Review: THE HACIENDA by Isabel Cañas (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2022
Source: Book of the Month Club

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warning: arson, murder, gore, rape (mentioned, not depicted), vomiting, financial abuse

Beatriz lost everything when her father was executed during the Mexican War of Independence. She and her mother go to live with reluctant relatives, until Beatriz sees an opportunity to return to some form of personal security in marrying Don Rodolfo Solórzano. It takes her to his family estate in the countryside, Hacienda San Isidro. But the promised security is quickly dashed when things start going bump in the night and there is more truth to the rumors surrounding Rodolfo than initially ignored.

This book has everything: 1800’s Mexican history, political tensions, a haunted house, a restless spirit, and a priest who’s also a witch. An incredible blend of historical fiction and gothic horror, I simply could not put this one down until the very last page.

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Review: MY FRIEND ANNA: A True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams (2019)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2019
Source: Book of the Month Club

Content warnings: Alcoholism, suicidal ideation, panic attacksThis tale of toxic friendship and con-artistry opens with the narrator on what should have been an idyllic vacation in Morocco with friends. It quickly turns into a nightmare when credit cards decline and tough financial decisions to prevent more immediate problems arise.

I had vaguely heard of the story of Anna Delvey when it made the rounds on social media. Admittedly, I went into this tale expecting a ruckus tale of rich people shenanigans and extortion. I was pleasantly surprised with what this book actually is.

The level of self-reflection in this work is something else. You can easily see how Williams fell under Delvey’s spell, under the guise of trust that got taken advantage of. The mismatch of friendship expectation made this a slow read for me because even though it’s public knowledge how the cons ended. The pacing when Williams tries to get in touch with the increasingly distant Anna leaps off the page, especially given the plain presentation of their correspondence.

Much quieter than expected, but heart-aching and engaging nonetheless.

Review: THE SHADOWS by Alex North (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Thriller
Year Release: 2020
Source: Book of the Month Club

Trigger warnings: Child murder, suicide, blood, dementia

I had really enjoyed Alex North’s The Whisper Man. So, when I saw that another book was out by him, I had to jump on it. In this thriller, a man named Paul Adams returns home 25 years after a tragedy involving the death of a classmate, lucid dreaming, and a disappearance. A copy cat murder takes place and detective Amanda Beck returns to tie the connections linking the two crimes.

North has such a knack for write dual timelines and multi-POV. The details and the clever drops of certain details lead to excellent pacing and characterization. The twist in this book had my jaw on the floor, and scrambling to figure out how I had missed the clues. The realization is heartbreaking, but provides the proper impetus to race through the end, where secrets and truths are revealed, and the mystery is solved.

The use of lucid dreaming and a scary folkloric figure like Red Hands reminded me of the 2014 Wisconsin Slenderman stabbing, but there are enough differences that this book is definitely not a retelling.

Unsettling with an awesome twist, this thriller hits all the notes with a creepy mystery and a satisfying resolution.

Review: THE WHISPER MAN by Alex North (2019)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Thriller
Year Release: 2019
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook

Trigger warnings: Child murder, blood, child abduction, alcoholism

Listening to this book on audio was certainly a choice. When I finish a long reading project like Kushiel’s Dart, I need a bit of a breather from long science fiction and fantasy. A contemporary thriller was such a great idea. And Christopher Eccleston did the audio? A bonus!

What a surprise of a novel this was. Equal parts police procedural and family drama, The Whisper Man is a spine-tingling time. In the village of Featherbank, Tom and his six-year-old son, Jake, seek a fresh start after tragedy strikes their family, only to find out that a copycat has been following the format of grizzly child murders which took place prior.

Where this book shines is its exploration of grief and family. So much time was spent going through the things lost to “smaller” tragedies and the ways that kids and adults deal with their problems. Jake has his imaginary friends, DI Pete turns to alcohol, and Tom has anxiety over trying his absolute best to be both parents. The way this novel handles its antagonist also fascinated me. Revealing the scoundrel at the very end could be tracked from start to finish, but this book is definitely more about the journey than the reveal.

Terrifying in times that left me suppressing screams, The Whisper Man is more about family than anything else, so definitely give this thriller a read.

Reading Recap: June 2018

RRJune2018In June, I celebrated my birthday, went to BookCon 2018, and attended the ALA Annual Conference 2018. That’s a lot of travel. And many opportunities for good reads.

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