This book as a whole, as well as the stories themselves, rate as a solid 3.5 stars. However, I see potential in these stories to become 5 star quality. Twisted Endings 1: 5 Acts of Vengeance by Timothy D. McLendon, is a collection of 5 short stories. It is classified in the “horror” genre.
Maybe I am just too jaded from reading horror fiction for years, but I found this book very tame. Now, that isn’t always a bad thing. I see many reviews in the horror section of people claiming things need to be more tame. In my opinion, when you go into any horror section, you need to be ready to get something that is downright horrific and disturbing, in every sense. Since some people can’t handle even mild forms of this, I think this book fills that gap of a “tame horror” book, if that is even a thing.
Each story had it’s own problems and successes. However, there were things that all the stories shared, to some extent. To me, every story felt rushed. Some more so than others. On the other hand, they all seemed crowded with needless descriptive details. Maybe giving less description of everything would allow for the story to unfold just a bit more, without the feeling of being rushed. These are short stories, so there isn’t a lot of space to cram in descriptive details as well as letting the story develope at a more natural pace. However, making any of these stories longer could also serve to allow for the story to develop more.
- The Bedbug Conundrum: My first issue is with the word “bedbug”. That is not one word, but two. Not only is it spelled this way in the title, but every time it is used in the book. A minor, but annoying issue. Another minor, but annoying issue, is the fact that Jim says he has 6 siblings, all with different blood types. Even if mom was sleeping around behind dads back, out of 7 kids, at least some would share the same blood type, which makes this claim impossible. Not to mention, the whole point of that is to say he knows about bed bugs. Yet, he is willing to take in a more than likely contaminated bat into his home! Bed bugs latch onto any and everything. Bringing anything into your home that was somewhere that was infected with them would more than likely mean you now have them. Jim should know this. Marcus needs to have his irrational and insane level of jealousy to have the rest of the story make sense, but it is over the top, even for what happens. The across the hall neighbor says “Hi” to his wife, and he threatens to smash his face in. Well good morning to you too jerk! Maybe it wouldn’t stand out as much if the neighbor wasn’t so dang happy about being threatened. The irrational hatred of this neighbor is one of the first things we learn in this story. Some editing is needed. Things like “What had he had?” ended up in the story. While in context, the reader is able to figure out it should say “What had he done?”, it still jolts the reader out of the story. Something that isn’t good for the flow or emotional buildup in a story. Hopefully the author will soon fix the minor editing issues, which would leave me looking hard for things wrong with the story.
However, this story does build up some nice suspense, which is not an easy task for a short story. It sets things up nicely, so you know who the characters are right away. Marcus is an old fashioned, overworked, and totally jealous husband. His wife obliges these old fashioned ways, like not letting her have a job, even if she thinks it would help them out. You can tell she loves him despite his faults, which is the only reason their relationship has survived the hard times and the unfounded jealousy that Marcus has.
**Some slight spoilers for this story**
So the wife lays down for less than 5 minutes to throw off suspicion? Really? How did he not catch her leaving bed before this? Nobody uses a $5,000 bat that their father left him before died, for revenge. They just don’t! There are plenty of other weapons. I know, it was probably used to show the level of hatred and all that, but common sense says no way. He needs the money to survive, not to mention his emotional attachment. Then later, he seems all fine about the fact that he has ruined something with such a deep emotional connection to him. Makes no sense. Shed a tear that the last thing you have from your father is gone, do something! One big question mark is, how the heck is her ubber jealous husband not even going to question that huge check. He is jealous of a man saying “hi”, but not of a ton of money? Really odd.
The real problem with this story, is that after it ended I was laughing! Yeah, laughter is not what I want to be doing at the end of a horror story. The story as a whole wasn’t funny, but the ending was more humorous than anything else. At least the last couple lines. But it isn’t a bad read. Sorry, I can’t tell you the two lines that left me laughing because it would ruin the entire story. But just know it was more ironic laughter and bewilderment at the characters mindset, than really funny. Though I didn’t laugh until the last sentence spoken by Marcus. So maybe it was a tad funny under the circumstances. But still, not a bad story.
- Mama’s Cherry Pie: Very minor editing is needed. Mostly punctuation editing. The description of “mama” and “papa” in the beginning seems overly drawn out. There are quicker ways to get to the point of what the author wants us to know, without it feeling so drug out. However, “mama” seems to contradict everything we are told about her on the next page. This makes the reader wonder what the heck the intro was talking about in regards to this character. The ending becomes clear before the author intends, so the “twist” isn’t a surprise. I kept thinking, “Ok, I know what’s coming. When will we get there?”. Not from page one, but I will just say I got it very quickly once they were sitting in the living room.
Despite these faults, I think it’s a good story. Honestly, there are people out there like “mama” and “papa”, so this horror story, while an over the top outcome, isn’t something that hasn’t happened, in some form or another. I think that is what makes it more frightful, the possibility of it all. This was a nice read, even though I called the ending in a way part way through. I don’t think everyone would be able to guess the twist though. So don’t let the fact that this horror genre junky figured it out scare you off. This story also built up the suspense well in just a short span of time. That is a big reason why this author has 5 star potential, there is real writing skill in this book.
- Panhandled: Everybody “said” this and “said” that. There needed to be some variation in telling about how the characters spoke. Luckily, none of the other stories had this issue. Overtime you are able to kind of tune it out as well. This stories features 2 veterans as the main characters. I think their emotional struggles show very well the toll that things like war, and what these soldiers did, takes on people. You don’t love these characters, but you love to find out about them. They are not meant to be loved, they are meant to be rough around the edges. However, you are not turned off by them to the point you want to start reading. There is a balancing act to that kind of character, and I think this author succeeded in doing it well.
**Some Spoilers For This Story**
Why attack the women? Why attack her first? How were the wedding bands never noticed? The way they spoke never sounded like a hooker and a John. The “I Love You” should have been a big clue. Almost from the beginning of the attack, my head was screaming at Joe to stop calling Velma a hooker, when it was very clear she wasn’t. I know, it’s meant to build tension and come for the big shock at the end, but it just kind of bugged me. But, maybe it was supposed to bug me. Maybe the author wants you to be screaming at the characters the whole time, so the end is even more of a shock and tragedy. If so, the author nailed it. Completely nailed it. Now don’t worry, none of this makes this story a bad one. I just think it’s my least favorite of the 5, but still worth a read.
**End of Spoilers**
- Feels Like Family: Needs some punctuation editing. While I don’t think this is a bad story, how is this horror? It’s not twisted or scary in the least. It’s clear that some of the characters can be violent, but I don’t see horror in this story. It just feels out of place for this collection. But, I wouldn’t say to skip it while reading. Just be prepared for it to not “fit”.
I’m not sure how to describe this one, without giving away key points. We have our main character, who is looking for her mother. Her mother had given her up at birth, but she has used Facebook and a PI to try to find her. Her husband tags along, just incase someone is trying to take advantage of her. We join her after several frauds, when she is approaching the house of yet another woman who claims to be the woman who gave her up at birth. This story really shows the emotional toll a journey like this can take, and the willingness to just want to accept whoever comes along to end the pain.
- Death Trance: Seriously, I can tell this author likes the song “A Warrior’s Call”. It’s used more than once in this book, and this story is no exception. Other than connecting/intersecting with a few of the other stories, not much to it. It doesn’t actually intersect always during a story either. Some are before or after what we know about. I obviously missed something about that soap shop at the end. Yeah, I know what was on his apron, but the conversation at the end, and who Johnson and David were, confused me. To the point I reread the whole book. I still have no clue about them. I think if the author expanded the ending, it could be an amazing story in its own right, even as a full length novel. Seriously, I hope the author gets the urge to do that, because I would sign right up for that book. By the way, you will never really know what happened to Samantha. You kind of will, but not really. No clue how he “saw worse” when she died, no clue the circumstances of it, other than that she was in a car. So don’t be confused when you get to the end and that isn’t wrapped up for you.
All in all, it’s a decent and quick read. It’s a book I would read if I want a taste of “horror”, without delving into the dark pits of the soulless that some authors give you. While I love that type of writing, you do sometimes need a lighter read. I would classify this as a “light read” for myself. Others may find it slightly more dark than that.
I received this book for free from Story Cartel in exchange for a TRUE review. It’s $0.99 on Amazon as of this review here:
Just because I received it for free, that doesn’t mean my opinions are skewed by that. I have never spoken with the author, and do it all through Story Cartel, which is a 3rd party site. They allow you to continue to receive books, no matter what ratings you leave.