The City of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

 “And tell him he did, for the wine of storytelling ran through his veins… it was his practice to firstly tell himself the things of the world in order to understand them and then tell them to others, draped in the music and light of literature, because he sensed that if life was not a dream it was at least a pantomime where the cruel absurdity of the narrative always ran behind the scenery…”

Back in July of 2020, the world lost a remarkable storyteller with the passing of Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Renowned for his “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” series, Zafón was known for writing gorgeous, atmospheric stories with complex characters and haunted Gothic settings. As one of my favorite authors, I can personally attest to losing myself in his works. Needless to say, when I heard a posthumous collection of short stories was to be published, I anxiously awaited its release!

Compiled by Zafón himself before his untimely death, The City of Mist comprises of eleven stories, all of which are imbued with captivating characters and unique narratives set in Barcelona. These tales range from a young boy who is inspired to invent and tell stories after befriending a very special young girl, to a young woman who undergoes a harrowing experience while with child, to a gentleman who attempts to prolong the life of his lover through the written word, to a haunted architect who struggles to complete his life’s work and legacy. Not only do these stories pull at your heartstrings, they are also woven with timeless and compelling threads of human experience you won’t soon forget. Additionally, I was able to find hints and allusions to characters and landmarks within Zafón’s “Cemetery of Forgotten Books”  throughout these stories, which was an absolute treat. Another unique aspect of this collection is that many of these stories had never been published in English before. One of the most incredible things about Zafón’s writing is his beautiful crafting of words, and I tend to forget that his works were not originally written in English, but in Spanish.

All in all, reading this book has inspired me to reread Zafón’s entire series over again. It is a gorgeous work of literary fiction we are lucky to have, especially in light of his passing. Zafón is an author that will never be forgotten by his millions of readers, as he was truly a gem who created masterpieces every time he took pen to paper.

“Soon afterwards, like figures made of mist, father and son disappear into the crowd of the Ramblas, their steps lost forever in the shadow of the wind.”

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

“She could reorder their world and keep him safe. They did not need to build a new fiction together, for she could make reality.”

It has been a while since I have had the pleasure of immersing myself in a Gothic story, so I was psyched to get my hands on The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling. Published in October, Starling’s third novel is a blend of horror and psychological thriller infused with all of your favorite Gothic tropes, from the old and dilapidated haunted house, to the labyrinth in the home’s family crypt, to supernatural hauntings and magical rituals (not to mention a cursed husband!). Without further ado, let’s dive into this intoxicating read.

Taking place in a fictional setting akin to post-war Great Britain, but with anachronistic cultural aspects reminiscent of the 1800s, this story revolves around two primary characters: Jane, a strong and practical female protagonist, and Dr. Augustine Lawrence, a renowned surgeon with a small practice in the town of Larrenton. Realizing she must marry in order to continue her professional work as an accountant, Jane considers several eligible men in town before offering a business-like arrangement to Augustine. In this arrangement, they would marry solely on professional grounds, with no intimacies expected or desired, in order to advance in their respective occupations. After due hesitation and consideration, Augustine agrees to the proposal under one strict condition: Jane must never stay with him at Lindridge Hall, his family’s manor just outside of town.

Naturally, this condition is quickly broken just a week later upon their wedding day. After having dinner together at Lindridge Hall, Jane leaves at nightfall to stay at Augustine’s surgery in town, but is thwarted from returning when a heavy rainstorm overturns her carriage. Resigned to walking back to the manor, certain her newly-wedded husband would understand the extenuating circumstances of her return, she quickly finds herself experiencing a very different side of Augustine – one who is terrified, haunted, and seemingly at a remove from reality. Upon waking in the morning, however, Augustine acts as if nothing out of the ordinary occurred. As circumstance after circumstance prevents her from leaving the hall, Jane begins to learn of dark secrets Augustine is hiding from her and everything she thought to be true starts to unravel around her.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and appreciated the deep and complex character development of both Jane and Augustine. They are both extremely complicated characters, as is their relationship throughout the book, and I enjoyed not knowing who to trust as I read the story. I also enjoyed how every page dripped with Gothicism; it reminded me of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, so I would highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoyed that novel (here is a blog I wrote on that title last year). I also highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good dose of horror heavily steeped in psychology. I know I will definitely be following Starling’s future releases and reading her first two novels!

DISCLAIMER: While I did enjoy this book, I will admit several passages were a bit hard to read due to their gruesome nature; this primarily comes from descriptions of medical procedures and magical rituals.

This title is also available in the following formats:

Overdrive eBook

Online Reading Challenge – June

Hello hello!

Time for a new author exploration in our Online Reading Challenge. This month our author is: Alice Hoffman!

A popular and prolific author, Hoffman books always include a bit of magic. It’s often understated, and sometimes doesn’t appear immediately, but it runs through each title like a vein of gold. Some of her best loved titles include Practical Magic, The World That We Knew, The Dovekeepers and The Marriage of Opposites.

If you would like to read something by a different author, look for books with some magical realism and/or female relationships. Some titles to consider include:

House of Spirits by Isabel Allende

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Amiee Bender

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by A.E. Schwab

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia

Lots of great choices! There will also be displays at both Fairmount and Eastern with titles to consider.

I am planning on reading The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman, which is a prequel to Practical Magic. It’s been a long time since I read Practical Magic, so I’m hoping this one can be read as a stand-alone. I will let you know how it goes!

 

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

“The world might indeed be a cursed circle; the snake swallowed its tail and there could be no end, only an eternal ruination and endless devouring.”

If you are looking for an uncanny and spine-chilling read for Halloween, you won’t want to miss Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Set in Mexico in the 1950s, young socialite Noemi Taboada is asked to visit her cousin, Catalina, in the country upon her father receiving an unusual and seemingly delusional letter from her. In it, she claims her newlywed husband and the mansion they live in are trying to poison her, among other ramblings Noemi and her father can’t make much sense of. While Noemi isn’t keen on leaving her life in Mexico City, she embarks to the countryside for an undetermined length of time to attend to her cousin’s well-being, half-expecting to bring her back to Mexico City to see a psychiatrist.

It doesn’t take long upon arriving, however, for Noemi to experience the unnatural, isolating, and menacing ambiance of this mansion, also known as High Place. Along with Catalina and her husband, Virgil, the manor is home to Virgil’s ancient father, aunt, cousin, and a handful of servants. In addition to the family living with no electricity and in complete silence most of the time, which is very unnerving for the loquacious and lively Noemi, she is also made very uncomfortable when introduced to Virgil’s father, a man completely enamored by the notion of eugenics.

In addition to the dismal demeanor of the house’s occupants, the decrepit house itself is a character of its own. It is truly the epitome of a Gothic setting from beginning to end, complete with the dark and derelict interior, the haunted neighboring cemetery, and the insane, enigmatic descriptions of the house coming to life. Within the grasp of the house, Noemi begins to have horrific dreams of the house as a living organism and of inhumane events occurring within its walls, and she soon realizes her cousin has been subjected to something far worse than she could have ever imagined.

For me, this Gothic tale was Jane Eyre meeting “The Yellow Wallpaper,” which then met Stephen King. I have always been a fan of Gothic literature, and this was a fresh, chilling, and creepy story I didn’t want to put down. While I didn’t initially relate with the protagonist and the story had a bit of a slow start, I found the suspense, plot, and imagery to be completely worth the small wait. I will make a disclaimer that it does have some pretty morbid descriptions and imagery at parts (hence, Stephen King’s shout out), but if you want something to leave you haunted and squeamish, even with the lights on, you will definitely enjoy this novel!

This book is also available in the following formats:

Overdrive eAudiobook

Overdrive eBook

A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

Nalini Singh is a well known paranormal romance author, as well as a contemporary romance author. I picked up her newest contemporary romance book, A Madness of Sunshine, recently and found the mystery crime novel with a dash of romance to be fascinating.

A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh takes place in New Zealand (If you have the chance to listen to the audiobook, I recommend it!). Anahera Rawiri grew up in Golden Cove. She fled this small West Coast New Zealand town at twenty-one in order to escape poverty and the childhood ghosts that haunted her. With no plans to return, Anahera sets up a brand new life as a famous pianist with a well-known husband. Eight years later, she finds herself back in Golden Cove desperately seeking comfort in the familiar after her new life implodes around her.

This small town is full of people who trust each other. Friendship runs deep throughout Golden Cove, until one summer shatters the residents of Golden Cove and their peaceful lives apart. Looking into the disappearance of a local beautiful young woman named Miri Hinewai, residents and the lone police officer, Detective Will Gallagher, are left to wonder just how safe they really are. Rumors begin to circulate possibly connecting the recent disappearance and the years-old disappearances of other women. Will begins relying on Anahera’s knowledge of both the area and the residents to help him solve the crimes. The past and present start to collide the deeper Will digs and he starts thinking that Golden Cove may hide something more sinister than the rumors and darkness lurking in the shadows.