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Part horror story, part fable, this novella follows the story of Pringles, Argentina. A middle-aged bachelor and his mother visit his wealthy friend and sees all of his trinkets and strange collectables. The wealthy friend and the bachelor’s mother find connection in discussing the old families of the city. Not long after the bachelor and his mother return home from the dinner party, the dead begin to rise from the local cemetery. What ensues is an attack on the living of the town. The dead begin attacking and murdering, slurping the endorphins from the living for themselves. In the end, the dead can only be sent back to their graves when the town residents recognize the corpses as members of the old families, calling their names and sending them back to the cemetery.

The concept of the dead eating endorphins, seeking them out as vehemently as the living do each day, is compelling. As the corpses feast on a wealthy group of party attendees, the text reads “It was one of the best banquets of the night, that defenseless conglomeration of rich French partygoers – a class of people who make the production of endorphins their life’s work” (67). This fable has a strong lesson or two. Our search for happiness is consuming, just as the zombies find themselves tearing through town and sparing no one to steal these endorphins. Modernity creates a drive for endorphins that spare no one. Cutthroat tactics are employed to get what we desire, what we think will make us fulfilled.

This line was particularly striking: “And these active endorphins, the ones the nocturnal slurpers most valued, were the specialty of the majority of the rest of the population: the old, the poor, the humble, the sick. The last scraps of human detritus, people who hadn’t enjoyed a single moment in their entire life, had to produce tons of endorphins in order to keep that life going” (70). Those less fortunate must produce endorphins in an extreme just to survive, while the wealthy and well-off spend money and kneecap others to gain happiness while taking happiness away from others. Human nature and selfishness is displayed deeply in this text.

**Ending spoilers discussed below!**

The ending, where the corpses return to their graves upon having their names spoken into existence, is a call to the past and how our fixation on the past takes our happiness. Once the past is recognized and sliced through with words, it can rest, and the living can move forward. The connection back to the beginning with the mother and wealthy friend connecting over the families of the town is spectacular. The story ends circularly and calls into being the past and how it affects our everyday happiness and ability to move forward.

This little novella is terrifying and gory as the reader watches the dead release fearlessly upon a small town. What can stop them? That is where horror meets fable. Seriously fantastic prose and dreamlike story.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Sarah Moon is a stone-cold sorceress from Tennessee whose interests include serial killers, horror fiction, and the newest dystopian blockbuster. Sarah holds an M.A. in English Literature and an M.F.A. in Fiction Writing. She works as an English professor as well as a cemeterian. Sarah is most likely to cover horror in print including prose, poetry, and graphic forms.

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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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