Short Take: Put a little something spooky in their stockings.
Note: I was gifted a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I have reviewed some of these stories previously, in Wrapped in Black. So I’m going to break this review into two parts. If you’ve read my Wrapped in Black review, you can skip the first one, as it’s a copy/paste of my original.
Stories I have reviewed previously, from Wrapped in Black:
UNTO THE EARTH by Patrick C. Greene: Probably the story that I felt had the biggest shocker-twist-wait…what?? ending in the collection. I’m not going to spoil it here, but trust me, it’s a GOOD one. This story is also the one that screwed with my emotions a surprising amount for such a brief tale.
HÄXENHAUS by Nick Kimbro: The medieval setting was a great backdrop, and the atmosphere was wonderfully realized.
BEAUTIFUL, BROKEN THINGS by Rose Blackthorn: A tough one. It seemed to take place in a futuristic version of a typical US city, but that wasn’t really clear, so some of the references (like the drug Prizm) were awkwardly shoved in. I liked the story, but think it would have worked better without being bogged down by the sci-fi aspects.
SHE MAKES MY SKIN CRAWL by Shenoa Carroll-Bradd: Shenoa Carroll-Bradd is just not right. This is one of the most crazily-inventive stories I’ve read in ages, but damn did it make me queasy. Some serious nightmare-fuel, but at the same time, so ridiculously out-there that you can’t help but love the craziness.
HAIR SHIRT DRAG by Gordon White: The voice of the narrator (Jesse) is so completely matter-of-fact about himself and his life and the extent to which he is “over it” that you can’t help but want to listen to him all night. I mean, come on: “I ain’t never read the Key of Solomon, but I read the Book of Kings. Rest of the Bible, too, back when Mama thought that’d help me fit in. It didn’t, I won’t, and, truth be told, I ain’t all that broken up about it.” With three sentences, White has created an entire personality. Oh yeah, there’s a story here too, and it’s a good one (seriously), but truth be told, I would read a whole novel of Jesse doing things like grocery shopping and making coffee.
New (to me) stories:
DADDY’S GLASSES by Allison M. Dickson: This is not a ghost story. This is a story about family and secrets and guilt and love that just happens to have some creepy glasses in it. As always, wonderful detail to character, voice, and place.
MY BOSS IS A VAMPIRE by Michael David Matula: FUN. Funny. “Even with a monstrous paycheck, could she in good conscience work for such a monster? Could she take his blood money and buy a nice apartment and a ton of awesome shoes? Probably. Yeah. That sounded exactly like something she’d do.” Giggling while reading horror stories is a good time, y’all.
INSEPARABLE Solomon Archer, Ph.D.: Trippy, atmospheric, and gory. The story moves like a top that’s winding down. It spins, and tips, and dips in a different direction, and rights itself, and spins a different way. It’s the bad dream that you can’t quite wake up from, and can’t completely remember.
DADDY USED TO DRINK TOO MUCH by Michael G. Williams – wonderfully voiced, finely nuanced, a story of the sacrifices we make for our children, and the demons that all of us live with. And a vampire.
THE CURSE OF KIRBY by Patrick C. Greene – his 2nd entry in this collection. So let’s say you have the neighbors from hell. And you happen to bump into a Goth-ish girl who can communicate with ghosts, and sort-of control a particularly strong one. The results could be gory, hilarious, a bit heartbreaking, or even all of the above. LOVED THIS.
VERMILION by Bryan W. Alaspa: Ohhhhhh, the visuals on this were so great! The flood, the attacks, the explosions…. this is one of those stories that I’d love to see as a movie.
AIN’T THEY BRIGHT by Cecilia Dockins – Hospitals are creepy even when they aren’t haunted. This story is a great, weird mix of medical lingo, emotional upset, and gore. It’s not an easy or quick read, but worth the bit of extra effort. The sadness of the ending was an unexpected bit of loveliness.
NIGHTBOUND by Patrick C. Greene – (Before I review this story, I’d like to point out that Patrick C. Greene is the only author to have three stories in this collection. When I skimmed the table of contents, and saw his name over and over, I may have rolled my eyes a bit at the lack of variety (I will neither confirm nor deny this). But after reading all three of his entries, all I can say is: He’s just really that good.)
Nightbound may be my favorite story in this collection. Breaking into an abandoned mansion and finding coffins in the basement seems like a vampire story cliche. But the buildup is what elevates it. There’s a whole other story here, about escaped convicts, a heist, bags of money, a sociopath, and a girl who’s prettier and greedier than she is smart.
Overall, this is one of the more solid short story collections I’ve read in ages.
The Nerd’s Rating: FIVE HAPPY NEURONS (and maybe a bit of mistletoe. Happy Holidays!)