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Scary stories are best when they’re real. A tale about the monsters who hide in human form will always send a chill up my spine. 

If you’re like me, then you’ll find Wicked Mortals by Aaron Manke to be a treat. 

The book is a collection of true stories from History of truly horrible people. Many of these stories I already knew, like the one about HH Holmes. But some, like the tale of John Murray Spear, were completely new to me. One of the best new ones in this collection was the tale called Lost and Found, about a thief and killer named Kate Webster. It was, in a word, eerie. It’s the kind of story that makes you want to run a background check on the assisted living person helping out your grandparents.

Aaron Manke has a distinctive voice, if you’ve ever listened to his wildly popular podcast, Lore, you know this. He has a way of speaking that is so kind, so gentle. He sounds like the sort of man any mother would want to date her daughter. And all of this, while he’s telling tales of cannibalism, mass murder and cryptids. 

Wicked Mortals has that same voice. When I was reading it, I felt like I could hear Manke talking right to me. 

I was astounded by how well researched the stories in Wicked Mortals were. Several times I read something that made me say, out loud at one point, “No, that’s not true. I’m checking Snopes.” And I’ll be damned if Manke wasn’t spot on.

There’s a fascinating bit of information in here about David Attenborough, the famed English Naturalist. I won’t ruin it for you, but it’s fun. 

Scary stories have a bad habit of embellishment. A storyteller puts in a bit of spin, a little extra blood, a bit of style. Then another storyteller picks up the new version and does the same thing. And so it goes, a decade’s long game of telephone. This leaves us with a cobbled-together tale that’s more myth than fact.

There’s little of this sort of thing in Wicked Mortals. The stories are there, without the fiction coating. And they’re still just as wickedly scary. 

If you’re looking for a book that will freak you out and teach you something new, Wicked Mortals is one to add to your list. 

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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.

5 out of 5 stars (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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