I’ve linked here the Black Lives Matter Carrd to support, but also here is a list of resources to aid Anti-Racism work in the UK, as well as UK specific places to donate to. I will be doing this on every post. If you have the funds to donate, please do but if not, please support and uplift Black voices and sign the petitions. Also, here are links to Carrds talking about many of the world’s current events and how you can help.
Though it may be Tuesday, I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the last of which was last week. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve read, loved and usually promised to review ages ago.
Today, I’m focusing on three fantastic books that are all either recent or upcoming releases and I will organise them in order of publication date, starting with the brilliant Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of!
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 bBy gins 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.
Publication Date: 30th June
TW:- sexual assault, incest, murder, cannibalism, death of parent, death of children, stillbirth, miscarriage, sexual harassment sment, domestic abuse and suicide
This was a deliciously dark Gothic masterpiece. As someone who has studied the Gothic in depth for the past two years, it was so brilliant to see these classic tropes of the genre be played with and reimagined through a fresh, new and more diverse lens.
Moreno-Garcia’s writing is just so gorgeous and sumptuous, with interesting, eloquent word choice and an almost effortless vivacity infusing every page. It is so evident that she has seriously honed her craft, creating a masterpiece in tension and unsettling, spine-chilling subtle horror. The atmosphere she creates completely wraps you up in her dark, twisted gem of a story.
For me, the horror aspects built up gradually, forming more of a slow burn effect where the creepiness grew on you. It also allows you to focus on the abhorrent evil of people, with eugenics and incestual relationships in order to preserve the ‘purity’ of bloodlines being a key theme of the story. This utilises the classic Gothic idea of exposing the bestial nature that humanity can delve into, discussing taboo topics in an impactful and thought-provoking way. Decay and corruption, both in the physical sense and mental sense, also play a huge role, both affecting the characters and the setting itself.
I loved how Moreno-Garcia carefully chose the historical period in which Mexican Gothic was set, as the 1950s are often viewed as this romanticised ideal by some historians. This was far from the case and through the story, this is explicitly highlighted and the rotten core of the period is brought to central stage. Mexican Gothic is a disturbing but deeply intriguing book, packed to the brim with unnerving imagery and a subtly unsettling atmosphere that only grows. It’s a whisper in the dark, the slight creak of a floorboard that expertly plays with classic tropes and tension, whilst being wrapped up in some of the most beautiful prose.
Next up, I wanted to talk about the amazing Verona Comics By Jennifer Dugan, which the lovely Rob Richardson at Melia sent me an ARC of.
Jubilee has it all together. She’s an elite cellist, and when she’s not working in her stepmom’s indie comic shop, she’s prepping for the biggest audition of her life.
Ridley is barely holding it together. His parents own the biggest comic-store chain in the country, and Ridley can’t stop disappointing them—that is, when they’re even paying attention.
They meet one fateful night at a comic convention prom, and the two can’t help falling for each other. Too bad their parents are at each other’s throats every chance they get, making a relationship between them nearly impossible…unless they manage to keep it a secret.
Then again, the feud between their families may be the least of their problems. As Ridley’s anxiety spirals, Jubilee tries to help but finds her focus torn between her fast-approaching audition and their intensifying relationship. What if love can’t conquer all? What if each of them needs more than the other can give?
Publication Date: 13th July
TW: anxiety, panic attacks, suicide attempt in past, suicidal ideation, depression, alcoholism, emotional abuse
This is not the light-hearted, cutesy romance you may be expecting, though it definitely starts off as one. Instead, this is a tough book that delivers into some dark places whilst tracing its central theme, mental health. Unfortunately this is a topic that we still don’t talk about enough or give enough resources to. So, by Dugan choosing to spotlight the tough, raw reality of some of darkest depths your mind can drag you down to, it sparks a much needed conversation.
I really loved the representation within Verona Comics, as the vast majority of the characters are part of the LGBTQ+ community. This is just normalised and one facet of each character rather than their defining feature. For me, this sheer volume and casual diversity was just amazing to see, as it’s sadly so rare. Speaking of brilliant characters, our central duo Jubilee and Ridley had such distinctive voices that I got really hooked by. Their dual perspective unveiled intriguing aspects of both themselves and the people around them & seeing the differences depending on which of them I was in the head of was really interesting as a reader.
From there, I’d be remiss to not talk about the central romance, which started out as this really shippable pairing with great chemistry and was fun and flirty. Then it is almost instantly marred by the family rivalry and secrets that come from that. Dugan doesn’t hesitate to show how the relationship turns toxic and indeed that seed is there from the very start; this is not the glamourised star struck teenage love story you remember. Instead, the clear message is that you have to focus on loving yourself before you can truly love anyone else. Verona Comics may not have been quite what I expected, but I loved it all the more for its in-depth exploration of mental health and codependency issues, offering a healthier take on Romeo and Juliet’s tragic story. Dugan is definitely a voice to watch out for in YA contemporary and now I really need to read Hot Dog Girl.
Finally, I want to shout about the firecracker of a book: This Is My America by Kim Johnson, which the awesome Sam Bonner at Penguin Random House UK sent me a copy of.
Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?
Publication Date: 28th July
TW: racism, racial injustice, police brutality, murder, white supremacist hate groups, bullying
This is an absolutely phenomenal book. It’s powerful, impactful and incredibly gripping, while also delving into some of the most important issues of our time. The way Johnson gives such an incisive, educational and insightful dissection of the injustices handed down by the justice system makes for essential reading.
At its core This Is My America delves into pressing societal issues and the racist history & present of the US, but also the extent to which society as a whole tries to bury its darker past and reimagine itself as a utopia instead. This makes for a compelling read, but is added to by the immaculately plotted whodunnit at the heart of the story. Johnson utilises twists to their perfect extent, timing them in just the right spot so they can have the full devastating effect they should. Often the secrets that are unveiled by them completely threw me off my mystery-solving scent.
It also helps that we have one of the best protagonists I’ve seen for a while in Tracy, who is fiercely intelligent, driven and passionate. She is unapologetic for all of these qualities, as she should be and upholds her bravery and defence of truth in the face of horrific events (which I won’t go into in too much depth to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say it harks back to an abhorrent organisation who still hold power today). These events show how little we have truly progressed, still hiding behind a veneer of liberalism and respectability, with the rotten core just behind the mask.
Johnson doesn’t pretend that there is an easy solution, as the ending is hopeful but not perfect. To me, this reflected the progress we have made, but also how there is so much further to go. Within the story, relationships are messy, flawed and always have room to grow. To cap it off, the author note at the end is just so brilliant, leaving me riled up and ready to fight for justice. This Is My America is a true powerhouse of a book that I definitely won’t be forgetting any time soon.