Mini-Review Dump💩: Petrified Women, The Lodge, The Skeleton Tree and The Retreat

maya rudolph feedback GIF by NETFLIX

Reviews in this post:

  • Petrified Women by Jeremy Ray
  • The Lodge by Chris Coppel
  • The Skeleton Tree by Diane Janes
  • The Retreat by Elisabeth de Mariaffi

🔪Petrified Women by Jeremy Ray

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★★★

Infinite Ray Publishing | 2021

Filed Under: Getting a woody

This short story is… really odd. While I certainly love the uniqueness of the plot and the idea of spooky wooden women, most of the plot points were really hard for me to get behind. Like, I cannot believe this young woman hung off a fire escape like she was in Die Hard over the worst fucking boyfriend.

The only character I liked was the friend who was suspish of the BF and tried to talk sense into the MC. Said MC is annoying and seemed to be written with the intelligence level of a 12-year-old. I’m not sure why writing a naïve, meek female requires them to also be childish as well. Riddle me that!

But, the boyfriend is the FUCKING WORST. The extreme pranking thing was so fucking egregious, I can’t even. How does this guy have friends or any kind of long-term relationship? No one would put up with that. I don’t believe it. If I were to start dating someone who immediately scared the shit out of me repeatedly, GOODBYE.

I get that we’re supposed to be witnessing someone fall into a toxic relationship, but that didn’t totally click for me because the pranking was so unlikeable. The two things didn’t really mesh well.

I feel like most of what happened was just meant to facilitate the plot, instead of seeming like genuine events. As in, there has to be pranking so she has a reason to hide in the closet, so she can see what happens when the boyfriend gets home, etc. That kind of writing is not for me.

But, on the flip side of that, this does have a truly unique plot and I loved how it ended.

If any of that gnaws your wood, go for it.

The vibe for this one:

Animal Town Art GIF by PBS KIDS

Synopsis: Goodreads

Book source: The author in exchange for a review.

🔪The Lodge by Chris Coppel

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Troubadour Publishing | 2020

Filed Under: Meat are Murderers

For me, this was terrible. I can’t even begin to describe how badly I feel it missed the mark on what the blurb sets the expectation to be. Is this supposed to be a horror-comedy? Because nobody was funny, but like the mounted deer head crawling across the floor using its antlers? I don’t feel like I was in on the jokes, if there was one.

I have said in the past that locked-room mysteries are good even when they’re bad, but this is an exception to the rule. Because this was boring, and when it wasn’t, it was ridiculous.

We spend way too much time on dialogue, description and the life stories of all the guests at this fucking lodge and, in the end, none of it had any impact on the core of the plot, so why the fuck am I reading ten pages of history on this random person?

The novella really drags because of this and when we’re brought back to the present, almost zero opportunity is taken to create tension, suspense or scary moments.

So it’s not really horror, even though it’s presented that way.

Um, yeah, I have nothing good to say about this. I get the point it wanted to make about hunting and meat-eating, but it was so heavy-handed and silly.

I can’t with this book. I don’t understand why… yeah, just why.

The vibe for this one:

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Synopsis: Goodreads

Book source: The publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review

🔪The Skeleton Tree by Diane Janes

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½

Severn House Publishers | 2021

Filed Under: Set it on fire, collect the insurance

I’ve never before given a half-star rating. This novella gets the honour of being the first-ever because it’s the worst fucking story I’ve ever read. I’m sorry, but I have to just say it like ripping off a Band-aid.

It’s not even that the writing voice is bad because it’s not, but the plot and the characters can get fucked. I can’t even believe I gave three hours of my life reading about a fucking idiot being obsessed with a house that wasn’t even haunted!

I spent 90% of my time thinking Bitch, turn on HGTV like the rest of us and pay attention to your family.

Seriously, Wendy sucks so much ass. I hated her. And her daughter Tara, I hope she gets hit by a fucking train.

There could have been a good story here, but for some reason, the author spends all of it on Wendy’s POV worrying, obsessing and generally being the most annoying person in the world as she talks about things incessantly but never does anything.

Because seriously, almost nothing happens in this story. Nothing mysterious, nothing spooky. There’s no tension, no suspense, no mystery. The missing girl and the possible serial killer construction guy are forgotten afterthoughts, overshadowed by Wendy and her heart-eyes for a crappy old house.

There was no point in any of this. I guess we’re here to watch a woman’s descent into self-inflicted isolation, but I hated it very much, thank you.

The vibe for this one:

Season 4 Burn GIF by Black Sails

Synopsis: Goodreads

Book source: The publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review

🔪The Retreat by Elisabeth De Mariaffi

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★★

Mulholland Books | 2021

Filed Under: Nobody puts baby in the corner…of an avalanche

I liked the atmosphere and setting of this one, but unfortunately, it mostly fell flat when it came to everything else.

A retired dancer goes to a secluded artist retreat in the mountains to work on her dancing because I guess that has something to do with running her own studio? It’s not explained enough to give me a clue and I’m not a dancer. There are a handful of other artists at the retreat as well, but it’s the off-season so the retreat has Overlook Hotel isolation vibes. The MC, Maeve, has a dead abusive husband and trauma issues due to that, which she is bringing with her to the retreat. Then an avalanche hits and everything goes to shit.

Honestly, I found a lot of this confusing and vague. There’s seemingly no backstory for any of the characters so their actions exist untethered in the plot and it rarely makes sense. Maeve, though more fleshed out, gets into situations that go from 0 to 100 without clear directions on how anything escalated.

Nothing really happens in the plot until after well past the halfway mark, and given this is written as taking place over one week, it really makes the novel DRAG like hauling a dead body. Like, Oooo it’s snowing again and that weird guy is being creepy but no one can tell me fucking why. Really, just why? I didn’t understand a single character’s motivation. Not a single one.

This was so choppy and disconnected from the reader’s experience.

There was something to the parallels between the past abusive relationship and the little fling Maeve gets into with an overindulgent artist douche, but it didn’t really hit the way it was probably meant to. The ending is a bit flat, but it did try to get crazy with a bear and helicopter nonsense, so points for that.

The vibe for this one:

no idea wtf GIF by South Park

Synopsis: Goodreads

Book source: The publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review.

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