A haunted film reel, a dark occultist history, and two friends caught in the crossfire. The latest from Silvia Moreno-Garcia explores the world of filmmakers and blood magic.
Silver Nitrate follows the story of Montserrat, a sharp-edged loner who works as a sound editor for an ailing independent movie editing house in Mexico City. It's the 1990s, women in film are even more rare than they are in the present day, and Montserrat's acerbic personality doesn't win her any favors in the buddy-buddy man's world of the studio.
(All of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's main female characters are prickly in their own kind of way, and I love that as it's still rare in genre fiction today.)
Montserrat does have one person in her relatively lonely life, however: her hot-mess friend, Tristán. Tristán is a self-absorbed former has-been soap opera actor whose good looks and charm are cracking at the edges as he eeks a life out as a voice dubber. His career imploded in a spectacularly tragic way 10 years earlier and he's been doing his best ever since. Tristán and Montserrat make an odd pair, but they are each other's oldest friend and their bond has outlasted individual relationships and family—they're it for each other.
So the last thing these two struggling friends need is a drama. (Naturally, they get a drama.)
Tristán's elderly neighbor in his apartment complex is a retired film director with a backlist of cult-classic horror flicks. And he had one horror movie that was never finished and doesn't exist... except for one single canister of silver nitrate film in his freezer. The silver nitrate itself is dangerous and possibly an explosive in the right conditions—and when the former director explains what is ON the film, the contents themselves prove dangerous too.
Montserrat and Tristán find themselves embroiled in a decades-old blood magic plot involving a dangerous occultist, Nazi histories, and deadly bonds. They'll have to band together in order to make it to the other side...
Silver Nitrate is a film that was both very dear to my heart and also a personal struggle to read. Let me explain.
Moreno-Garcia's unique edge is that she's always trying new genres, new concepts, new ideas. As a reader of multiple genres, I love this about her. For this particular novel, she chose a topic very close to my heart: film.
I went to school for film, both practical production and classical film studies. So I surprisingly found myself an existing expert in the subject matter of this novel. Which was my problem? Silver Nitrate turned out to be a little too big on the info-dump portion of the film industry/film studies elements and lacking in the actual action/interest plot. I already knew a lot of the context they were covering as exposition throughout this entire story... so I found it quite boring to listen to near-endless conversations about it.
That combination of already knowing the film side of the conversation + a lack of engagement in the very "talking first, action not preferred" style to the story made it a more difficult one for me to love.
However, those negative soundbites aside, I did find the creeping horror of racism + the buildup of the occult reveals to be stellar in their payoffs. Which I was expecting, as Moreno-Garcia nails that kind of thing.
Eagerly looking forward to her next novel! And don't sleep on this one if you're new to classic films and cult topics—what was a negative for me is likely a huge positive for new readers.
Thank you to NetGalley and Libro.fm for my copies in exchange for an honest review.
The Rock Chick universe is one of my happy places. I’m so utterly thrilled that we finally got Darius and Malia’s story.
Darius and Malia were high school sweethearts who found themselves separated by tragedy. They were it, the real deal, in it to win it and set to beat all the odds as soulmates in love.
But then Darius' father died. And Darius found himself out of good choices and confronted with only one path forward to save his family and himself—so he buried his grief under layers of pain and moved forward in the only way available to him at the time.
That way forward did not include Malia. Which was a huge problem for her, because even with the heartbreak of losing Darius, Malia had a bigger fish to fry: she was pregnant.
As the years go by and Malia raises their son alone—but not truly alone--the two of them collide over and over, trying their best to see their love story bear fruit despite all the obstacles in their way.
Rock Chick Rematch is the story of Darius and Malia. It's a story of endurance, pain, endless love, patience, and hope. And it was perfect for me.
Kristen Ashley said that Malia wouldn't let her leave this story untold, and I can totally see that. Malia's been waiting a good long time for her happy ending. And it was TIME! And in true Malia fashion, she was going to make it happen.
Seeing the cameos from earlier Rock Chick books in the series was such a fun time. I loved learning about new people, I loved seeing our old friends. Stepping into Fortnum's (the local bookstore/coffee shop) and hanging out with the group was so heartwarming to me—a Rock Chick fan who has waited a long time for a new story in the world.
I recommend new readers start with the beginning: Rock Chick . This novella is perfect for existing fans of the series, but I'll be the first to admit that it's not the best entry point for brand-new readers. I think it's accessible to all, but a ton of context and supplemental backstory from the series is the core of this novella so new readers might miss out on the action.
Thanks, KA, for this latest entry to my happy place. I'll be here waiting for the next one...
Thank you to the author for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
A super-sexy, witchy-vibe revamp of Romeo & Juliet for the moody romance girlies. Come for the vibes, stay for the drama!
By Any Other Name follows the story of Etta Capulet, the only daughter of the Capulet witch dynasty in the town of Stratford, Massachusetts.
In today's world, the witches are still alive and thriving in the Northeast, but they're hidden in old money neighborhoods and hiding in plain sight as the movers and shakers of the American money and political landscape.
Etta is on the threshold of pledging herself as an adult witch in their coven, and with that kind of commitment comes a bunch of strings—including the betrothal to Harrison, a son from one of the other founding eight families in Stratford.
Too bad Etta doesn't care for Harrison. She's too busy looking at Roman Montague, her childhood archnemesis and overall supremely-hot emotionally tortured eye candy.
Etta and Roman have a legacy of obsession, petty childhood dramas, and inescapable chemistry.
And as they find themselves strangled in expectations and political maneuvering nonsense, they find that the only people they can rely on are... each other. Things are about to get interesting. (And steamy.)
I had a great time reading By Any Other Name.
Full disclosure, I'm not a huge fan of Shakespeare or Romeo & Juliet-specific retellings, so I think it's not a huge surprise that I didn't fall head-over-heels obsessed with this story. (I tried to love this one, because I love everything Kate King touches.) BUT considering my stance on the inspiration behind the story, I think I enjoyed it a fair amount.
This is one of those quick romance reads that has a good hook, good steamy scenes, and isn't mired in a bunch of logistical details. Come for the drama between Etta and Roman on an intimate scale, and stay for that drama. That's the long and short of it—no fuss, no frills.
I did wish for more detail and larger worldbuilding/plot in the witch community and the mystery angle to this story, but again I think that's because I was looking for reasons to connect to this story beyond the Romeo & Juliet moments so that's really a "me" thing versus anything wrong with the story itself.
Thank you to the author for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
I loved everything about this debut. Generational bonds between the women in one family line tied into one horror-tinged speculative debut with Cree Canadian roots.
Bad Cree snuck up on me. I saw the cover a few times in the store and it caught my eye. But I kept passing it by, until eventually I heard someone mention that it was a story about sisters and horror-based dreaming. Those two hooks grabbed me and i knew I needed to read this story.
Mackenzie keeps waking up from the same dream. This in itself isn't that odd—but the fact that she wakes up with pieces of that dream in her hand, in the real world, is odd. From twigs to the decapitated head of a crow, Mackenzie knows that a) this isn't normal and b) things are getting worse. And she's getting scared.
Her Cree family, with its deep roots to the Alberta land, are far away from Mackenzie's sad apartment in Vancouver. And Mackenzie realizes that maybe its time to face the sadness and secrets awaiting her in her hometown...
Combining family secrets, Cree stories, and a persistent thread of endurance and love throughout, Bad Cree was a perfect read for me. I loved Mackenzie's journey. I was here for her pain, her grief, and her family's close bonds yet tangled relationships. Having such a strong novel about sisterhood tied to a speculative horror novel was a huge win for me.
Bad Cree's accessible writing and creeping sense of atmospheric dread catapulted this immediately into a new favorite read. Come for the intrigue of the "real" dreams, stay for the tension and family story. This isn't a slasher horror, or even a big bang reveal—it's a small story with deep roots.
An emotional why-choose mafia romance with a lot of drama and heart to it. I have such a soft spot for this series, even though this particular one wasn’t my favorite.
Steam/Romance: ★★★ 1/2
Ruin My Life is the latest installment in the why-choose mafia series by Luna Pierce. While this novel is technically a standalone romance, I really recommend readers start with June's story in Untamed Vixen, as all of those characters and several situations from that book are referenced in this one.
This is the long-awaited story of Cora and her men. Cora is June's best friend, so while we were along for the ride with June in Untamed Vixen, we saw Cora on the sidelines and I, for one, was really intrigued by her as a character.
In this book, Cora is immediately not having a good time. Her father is caught behind on his debts to a very scary mob boss, and in the heat of the moment Cora, his daughter, is offered up as payment for the debt. Yep—Cora is sold off to an absolute sleazeball to pay off her cowardly dad's debts that he accrued to provide for her mother's cancer treatments.
Cora can't let her dad die, and she knows her mother's survival depends on this mafia boss's money and treatments. So she accepts the forced deal.
Good thing there are a few men in Cora's life with power, money, and heart who are willing to help her out...
Y'all, I had such a sweet time with this story. Cora deserved good things, and she got them in this tale. That's honestly what I was here to read. And I got it!
However, despite my emotional connection to Ruin My Life, I did struggle with this novel's length and kind of repetitive-yet-meandering pacing. The drama is real, and the reactions are authentic—but given how long this drama unfolded, there was only so much we could do and I feel like it lost me as it continued to drag out the big bad drama. This sounds harsh—I did, truly, enjoy this read and despite my qualms it was an addictive read that I finished in one evening.
Don't miss this one if you're a fan of the series!
Thank you so much to the author for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
This novel about an atmospheric, creepy island and the haunting revelations of buried angst and secrets ending in a gory finale isn't for everyone—but wow, this hit the spot for me!
Horror elements: ★★★★
Plot: ★★ 1/2
Laney is a divorced teacher with a dead sister, a rich ex-husband, and a niece now under her care. Her ex-husband gifted her their rich island property in the middle of Lake Superior, and while Laney loves it to pieces, she doesn't have the money to pay for it alone—so she rents it out as an exclusive rental property for vacationers. She hates every moment of it, but there's no other choice.
So when Laney receives a call from a renter that blood and scratches have been found in a closet, and pentagrams are all over the property, she's pissed. Someone's throwing a mean prank and now she's got to fix it before the property loses more revenue. Armed with her niece, Madison, and sheer will, Laney heads to the island.
However, when she gets to the shore prior to heading over to Hemlock Island, Laney discovers quite the scene: her ex-husband, his sister and Laney's ex-best friend, and two other people from Laney's past that she'd much rather forget.
With spooky shenanigans and sinister consequences awaiting them, the last thing Laney needs is this tangle of interpersonal drama. But it's too late, and now this motley crew finds themselves trapped on an island—and what they're about to find will change them forever.
I would categorize this novel as one of those hybrid, in-between concepts. Not quite horror enough, not quite thriller enough, not quite interpersonal drama enough. And for the detail-oriented lovers, I can see the disappoint rearing its head from the very first few chapters.
This is a novel based in action, dialogue, and tension. All taking place on a truly gripping island setting in Lake Superior on the Great Lakes. (Which is in my neck of the woods as a Michigan girl, so let's be real, this was a huge sell for me.)
For me, a reader who loves drama, action, and clean prose focused on goals in her mystery/thrillers, Hemlock Island was a win. I loved the tension, the secrets bubbling to the surface, the surprises blatantly hidden and revealed at the proper times. This isn't a shocking whodunit, or whydunit, or even meant to be truly surprising/shocking—instead, I found the wins in Hemlock Island to be the sheer enjoyment of the unfolding story and the ruthless practicality of the characters faced with a horrifying scenario.
Come for the creepy island. Stay for the creepy island + the politics of this twisted tangle of friends and lovers and enemies.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.