becomes the hero of the piece which is just so refreshing.

The world here is not overly described but there are enough descriptions to really build up a convincing picture.  I think this is one of the strong points for this particular author.  She doesn’t labour the point and yet is able, apparently effortlessly (although probably not effortlessly at all) to really conjure a sense of place.  Heat, dust, food, mode of travel, dress, etc.  They’re all worked into the narrative without the need for info dumps.  I guess this is made possible in some respects by the fact that Casiopea is so sheltered and so we, the reader, are experiencing things through her eyes and yet it just helps to really pull you into the story.

In terms of characters.  Well, obviously, we have Casiopea – and what a wonderful character she is.  She isn’t waiting to be rescued.  She’s sheltered, downtrodden and naive and yet she isn’t afraid to grasp the bull by the horns, take risks and go out into the big wide world.  What a fantastic protagonist she is.  She made me smile.  She’s not perfect, not always fearless, not always immune to persuasion but at the end of the day she’s just great – I simply have to applaud the author to come up with such a strong female character.  The Mayan God of Death – what can I say, he’s a moody sod.  Tempestuous, aloof, superior, downright good looking and with some rather brilliantly caustic dialogue – he’s a rather decent bit of mind candy and I loved watching the relationship between the two of them grow but that isn’t the entire focus here.  It’s more about the changes that people bring about in each other and it’s rather brilliantly portrayed.  At the end of the day the baddies aren’t always necessarily bad and the goodies aren’t necessarily always good – and sometimes it takes somebody with a different way of seeing things to step in and connect people to their ‘better selves’ and that’s what I felt came across really well.

The ending – I’m not going to tell you.  You’ll simply have to read the book.  All I can say is that I thought this had the perfect ending and if the author ever wanted to pick up and revisit from the place she left off I would be the first to pick up that book.

In terms of criticisms – I don’t have much.  I had a certain slowness during the middles sections of the book.  It didn’t make me want to put the book down but I definitely felt a little lag in the pace.  Other than that – I have nothing.

So, think Cinderella, think Labyrinth, think Pan’s Labyrinth, think American Gods – and then think of none of those thing.  Yes, of course, if you like those then this might resonate with you but it strongly stands on it’s own two feet.

I received a copy, courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Finally my thanks to Jo Fletcher Books for including me in the blog tour for this wonderful novel.  I’ve posted the banner below so you can see which other bloggers are taking part and maybe pay them a visit to check out their thoughts too.

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