Twelve Tales Lie, One Tells True comes hot and heavy from master story spinner Maria Alexander. I love horror. Love it. I love short stories. Love them. Twelve Tales Lie, One Tells True combines the two art forms of horror and the short together into a powerful harmony. This collection works in so many ways but the most important is hinted at in its title. One Tells True.
The writing is lyrical at times and reserved when it needs to be. You can see the ebb and flow of rhyme giving birth to rhythm within Maria Alexander’s work. However, all of that would be just pretty window dressing if it didn’t have a story to back it up. This is where Alexander shines. She delves deep into connection to the human aspects of horror. Yes, sometimes we are afraid of the demons that go bump in the night but there is a primal connection at the heart of every tale. This connection is what makes Alexander’s work unique.
My father’s death was far from peaceful. A heart attack ripped life from him in a single spasm of rage.– from The King of Shadows
Horror comes in many forms and none grander than the horror we do to ourselves or to our ‘loved ones’. The themes of abuse, in all of its rainbow gambit, are central here. Each character presents its own scar—its own battle with demons that many of us may have wrestled with (or still are) in our own lives. We might have a lecherous family member, one who hurt us—one who was protected and allowed to do so—in our lives. Maybe it wasn’t you who was affected, maybe it was someone you loved. To what extent would you seek revenge? Would you kill? How about 1000 times? Would you dare live out your fantasy making the wicked suffer again and again? At what cost do we seek retribution? These are the very real, very grounded questions that Alexander and her characters wrestle with.
I sob uncontrollably as he lifts me, his scarred hands easily overpowering me as he carries me into the clearing. I am just a rag doll to him.-from Though Thy Lips are Pale
Warts and all, or so they say, the world is exposed. Nothing is taboo—by putting something taboo it gives it power. Maria Alexander’s words and work tears down those old power structures and brings them back to the people without voices. Her words brings the power back to those of us who struggle with demons self-made and inherited. By giving the world real (flawed and fucked) characters to struggle with supernatural manifestations of real (flawed and fucked) aspects of life, Alexander is both mistress of her world and exorcist.
“The Writing Retreat” Gone Bad: Julia Bartz’s Debut
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.
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.
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 / 5)
Buy it here!
A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”
“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.
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 / 5)
Woom: An Extreme Horror Novel
“That doesn’t invalidate it,” Angel said. “There’s no statute of limitations on pain.”
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.
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 / 5)