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Saturday, April 24, 2021

Book Review: TWISTED: TAINTED TALES by Janine Pipe


I think it’s important to let other readers know that the author of this collection is a friend of mine and it’s always difficult to be entirely honest about my reading experience knowing full well that they will read every word and take it to heart. But I did decide I would read/review this with my critical hat on and make sure to be totally true/honest and approach this review like I would anything else.

I would shelve this particular collection of short stories next to my Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Treasury. The writing feels straightforward and accessible in the same tradition. Janine writes much like she talks; it’s unfiltered and free from any pretenses or fussy literary devices. Clean & simple. 
As far as the format is concerned, I had some issues with the introduction in the beginning and the use of introductions for every story. They prefaced the stories too much, almost like a way of explaining to the reader how to feel about the story before reading it. I’ve never encountered anything like that before and I decided to skip them halfway through. Reading the author talking about their own work from an imaginary POV just didn’t work for me.

In contrast, I loved the author’s notes at the end of the stories. Because Janine is my friend, these notes were like having a conversation with her after each one. 
All of that being said, Janine Pipe’s storytelling is like the blade of a knife piercing through your innermost parts with the deft precision of a skilled maniac.
Clearly, she is influenced by her favorite authors (who are some of my favorites too). I love the passion and dedication she shows improving her craft. I took notice of Janine right away when she burst on the scene. I remember DMing Tim Meyer on Twitter like, “Woah! This Janine gal!” If I were to write a blog post about her, the title would be “Who’s That Girl” (Madonna) because I can’t imagine our horror community without her big personality. One minute it was a quiet night with a full moon and the next minute Janine was howling at that moon inspiring all of us to howl along with her. 
I am proud to call her a friend and I’m excited to sit back and watch her career blossom. Kicking ass, taking names, and checking off that bucket list. Debut author collection? Achievement unlocked. 

Foreword- Glenn Rolfe
Introduction- Jill
Track 1- FOOTSTEPS: This is Janine's story in DIABOLICA BRITANNICA which is an anthology for charity. I haven't finished that book but I did read Janine's tale and thought it was great werewolf Splatterpunk. It has been nominated for a Splatterpunk Award so other people must have thought it was great too!

Track 2- WHEN DOVES CRY: A short, almost flash fiction style story because there's no real meat on these bones; no filler; doesn’t need any. Reads like a Scary Story to Tell in the Dark folklore/legend style.

Track 3- I WANT TO BREAK FREE: A "his" and "her" narrative with a predator/prey/human monsters theme. Fast and urgent. Uniquely Janine's whip-crack style.

Track 4- MANEATER: One of my favorites in the collection. Janine's wheelhouse is in writing what she knows, authentic dialog, and a fast-forward pace that keeps readers engaged. This one as it all.

Track 5- ADDICTED TO LOVE: Pretty gratuitous sex and violence simply for the sake of it. This would make a great addition to an anthology of similar stories but all by itself, I found it to be a little thin.

Track 6- SWEET CHILD O MINE: A proper story that I enjoyed but it ended as soon as it got going. I wanted a little more from this one. Maybe just like two more pages worth of character development or exposition. 

Track 7- TAINTED LOVE: Okay, this one had a few issues that irked me. Some real confusion between love and lust and also, how the fuck did the narrator know that the guy's name was Adam? He seemed to be a total stranger on the bus! I went through it twice looking for the moment or opportunity for the name and couldn't find it so now I'm like, HEY! Lol

Track 8- LOST IN THE SHADOWS: "Hunter's Hamburgers Catering Company" Lol. Janine works in pop culture references like an artist in clay. Fun story.

Track 9- IT'S A SIN: Another favorite in the collection. I love when Janine writes from a child’s POV. It feels very authentic and the narrative just flows easily and fluidly with sweet innocence. 

Track 10- LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD: This is a case of too many pop culture references. It kind of muddies my brain with a lot of imagery from other works and not enough originality to stand on its own. I lost my way with this one.

Track 11- RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL: I love this tale! Another great example that Janine’s writing shines when she’s in very familiar territory. The Legend of Trent Barrow feels like it could be the titular tale in a Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark tribute anthology. I related to the narrator as she navigates her teenage scene. So realistic.

Track 12- PARADISE CITY: Ugh. I tapped out of this one actually. The subject matter with young boys jerking off and stuff just skeeved me out. 

Track 13- SCHOOL'S OUT FOREVER…: Authentic dialog. Easy, accessible storytelling. Fun.

Track 14- LIVING ON A PRAYER: Fun flash fiction. Authentic POV.

Track 15- BONES OF BOARDED-UP BABY BODIES BEHIND THE BATH-PANEL: I love when Janine leans into her context and utilizes Brit-slang. I enjoyed this one. I liked the ambiguity. It works.

Track 16- NOBODY'S FOOL: I could see this story idea more fully fleshed out in a novella. This stands well on its own as a very short story but I think there’s more here to uncover because I was left feeling a little unsatisfied. I want more, Janine!

Track 17- THEY: A favorite for me. I enjoyed the storytelling on this werewolf tale. It’s easy to see that Janine strives after her influences to produce stories her mentors would be proud of. This particular tale is fashioned as an homage to them, clearly. 


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