Petrified Women by Jeremy Ray

Petrified Women by Jeremy Ray

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

WOW. Petrified Women was a seriously pleasant surprise that I absolutely devoured, y’all. This novella is delightfully creepy and takes some seriously good twists.

Harley has a surprise in store for her boyfriend, Aiden. Aiden’s been a joker ever since they started dating, but his surprises tend to be scarier – as marked by the list of top scares on his fridge (including a fake pregnancy, and a stint pretending to be bigfoot). But she’s going to get him this time.

But waiting in the closet for him to arrive, Harper sees something she shouldn’t have. Aiden at his worst might be a bit more than Harley had bargained for.

I’m keeping this description ominous and vague on purpose, as I don’t want to spoil anything, but I hope it draws you in all the same. The description for sure drew me in, when Jeremy Ray himself asked if I’d like to take a look at this ~masterpiece~. I’m not usually inclined to do that sort of thing if it’s not up my alley, but Petrified Women‘s description hooked me instantly!

I feel like we need to acknowledge the gaslighting here. This book focuses on domestic violence and sexual assault. It’s riddled with emotional manipulation, and the remnants of having been emotionally manipulated. And while it’s terribly disturbing to read, Ray captures it perfectly and transfers that self doubt, that confusion, and that deep sense of dread to his readers. I, as the reader, felt gaslit by Aiden. And I think that’s an impressive feat as a writer – it totally added to the horror that I couldn’t tell which way was up. My stomach was tense with every turn of the story.

Harley’s story resonated with me not because of personal experiences but because of the experiences of my friends. The gaslighting, abuse, and that idyllic version of the person you’re with are disturbing to see the other side of. The psychological horror of this novel is commendable but so terribly realistic in the way Harley’s brain functions and works around her own experiences, to rewrite her present. I encourage you to reader’s Jeremy’s author’s note when you start this novella, if this is not something you can relate to on your own.

The only thing I didn’t absolutely love was the very bizarre fantasy turn this book took at the end – and not because it was bad, actually. I think it’s perfectly befitting to the story. I just totally wasn’t expecting it. Nothing in the description gave me the indication that this book was anything other than grounded in reality, but I think that turn into the fantasy realm helped to more symbolically illustrate the point of Ray’s story. Again, I don’t wish to spoil anything, but there’s power in survivors banding together; speaking up and standing against when you can is pivotal; and don’t underestimate women.

I’m incredibly grateful that Jeremy reached out to let me know that his story sounded like something I’d enjoy, as it totally was. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a creepy story one rainy afternoon. A copy of Petrified Women was provided to me in exchange for an honest review, and you can get a copy of your own here. Have a wonderful week, friends. 🙂

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This book took me by surprise. Mexican Gothic drew a lot of attention when it first released, I believe, because it was a choice for Book of the Month. I grabbed a copy then, but it’s just been sitting on my shelf (my recent theme is kicking my TBR’s ass…oh, waiting on me to read you for several years, have you? *Cracks spine*) . My friend read it last year and didn’t care for it, but told me I would probably like it. She was correct: this is good stuff friends.

Noemí Taboada is a strong willed socialite. After her cousin Catalina sends a confusing and concerning letter to her father, Noemí is forced to leave behind her life of parties in Mexico City for High Place, to check on Catalina. There, she finds an intriguing cast of characters in her in-laws, the Doyles, a long forgotten wealthy family of mine owners, and their home surrounded in silver and rot.

It doesn’t take long for things to start going awry. Catalina’s behavior is far more concerning in person. The Doyles have many rules, and won’t seek the proper medical attention for Noemí’s cousin. And Noemi has begun to sleep walk again…something is wrong at High Place, and Noemí would die to find out what it is.

I had a lot of expectations for this book just based on what people had *told* me it was about, but it blew them out of the water. My biggest expectation was that it would be along the lines of a Shirley Jackson novel. Anyone that regularly reads my blog sees me compare things to Shirley Jackson, or preach my love for her, on a fairly regular basis. She’s a genius and a visionary, not appreciated in her own time. While Moreno-Garcia’s writing did have a similar tone and darkness to it, I think what was most missing from my expectation was the ambiguousness. Jackson tends to leave a lot up to the imagination. Moreno-Garcia, in contrast, wrote with rich and colorful detail, so much so that I could practically see High Place in my mind. I could picture the characters, their quirks, everything in striking color. Which is good, because it seriously adds to this book to have all that.

The story within this novel is wild and fanciful. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting; it kept me guessing right up to those very last chapters. I don’t want to give too much of it away, but it was so delightfully creepy and horrifying, and all the characters so perfectly malicious. This is the exact kind of horror I love to read, that requires that extra level of depth and thought.

I discovered, upon gathering my photo for this post, that THIS BOOK IS GOING TO BE A HULU SHOW!!! If done well, it’s going to be truly incredible to watch on screen. I think of it akin to The Haunting of Hill House show… if a good troupe of actors plays these incredible characters, it should be an absolute delight. They truly made the story, and I think any good visual representation of it will require some damn good acting.

Since it took me so long to pick this one up, I’m dying to know…have you read Mexican Gothic? What were your thoughts? Did you love the story, or get bogged down in the details? My friend felt personally that the writing style was too similar to Jackson, and because she didn’t care much for Jackson, she had to drag her way through it.

Overall, if your tastes are anything like mine, I highly recommend Mexican Gothic. Grab a copy. Seriously!

I hope you all have an amazing week as we head into fall!

Book List: My Favorite Horror

Book List: My Favorite Horror

Naturally, my second book list had to be my favorite horror novels! I read that perfectly odd combination of romance and horror on the regular, so my two favorite genres had to be my first lists of recommendations. This list will hopefully give you a great combination of amazing classics and new favorites.

The Whisper Man by Alex North

I read The Whisper Man years ago, but it stuck with me because of the eerie feeling that follows you long after you finish it. I felt the same way about The Shadows, which I read earlier last month. There’s something so perfect about the way it’s crafted. Mid-read, I was sitting on my couch home alone in the dark, and I couldn’t even stop myself from checking over my shoulder. It just gave me the creeps! North also has the masterful combination of supernatural and a horrible reality – his villains are real, but the magic remains. You’ll see what I mean!

Grab your copy!

The Mist by Stephen King

I read The Mist mid-pandemic. Which was a mistake…or possibly smart as heck, because it made it all the more terrifying. No, I don’t mean to relate COVID-19 to the mist that overtakes the small Maine town, bringing with it creepy creatures that eat people. Very different scenarios. Buuut…the townspeople’s reaction to the mist? Not taking it seriously? Risking the safety of others to hold a certain bravado? That hit hard. Almost comical to read, if it wasn’t so horribly true. Glad to know it doesn’t matter what the national disaster is, there will always be non-believers and cynics.

While this is one of King’s shorter novels, it’s one of my personal favorites. King is a masterful writer, but the more pages you give him, the more he feels the need to drone on about things I tend to not think are important. His shorter books (Gwendy’s Button Box, Elevation, Carrie) are my favorites. It was awesome, don’t get me wrong, but omg it took me like a year, if I’m being honest.

Order a copy from Gibson’s…but prepare yourself to cringe.

Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson

Hangsaman is one of those really weird titles I can only recommend to people once I get a good feel for what they read. Jackson was under-appreciated in her own time, which is a shame, because her writing is absolutely incredible, and Hangsaman, in my opinion, is her masterpiece. When Jackson writes, you sense it’s personal. Her books are raw with a feeling of being an outsider, wronged by the world, and it’s even more tragic to know she was very depressed and these works were truly her release. Hangsaman haunts me to this day. It’s a wild ride but it’s something you finish and immediately want to pick up again and reread because you couldn’t possible have absorbed it all.

Jackson’s works aren’t horror in the typical sense, but you will reach the end and feel deeply disturbed. Particularly with this one, practice self care while reading. Grab a copy here (and as it’s one of my personal favorites, be sure to get in touch and tell me what you think).

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

I feel like the natural choice of Grady Hendrix for this list would be The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, which of course, you should also read. But no one picks up My Best Friend’s Exorcism first, which is a darn shame! The girl power, the perfect capture of an 80’s nostalgia vibe, and the utter creepiness of this novel are an amazing blend. It feels like Stranger Things meets The Exorcist, and I can’t recommend it enough. It was my first Hendrix, and sure as heck not my last. Hendrix is a master, and as we all know, one of my absolute favorite authors of both horror and just in general!!

Order yours here.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Did you like The Haunting of Hill House? The show, not the (also amazing) book by Shirley Jackson. Then you need to read Home Before Dark. It has the same vibe, and it made my skin prickle with the creepiness of it. I love a good haunted house, and this book does it perfectly. Sager has a knack for making you afraid of what lurks around every corner. I’m a pretty dedicated reader of his by now, and you can certainly catch me with every new publication. Home Before Dark was the book that got me hooked, and it still remains my favorite! Everything Sager writes reads like a horror movie you’re watching unfold on screen, and being a horror movie fan as well (of course!), I simply can’t resist.

Get your copy from Gibson’s here.

The awesome thing about this list is that I can easily recommend not just these titles but the authors themselves. If you’re a horror lover, of both the classics and these modern marvels, these are my go-to authors. Are you a horror lover? Have you read the titles on my list? What would make it on yours?

Have an awesome weekend, peeps. 🙂

The Shadows by Alex North

The Shadows by Alex North

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Good lord, why did I put this one off?!? I have had this book sitting in my to-read pile for easily, a whole year, maybe longer! And YET! I think I completely forgot just how much I had loved The Whisper Man, how much it sucked me in and gave me the creeps, and The Shadows did the very same. The Shadows is a disturbing and eerie read that’ll have you shocked at the twists and turns, as well as checking over your shoulder every few minutes with the feeling of being watched.

Paul Adams experienced tragedy as a teen. Wrapped up in a toxic friendship with other boys, he remembers a year of lucid dreaming, manipulation, dark woods, and a murder he was very nearly implicated in. He returns now to the village he grew up in to care for his mother as she lays dying, and gets wrapped up in a very similar mystery happening miles away in another small town: Detective Amanda Beck is looking into the story that started it all in attempt to solve the murder that’s just rocked Featherbank.

But something is still lingering in this town. Someone is lurking in the woods, delivering memories of a time Paul would rather put behind him. And something needs to be done about Charlie Crabtree…

This is one of those books I just know I’m going to do a horrible job describing, because there are so, so many pieces to put together and you also don’t want to spoil anything for the reader. I encourage you to read the full description of the novel, which does a far better job explaining than I can.

This book is complicated in the very best way. I love how intricate the details of this story are. There’s so much substance to it, which I guess made me realize there hasn’t been tons of substance to what I’ve been reading lately. I picture North writing this book with a huge wall in front of him, connecting characters and plots by strings and pushpins. If you’re in the mood to go “Whaaaat…” and “Oh my god noooo”, boy do I have the book for you. Around three-quarters of the way through the book, I was laying in bed listening to the story trying to figure out where the hell the curveball I’d just been thrown had even COME from (loudly), and my boyfriend leaned over and asked, “Crazy book stuff?”. Yeah, crazy book stuff.

The characters make this book. They are so well rounded – so very real to the reader, which makes it even crazier the farther you read (gosh, I am really walking the line of spoilers today, aren’t I??). There’s so many of them but they all play a really important role in this story. It’s an incredible small town tale, and everything is important: don’t write off any little detail.

My only complaint, and it’s not even really a complaint, was that some of the language is very repetitive. I think North does it on purpose to draw attention to the importance of certain statements and their bearing on the story, but after a while I felt like saying “Yeah, man, you just said that”. Other than that: the language is beautiful. Incredible. Sophisticated, even, for a horror novel, in a way that brings it up a notch in my book.

Soooo, I actually received a copy of The Shadows in exchange for an honest review by the publisher through NetGalley…approximately a year ago. Whoops. I finally got to it! At least I have great things to say! Naturally, The Shadows is already available for purchase…and I highly recommend reading it. Grab a copy if you’re looking for something to blow your mind. 🙂

Have a great week friends!