This feature is for short reviews, reviews of books in a series where it might feel repetitive, or (as Michelle suggested) books I was too lazy to write a “real” review for. Today’s books each surprised me in different ways.Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Narrator: Frankie Corzo
Published by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group on June 30, 2020
Genres: Gothic, Historical
Length: 10 hours 39 minutes
From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes a reimagining of the classic gothic suspense novel, a story about an isolated mansion in 1950s Mexico -- and the brave socialite drawn to its treacherous secrets.
He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed 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, smart, and has 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.
For the first half of this book, I was sure it was going to be at least a 4 star read. It piqued my interest and had me guessing all kinds of really suspenseful/thrilling/horrific conclusions. And then “the reveal” happened and I was incredibly underwhelmed. It could have been so much better, but ended up kinda dumb and convoluted. Because it hooked me so thoroughly from the start though, I’m wavering between 3 and 3.5 stars.
So the setting was great – the house and the family were marvelously creepy (at least at the first half). I really enjoyed the trips into town and all the historical references as well. I particularly liked Noemi – the main character – and Jamie, her cousin’s new brother-in-law. There were all these dreams and sleepwalking and references to mold and mushrooms that had me on the edge of my seat guessing all kinds of great potential outcomes. I was reading this with Michelle and we had all these theories.
I think when your theories are better than what the book produces, it’s very disappointing. I wish I could rewrite the second half of this book because the potential was there. Instead, I find myself struggling to categorize it. It’s almost horror. It’s almost thriller. It’s almost suspense. I wish I had a shelf for creepy, gross historical…that would fit.
I’m not sad I read it, but I also wouldn’t recommend it. I was curious and my curiosity has been stoked. I got this from the library on audio – it was narrated by Frankie Corzo – and she did a really good job with the voices, particularly the Spanish accents when appropriate. I would listen to her again for sure.
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.What the Lady's Maid Knew by E.E. Holmes
Narrator: Mary Sarah
Series: The Riftmagic Saga #1
Published by Tantor Audio on April 6, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Historical
Length: 13 hours 19 minutes
London is a powder keg… and Eliza Braxton is the match.
Imagine a London where magic is real… real, but feared. This is Eliza Braxton’s London, and she has always accepted her place in it gladly. As one of the Riftborn, her magic has relegated her to the servant class, where she dutifully serves as the lady’s maid in one of the most powerful households in the country. There, she uses her remarkable powers of persuasion to keep Elder Hallewell’s rebellious daughter in the path to an arranged match of power and prosperity. Eliza has never questioned her loyalty… until now.
Currents of discontent are roiling beneath the city’s surface, and Eliza’s comfortable existence is about to be caught up in the tide. A resistance is building, a resistance that covets Eliza’s talents above all else. But can Eliza betray everything she’s ever known for things she never dared to dream?
What the Lady's Maid Knew is the first thrilling installment in E.E. Holmes' new series The Riftmagic Saga.
I hadn’t heard anything about this book when I saw in on the Tantor Prepub Announcement list, but something about it drew me in and boy am I glad! I loved the setting, plot and characters and CANNOT wait for the next book. That’s my only regret, that I have to wait for book 2 to be published in October.
This is set in an alternate history 1800s-ish England. A group of people have developed magical abilities, called rift magic. They have the ability to manipulate people and objects, they can produce fire and appear invisible. But rather than being the most powerful group of the society, due to a religious belief that they are born with this abilities as a sign of their sin, they have been relegated the to the slums and the servant class. Most the servant class have been indoctrinated and accept this place in life, but some – especially those in the slums – do not accept this. And when a rebel group are executed, tensions rise.
We get to see these world primarily from the view point of one of the rift born servants – Eliza – and watch as her world view slowly shifts from acceptance to questioning to rebellion. We also see the daughter of one of the elders and the way her life is manipulated and controlled. We also see some of the rebels. And as the book progresses, things get increasingly exciting – and more layers get revealed. The book doesn’t end on a cliff – things are settled for the moment – but we’re marching towards a powder keg and I am so excited to see what will happen next.
I listened to this book, narrated by Mary Sarah, and enjoyed her narration immensely. She has a very airy voice for the women, which made her transition to male characters shockingly good, in that their voices are very masculine. I actually had to check that it wasn’t two narrators. I hope that the audio release of the next book isn’t too delayed because I would like to listen to it, but I’m also eager to read it!
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.When You Least Expect It by Haley Cass
Narrator: Lori Prince
Published by Tantor Audio on April 27, 2021
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Romance
Length: 8 hours 7 minutes
Listening Length: 8 hours and 7 minutes
Caroline Parker knows three things to be true. First, she is going to be Boston's most sought after divorce attorney by thirty-five. Second, given how terrible her romantic track record is, falling in love isn't in the cards for her. And third, Christmas only brings her bad luck - being broken up with not once, not twice, but three times during the holidays is proof enough of that.When she runs into Hannah Dalton on Christmas Eve, she has no reason to believe her luck will change. After all, though Hannah is probably the most gorgeous woman she’s ever seen, she’s also straight. And married to Caroline’s work rival.
While being hired by Hannah throws her for a loop, winning a divorce case and sticking it to her ex-colleague should be enough of a thrill. But as the months slip by, bringing her closer to both Hannah and her adorable daughter Abbie, the lines between attorney and client begin to blur. And she could have never predicted just how much she wants them to.
This is one of those books that I requested for review and then so much time passed between the request and when I actually read it, that I forgot what it was about. So I was pleasantly surprised as the story slowly revealed itself as a LGTBQ+ friends-to-lovers story. This is definitely making my top books of 2021 list.
As with most friends-to-lovers stories, this is a deliciously slow burn. Caroline and Hannah become friends as Caroline represents Hannah in her divorce. They already knew each other peripherally because Caroline used to work with him and has always hated him, so handling the divorce pro bono is icing on the cake really. And while she’s always found Hannah attractive, she didn’t expect to fall for her. For one, while Caroline is a lesbian, Hannah has only ever been in heterosexual relationships. Secondly, Hannah is fiercely trying to be independent – so dating ANYONE is out of the picture.
But a friendship blooms, facilitated in large part by Hannah’s daughter Abby and Caroline’s stepping in to help Hannah as a frequent babysitter. I loved watching this friendship develop – the way Caroline grew close not just to Hannah but to Abby. Haley Cass did a great job writing Abby – I love when authors write kids well, as full characters with complete but age appropriate personalities. They really become a family long before romantic feelings are broached. It is just a really heartwarming story of friendship turned to love. And there’s a bit of the holidays sprinkled in, for all those who (like me) love Christmas.
The narration was also really great. Lori Prince is a narrator I’ve listened to a couple other times over the past year and I always enjoy her voices and the way she brings characters to life. I think she did a particularly good job of voicing Abby, just furthering the way Haley Cass wrote such a good child character.