Twisted: Tainted Tales by Janine Pipe
Updated: May 4
Just to get this out of the way– because this review is a review of another reviewer’s first novel, this then becomes:
“a reviewer’s review, reviewing a reviewer’s debut.” 😁
I just wanted to get that out there before anyone else does. You’re welcome.
Janine’s book is a collection of short stories. Seventeen short stories, to be exact, and honestly, they are a mixed bag. Janine has spent time and energy in forming the different stories into a coherent whole, through various techniques, some of which worked for me, some of which didn’t.
The overlaid theme of the 80’s worked for me. It hit home (probably due to my familiarity with the era – yes, I was in a hospital bed for 4 of the 80’s years, but the culture of a bedridden teenager narrows down to books, and music and a lot of what Janine loved about the ’80s struck a chord with me. She has named all of the stories after 80’s songs, a tip of the hat to influences that shaped her, defined her, one assumes. I mean, they defined me too, so I get where a lot of the love here is coming from.
There are multiple stories here with teenagers as the MCs. I think that’s probably down to Janine associating this to the 80’s – I can imagine she was herself a teenager at the time (or becoming one), so it’s not surprising that that repeats here. Is that me reading too much into it? I don’t think so – I was massively influenced by Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Jaws, Stephen Spielberg films – exactly the films I was able to watch at that time. I can’t imagine it otherwise for anyone else.
To further connect the stories, Janine set up a storyline where a character finds “lost stories” from an author, and presents the stories to us, giving a quick introduction and hints to what you are about to read. I can say that, though it’s a clever idea, it didn’t work for me. It felt like the author was telling me how clever, or shocking, or brutal the stories were going to be. I stopped reading the introductions after about the fourth one, because they were pre-empting the experience of the stories themselves, and telling me when twists or brutality or sexuality was about to be mentioned.
So, let’s get that cleared up straight away – it is an element I didn’t like, so I moved on, my review will not “degrade” Janine on an artistic decision that I disliked. We shall be looking at the stories themselves to determine overall appreciation.
Let’s look at the highlights:
The last short of the book feels like it’s been singled out. This is Janine at the top of her game, it’s a monster she sometimes associates with and is up-front on the cover. Werewolves are in trend, and this is a great short, well-written, the flow was great, peppered with teenage angst and concentrating on the small things that rock at that age – a kiss as a reward, for example. Great details, I loved this.
Despite the pov error at the beginning (she can’t know his name is Adam, even though I get she is just calling him “Adam” because that is the name of the thing she is creating) I liked this a lot. It’s full of the MC’s personal experience, feelings, rage, the sensory detail is off the chart and really carries this. This was excellent. More of this deep 1st person perspective, Janine! This is something you did really well, and the twist and explanation worked for me.
The detective aspect to this one helped push it – in my opinion.
Ok. So those were my highlights. I read it all in one day, so it’s easy reading, the flow is generally good in all of the pieces, a hard thing to achieve with me as the reader, bearing in mind I am a detail nerd.
There are things here that frustrated me, ambiguity is ok, I get that, but the "?" note that I wrote after reading “Love is a battlefield” tells you that it was a shame. On the other end of the scale, and also bearing in mind the confined nature of the short story, I think Janine went out of her way to tie up all of the loose ends in some of the stories, and that felt a little rushed in comparison to their slow-burn nature after the high point was reached. . But I get it – it’s also important to leave the story with closure.
I’m giving this a 3,5 out of 5 stars, rounded up to a 4 on Goodreads because this is a debut and a gutsy one, and I think the 80’s theme worked really well (Also, compliments to the cover artist). I look forward to more work from Janine, and the easter egg name drops continue to entertain.
Congratulations on the Debut, Janine.