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A couple of months ago, I read Samanta Schweblin’s “Fever Dream,” a novella I raced through in one sitting, compelled by the weirdness and creepy vibe the story gave off. I hardly knew what was going on and had no definitive answers to that by the time I finished; however, I immediately wanted to pick it up and reread it again. Schweblin has a way of creating an ambience in which the reader lives, treading water and grappling for the concrete side of the swimming pool to hang onto. Schweblin’s short story collection, Mouthful of Birds, is no different.

Some of my favorite stories were towards the beginning of the collection: “Preserves,” “Butterflies,” and “Mouthful of Birds.” The story “Olingiris” towards the middle of the collection was also a favorite.

In “Preserves,” the reader follows mysterious events shrouded in fog to watch a young woman and her partner shrink their baby in the womb until the woman spits it out, the size of an almond. The pair follow directions carefully, drinking tinctures and observing visitation closely. Schweblin is the master of making you question what the hell is even going on while you’re still voraciously turning the pages. This story comments on deep political issues below the surface, and considering Schweblin is Argentinian, perhaps some cultural commentary is happening as well.

“Butterflies” is the greatest two-and-a-half-page story that I’ve ever read. The surrealistic quality that Schweblin brings to fiction is dreamlike and effervescent. In “Butterflies,” a father waits for his daughter outside of school, and when butterflies fly from the school, the father crushes one. He seems to intuit that he has killed his own daughter. Summarizing Schweblin’s prose really deduces its merit, and there is just no way to put into words how masterful she is. If you only read one story by Schweblin, this is a great one to pick. “Butterflies” is a condensed version of Schweblin’s style and will hook you immediately.

“Olingiris” is a story that follows a couple women, jumping in perspective so that the reader travels with the lower-income women and what they do to get by. In true Schweblin style, this is a corporation that hires women to let other women rip hair from their bodies one by one with tweezers, an event that seems to be very ritualistic and stress relieving for the rich women paying to exacerbate their disappointment with their own lives into the pain for the “model.” This story does really dynamic things with perspective and shifting expectations.

I’m so glad that Schweblin has another novel being published in English in May. I just cannot get enough of her creepy, twisting narratives and highly anticipate Little Eyes this spring.

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

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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Book Reviews

Did She Do It? Stacy Willingham’s “All the Dangerous Things” Asks Us Just This

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One year ago, Isabelle’s life crumbled when her baby was abducted from her home. Her marriage to her husband, Ben, is destroyed as they try to navigate the fallout.

The Plot

Even one year after the abduction, Isabelle seeks answers. She is still doing appearances at true crime expos to get information on the attendees, thinking the abductor will be there one day. Abductors usually revisit their crime and Isabelle swaps her appearances for the event guest list, never taking any money for her talks.

Some think that Isabelle killed her own baby as evidence from the case says the perpetrator came from inside the house. Isabelle hasn’t slept – not fully – since Mason was abducted. Her therapist is worried that she may be having hallucinations. Is Isabelle the killer or is she on a quest for true justice?

The Verdict

I absolutely loved the complication of not knowing whether Isabelle was a reliable or unreliable narrator. This was my favorite aspect of the novel. It made me question everything that Isabelle had to say and the actions she executed.

Isabelle is a character that, as a mother, I really felt for. I wanted to believe that Isabelle was innocent, but I was hanging on the edge of my seat waiting to find out. Stacy Willingham is the master of a story that winds all around, waiting for you to find the truth.

If you are interested in reading Willingham’s first novel, A Flicker in the Dark, check out my review here.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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