Cover Image: False Bingo

False Bingo

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Member Reviews

Jac Jemc blew me away with her debut My Only Wife, quickly securing my fandom for her.

The worlds in which Jemc's characters reside are slightly off kilter, her stories throb with the sensation that something just isn't right - they produce an itching under the skin, a tingling of the scalp, a raising of the hairs on the back of the neck. No, something is definitely not right here and yet... it remains always just out reach.

She is queen of the strange and eerie, fabulously messing with us as she teases out the tension, allowing our imaginations to begin to run away with us...

While this works effortlessly within her novels, I felt the short story platform did not always lend her the time or space to fully pull it off... in some cases it felt rushed, in others I felt we were only just scratching the surface of what could have made for an amazing novel.
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Jac Jem does it again. Brilliant and disturbing short stories. They are all very compelling and I definitely will recommend this book.
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I was convinced this book was not going to effect me. After putting it down twice I have to say I’m glad I went through with it. There’s a real sense of craft and some memorable work in this book though, for me, it was very uneven. But the tales that stuck were worth returning for. Truly unique and enough great ideas and execution to warrant a return to Jemc’s world in whatever she writes next.
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I loved "False Bingo" for a lot of the same reasons I liked her novel "The Grip of It" - it takes the horror genre and really tones it down but not in a bad way. It makes you stop and take a look at the everyday, sometimes mundane, and see the eerie and evil within it. Some stories were simpler, while some were truly creepy and made me turn my lights back on.
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Jemc’s stories are visceral and violent, no-holds-barred, gritty and hardcore. Her characters hurt fully with anger, and often direct that anger toward others, but always there is a twist, a turn, an edge to the normalcy of a situation that drives it into the surreal and sinister. It’s a dark, brutal collection that is not for little daisies, ye be warned.

Jemc is famous for direct, jarring, in-your-face boldness and unsettling character moralities, told with even more unsettling restraint and precision. There is so much satisfaction in the disturbance, in this undercurrent of otherworldly threat that brushes the surface of everyday life. The collection pulses with electricity, sometimes intermittent, sometimes a constant thrum, but always alive with the absurd, the uncanny, the disquieting, and the darkly humorous, and it shifts between the poignant and the horrifying. From a family slowly watching their dementia-stricken father unravel with a new home-shopping addiction to echoes of the Me Too movement to stolen identities to alternative realities revealing themselves, the thread of this collection is that one tiny misstep can undo everything, and the endings are not always resolved. There’s seldom a clear way out.

Jemc’s been compared to Shirley Jackson and Helen Oyeyemi, but the sadistic and grounded fables in this collection have raised Jemc into a place of her own.

Review on Goodreads:

Review on The Nerdy & Random Bookshelf at The Coil magazine (45k readers, free-access link):

Listed in the Most Anticipated October 2019 Books list at The Coil (free-access link):
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The description of this book made it sounds like something that would be right up my alley; unfortunately, that was not the case. There are 20 stories on just around 250 pages, and therefore the majority of them are underdeveloped without any resolution at the end, making them feel like someone's notebook of story ideas rather than a finished product. There were some highlights - mainly the longer pieces in the collection. I am a fan of short stories and usually enjoy this genre, but I wish this contained maybe only the 5 best stories at triple their length to give the characters and plot lines more space to develop. The author's writing, in all other aspects, is intriguing and well-crafted, and I would be interested in her other works, but this collection missed the mark in my opinion.
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Interesting collection of short stories, most of which I liked.  Some were a bit too esoteric for me and I wasn't quite sure what the author may have wanted to say.
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From the book's description: "The mundane becomes sinister in a disquieting story collection from the author of The Grip of It. In Jac Jemc's dislocating second story collection, False Bingo, we watch as sinister forces--some supernatural, some of this earth, some real and some not--work their ways into the mundanity of everyday life."

This was my biggest concern with Jac Jemc's collection. False Bingo? More like False Advertising. There's really only one straight-on horror story ("Don't Let's") and it's a very good one. The rest are about everyday people (mostly), facing unusual or difficult circumstances. Sure there are creepy moments and stories filled with dread and suspense, but this isn't horror — and that's OK.

The stories are well-written and the collection is quite good. I'm in the marketing business and I understand how her previous novel, The Grip of It, was a ghostly horror story and the publisher wanted to tie this book to that one. But False Bingo stands on its own as a compelling read that displays the range of this author's talent.
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Average rating of all stories: 3.4

Okay okay okay so if you've never read Jac Jemc (I hadn't prior to False Bingo) then I highly recommend checking her out, and this anthology is a fantastic place to start! What makes her prose so wonderful is that she as an author is hidden beneath strong characters and powerful storytelling, but her voice remains nonetheless. False Bingo hosts an array of characters from so many walks of life, different personalities, struggles, and goals, and yet Jemc's stories all have an air of cohesion to them. You know they were penned by the same person, despite how drastically different the plots and point-of-views. 

Lately I've been in this slump where I'd rather watch YouTube before bed than read, but with False Bingo I found myself fighting to keep my eyes open well past my bed time, going, "I can read one more story! I can fit another in!" These stories brought back my love of books from that gray area and I am endlessly thankful for that. 

If you've ever enjoyed a Daniel Woodrell novel or if you liked Stephen King's Night Shift I encourage you to give Jac Jemc's short stories a read. (My favorite was Loser!)
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False Bingo is a short story collection by Jac Jemc.  It's a great anthology where Jac flexes her literary muscles.  She uses the ordinary (similar to Steven Millhauser)  to create a strange and curious narrative.   I loved this collection.
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I love a good scary story! Unfortunately, I was atypically not quite in the mood for one for the past few months, and so False Bingo lingered in my NetGalley queue. That is a reflection on the reader, not the writer. 

Jac Jemc's False Bingo (the reason for the title will become obvious) is a collection of 20 short stories, with varying degrees of creepiness, paranoia, and horror. A couple have elements of gore, especially "Get Back". Most, however, coat ordinary people, places, and things with an ever-thickening layer of menace. I thought of Shirley Jackson, one of my favorites, then saw a dedication to Shirley Jackson under one of the story titles! 

My favorites were:

* The Principal's Ashes, about a second grade teacher who fears her students
* Loser, a savage story about scent and the high school pecking order that will be all too recognizable to every former victim of mean girls and bullies
*Trivial Pursuit, which unleashes the scariest characters among all the drunk drivers, murderers, paranoiacs, and lonely hearts in Jemc's entire book--The Board Game Couple!
* and the final story, Loitering, which contains stories within it and a fantastic twist.

However, False Bingo is a terrific chocolate box that will contain a treat for anyone who likes to be scared sometimes. Your favorites may vary.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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Jac Jemc's collection of short stories are sometimes brilliant enough that you wished they weren't short stories. Even the worst ones are like fever dreams, the mood stays the same but the characters change.
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False Bingo is a remarkable and haunting collection of stories. While reading it, various stories reminded me of some of my other favorite authors- Shirley Jackson, Kelly Link, and Flannery O'Connor, all who in varying degrees were masters of making readers feel unsettled. There's something truly magical about the ability to feel unsettled. Straight horror is one thing, but making the reader feel like something is slightly off (that person is a little *too* friendly, did I really leave that door open?) is something that requires a lot of skill. I prefer feeling unsettled as opposed to being straight up terrified. I love stories without easy answers, ones that fill my imagination for weeks, imagining the details not provided by the author. All of the stories in False Bingo are left open for further pondering, which I absolutely loved. 

If I had to chose a favorite story, it would probably be "Don't Let's," but there was not a story in this collection that I didn't enjoy. False Bingo is easily joining the ranks as one of my favorite short story collections, and I can't wait to shove this into the hands of all my friends, making everyone I know feel a little bit more uneasy. 

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC!
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emc presents a medley of flash exercises in the uncanny with this, her latest short story collection. A whole slate of female writers writing short fiction today are being compared to Shirley Jackson, even when their chosen genre isn't horror. I'm thinking of Kelly Link, Kristen Roupenian, maybe even Carmen Maria Machado. Jemc even designates one story in False Bingo, "Half Dollar," as an homage to Jackson. Sometimes the comparison is apt and earned, sometimes it isn't. Is Shirley Jackson cool for the first time, so now reviewers and writers want to see her everywhere? And why is she cool now? This is the question that interests me most.

If you're looking for something along the thematic or mood lines of Jemc's debut novel, The Grip of It, you won't find it here. There are very few stories in here that could be deemed horror stories. "Don't Let's," one of my favorites in here, comes very close. As in The Grip of It, the house is presented as a hostile and unknown territory, perhaps even sentient, but definitely presenting hidden threats to the protagonist. I also enjoyed "Delivery," which again played with the theme of the house as a force that enables sinister, destructive behavior.

My least favorite stories in this collection were "Get Back" and "Strange Loop." Both stories have protagonists with psychotic tendencies, which again, seems to be a trendy subject among writers recently. The reason behind this interest is interesting, but the subject itself does not interest me. Psychotics are by nature creatures of habit, so things get repetitive real fast, which doesn't make for the most absorbing read. Time and effort spent developing psychotic characters is an exercise in futility, because only a psychotic could hope to understand a psychotic, and also, who really cares? Who would even want to be inside their head? There are many other places to choose to take a reader, far more interesting and relatable places. Thankfully, these two stories are mercifully short. 

I need to read Jemc's two previous story collections, after having read this one and her novel. I admire the breadth of subject matter in these stories, but overall, was underwhelmed by the writing. Jemc's style is sparse and blunt, but with a few exceptions, these stories lack the force that they promise.
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False Bingo by Jac Jemc 

False Bingo is a short story collection written by one of my favorite indie authors. Jemc’s haunted house novel Grip Of It was a spine-tingling descent into the vulnerability of relationships. I loved every single thoughtfully placed syllable in that novel. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself that favor.

In False Bingo, Jemc’s deceptively simple stories transcend. In my favorite short, “Half Dollar,” two young girls play a terrible prank on a devastated widow by pretending they saw her husband’s ghost on the subway. Though one of the girl’s learns a valuable lesson about navigating trust, it’s the way Jemc describes the sorrowful widow that gives this story its elegance: “Before us stood a woman, not thin so much as empty of herself. She had been fuller at some point, and in the once-filled spaces, a lack coaxed our attention.” The writing is just peak art.

And the hits just keep on coming. A false account of a violent break-in awards one woman her freedom, but incites multiple false copycats throughout the neighborhood. A murderer details her methods of torturing males who waste her time. A daughter makes peace with her father’s death while learning he’s not really her father. And many more revelations of falsehoods, deceits, and as the title suggests, false bingos. 

Life is incidental and accidental. And tragically revelatory when viewing the world through Jac Jemc’s lens. Visit her books soon, and visit them often.

Big thanks to NeyGalley for the pre-pub copy in exchange for an honest review. I would have hastled them so hard if they denied me this, so really it was for their own good.
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The description of this collection promised sinister and I feel it failed to deliver that. Interesting and some strange tales for sure though.

There are some really good stories in here ( Don't Let's & Bull's Eye) but the vast majority bored me or just felt dull and unfinished. I feel a little bit of a jerk for saying short stories felt incomplete, but hey, it's my opinion. I wanted more of the subtle creeping dread I got from the author's novel The Grip of It, but only a few stories went there.

Worth a read, but not a buy.
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any other 1/5 - i don't understand lmao this girl bethany jus wylin' out playing pretend, huh? 

delivery 4/5 - upon finishing i out loud said, "what?" this was such a mind fk and i honestly have no idea what i just read but i enjoyed it and want more, i want to understand what was really going on

strange loop 4/5 - so many creepy undertones. ouroboros.

the principal's ashes 4/5 - this felt haunting in a real world way.

don't let's 4/5 - so far maybe this is my favorite story. some myths mimic real life too much, fears are parallel with reality and nonreality, which is worse, what we know or what we can't see? maybe it's the same thing, a projection. maybe it's easier to paint a narrative than see the actual threat.

get back 3/5 - "How long would I feel this urge to seek justice on those who did me even minor wrongs?" "Death is but a scar." is this a tale of imagination or fact?

pastoral 2/5 - "You have been waiting for the threat. That is where you are wrong." was the best part of this one.

loser 5/5 - this was relatable. being the outcast that will never be accepted even if you do things similar to the elite. they're going to stay stuck on their opinion regardless because that's who they are, and you aren't the issue. they're not the people you need acceptance from anyway. you aren't the loser. you aren't losing. yes, you're winning. yes, you're finding.

the halifax slasher 4/5 - it's terrifying what women face in this world, but something terrifying in a similar way is lying about a real issue women actually face. why would you want to be a part of such a horrible epidemic by falsifying and pretending to be a victim of it instead of reaching out and helping the true victims at the hands of these assaults. this is sick. tragedy isn't something to lie about.

bull's-eye 5/5 - i've gone and played bingo a lot and this described the feeling of a bingo hall entirely. this also had me thinking a lot about what makes a person good or bad. sometimes good people are just more opportune to doing bad actions, have more chances, more openings, and the bad will find a way to do so regardless of the circumstances.

half dollar 5/5 - manipulative friendships. cruelty to others at your own expense. "doubt fell over where it was i should have laid my trust."

manifest 1/5 - obsession. ocd. unhinged.

gladness or joy 5/5 - i loved every second of this, every line, especially that last piece W O W that was amazing and filled me with so many emotions.

default 3/5 - i enjoyed the beginning of this, the string of words. the last half was depressing.

maulawiyah 5/5 - very human. toxic. no effort. in order to truly change you have to look within yourself, even at the parts you don't want to face. it's too easy to pretend certain things about yourself don't exist, but they're there and others will see them and be affected by them. you're in control of you and should work toward being better for yourself and others. don't lay your burdens on them continuously while simultaneously not even trying to fix it. 

hunt and catch 4/5 - paranoia. this had a heavy unease to it

under/over 4/5 - expectations. selfishness. refusing to understand. annoyance at being reminded factual details. belittlement. self praise. entitlement. ungrateful. 

kudzu 5/5 - i'd read an entire novel about this. i want to live in the woods and have skills society doesn't have or understand.

trivial pursuit 3/5 - a board game is a board game is a board game

loitering 5/5 - this story fked me up. i feel shellshocked right now.
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False Bingo provides us with a fabulous compilation of short stories published by Jac Jemc. Short story books appeal to me, because there isn’t a huge time commitment involved in reading them. You can read a story, or two, or even three when the urge strikes. There is not an overall theme to the stories in this book. Some of them were more appealing than others. Some ended rather abruptly leaving the reader to think, what happened? Needless to say, I enjoyed the book. It was interesting, well written and a rather fun diversion from the usual novels.

This review will be posted at close to publication date.
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False Bingo is a collection of fictional tales in the which the reader is given a brief glimpse into each of the characters’ lives. Some of the stories explore real events while others observe more events bordering or completely outside reality. This is a difficult review to write because some of the stories I found absolutely fascinating while others just didn't hold my attention. Most of the stories felt incomplete, almost a teaser instead of a full reveal. Overall this was an interesting and entertaining novel for fans of Jac Jemc's work.
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Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. I hate to say that I just was NOT impressed with these stories. It may take a certain reader to enjoy the vagueness and stories that just went no where, to me.
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