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Jac Jemc’s writing immediately captivated me when I first read her story “Any Other.” This tale, about an unsettling transaction between people who are not what they seem, is one amongst many in her collection False Bingo. 

“You’ve been waiting for the threat. That is where you are wrong.”

Jemc has a gift for creating large, complicated characters without saying too much. She reveals damning details of who they are through the little things: their slight gestures, abrasive habits, disturbing comments.

“I thought of Jean and his dirt-ceilinged fate. I thought of his daughters arranged around him like sunbeams in the burial plot. I thought of the taste of their tears as I licked them from the blade of my knife. Truth seeped through.”  

False Bingo, “Get Back” page 61.

Jac Jemc

The stories in False Bingo are built with suspense and investigations of the human condition in prose reminiscent of Shirley Jackson and Joyce Carol Oates.

“The Principal’s Ashes” involves a frog-eating boy and students on their best behavior under the threat of their dead’s principal’s watching eyes. A fictional retelling of “The Halifax Slasher” questions the phenomena of mass hysteria and when society decides to believe women. An anonymous figure in “Get Back” muses over the brutal deaths they may be responsible for.

A One-Sitting Read

These stories are sinister, sneaky and clever, infused with innate terror and an array of compelling voices. Jemc plays with literary techniques and plot devices that never dull, making each story a standout from the last. I’d read this as soon as possible if I were you. 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Lookin for something to read but not sure what to choose? Check out what we’re reading here at Haunted MTL.   

CourtCourt is a writer, horror enthusiast, and may or may not be your favorite human-eating houseplant.

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Book Reviews

“The Writing Retreat” Gone Bad: Julia Bartz’s Debut

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Keeping it all in the family, Julia Bartz’s The Writing Retreat is the debut novel of the sister of Andrea Bartz, author of We Were Never Here, which I reviewed here.

I was much more impressed with The Writing Retreat than I was We Were Never Here.

The Plot

Five up and coming female writers under 30 are invited to a writing retreat hosted by the reclusive and acclaimed horror writer Rosa Vallo. Rosa reveals the details of the retreat: each writer must complete a full length novel from scratch over the next month. The best novel wins a multi-million dollar publishing deal with Rosa.

Suddenly, the retreat turns into a nightmare when one writer goes missing in the snowy terrain outside.

The novel hinges on friendships in turmoil and has a focus on LGBT+ representation as well as interpersonal female relationships. The novel explores the dark publishing world and the search for fame and the Great American Novel.

The Verdict

This novel is atmospheric and intellectual, page turning, and the English major’s required reading. I absorbed this novel and found Julia Bartz’s writing and conceptual chops to be leagues above her sister’s.

Ths novel releases on February 21, 2023 and it should be in your cart right now.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Buy it here!

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Book Reviews

A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”

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The Plot

“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?”  — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.

The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.

Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.

The Verdict

This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.

It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Book Reviews

Woom: An Extreme Horror Novel

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“That doesn’t invalidate it,” Angel said. “There’s no statute of limitations on pain.”

The Plot

Angel is a man who knows pain: physical, mental, sexual. The story begins with Angel visiting Room 6 at the Lonely Motel and ordering a plus-size sex worker to his room. What comes next is Angel’s retellings of painful stories while performing sexual acts on the sex worker, Shyla.

The novel reads as a book of short stories, as Angel relays stories to Shyla and she tells him stories back. This is a novel of pain and disgust. Angel’s stories are so dark and traumatic that Shyla can’t believe they are true. As Angel bares his soul, we see a side of him that is melancholy and unable to process hurt in a natural way.

The Verdict

This novel is full of disgusting visuals and isn’t afraid to get dirty. This truly is an extreme horror novel. As a warning, there is discussion of feces, blood, rape, sex, and body horror. This novel is not for the faint of heart. You’ll close this short novel feeling dirty. Angel is a character that begs for sympathy while his stories narrate that he may not be as innocent as he perceives.

When the subtitle says this novel is extreme horror, believe it. Only the strong will survive Duncan Ralston’s Woom. It is more splatterpunk than anything, but true literary quality lies beneath the filth.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Read it yourself by clicking below!

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