I’m not usually one for anthologies, if I’m being completely honest. I enjoy short stories because I can blow through them and it makes me feel like a good reader, but I do find it hard to stay interested in a book full of them, with no connection from story to story. That being said, when I met Christa Carmen, author of SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLOOD-SOAKED at Necronomicon in Providence this year, I had to buy the book.
Christa is a Rhode Island local, which is really enough to get me to pick up a book to begin with (I was at what was essentially an H.P. Lovecraft festival, after all). She’s also incredibly nice–one of the nicest vendors I talked to that day, and that’s saying something because everyone was so friendly. She handed me her phone with the Amazon descripton for her book ready to go, since she ran out of her PR materials for the weekend. The description boasted of feminist horror, and I was instantly hooked.
After reading the anthology in full, I give it a solid 3.5 stars. I started the book on October 9, and finished it on October 13.
Some of the stories were great. They stuck with me long after putting the book down–Red Room, Lady of the Flies, and, most of all, Flowers From Amaryllis. This last story was by far the most moving. It was definitely a horror story, but it was a wholesome horror story. I read it on a plane back to Providence, and nearly cried in the lobby while waiting for my ride. I still tear up thinking about it, weeks later. I won’t spoil it, but just know that just about anything with animals can get me to cry.
(Seriously, if you read nothing else today, read Flowers From Amaryllis.)
Some of the stories were creepy and fun. The Girl Who Loved Bruce Campbell was hilariously gory, with heavy influences from Ash vs. The Evil Dead. It was cute and entertaining and definitely a fun Halloween read. The One Who Answers the Door was another great one; it was short, only six pages long, but Christa really captured the preteen attitude in this one–that “I’m not scared of anything but actually wait you knock on the door first” sort of attitude–and I loved it. The ending is abrupt and jarring and exactly what I love in a scary story.
My biggest qualm with this anthology, though, was the heavy drug references throughout. I can appreciate the way Christa tried to balance real life horrors with imagined horrors, but the heroine stories were by far my least favorites. They dragged. Liquid Handcuffs felt predictable and longer than necessary (though I do admit that the premise of this story–being kidnapped and drugged with heroine for a week straight–is absolutely terrifying). Wolves at the Door and Bears in the Forest stuck with me in a bad way. I found it incredibly upsetting, and at times even somewhat triggering. The ending wasn’t satisfying at all. Molly, the main character, spends the whole story as a loving mother going through a tough time, recovering from addiction and putting herself on the line to give her daughter a good life. At the very end, she throws it all away. I wanted to scream reading it. It wasn’t horror–it was just sad.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Christa Carmen is a very talented writer, working with several different types of horror here–ranging from the very-realistic to the very-imagined, with all sorts of spooky bits in between. I definitely recommend this anthology for a spooky fall night when the leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping, and Friday the 13th is playing on TV. But be warned, there is a lot of gore, a lot of drugs, and a significant amount of other troubling topics, like suicide, sexual abuse, bullying, and more.
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