I hope you’re ready for this long-ass review, I touch on every story (all thirty) within this wonderful horror anthology, enjoy!
Heavy Metal Coffin by Amira Krista Calvo – a deeply moving story of a pregnant woman and her desire to protect her child against all odds. It centres around a cursed guitar and has some very cool elements of body horror towards the stories conclusion (Cronenberg in its gory brilliance).
Bodiless by Faith Pierce – a disturbing tale of love, attraction and the wanting to belong, it’s the unsaid at the story’s conclusion that leaves a rank taste in the mouth. Beautiful prose, fabulous imagination and some really cool magical / weird fiction things going on that I dug. I don’t know if I got the whole story, but what I took away was satisfying enough for me.
Minor Malfunction by KC Grifant – technology gone wrong is one of my favourite horror sub genres – and in this wonderful story about a transplant patient with a new arm we see all the brilliance of this sub genre explored. It’s almost something Philip K Dick would write or Isaac Asimov – great little story!
The Incident On Asteroid 4 Pandora by Stevie Kopas – this one pulled me in, a woman who is being sexually harassed in space. No where is safe from sexual predators it appears – I did enjoy this story but it relied heavily on the story plot from Aliens so I kind of knew where it was going from the start, so the ending and character arcs were very familiar. But I did enjoy the story.
The Lady Crow by Lucy Rose – Lovely Gothic vibe and prose to this one, had slivers of Poe. I did feel that the story could have been expanded a little (mainly near the stories conclusion) where we see the change happen, but an enjoyable read.
The Recliner by Marsheila Rockwell – another thing I like in horror and it could possibly be seen as a sub genre / but it’s when inanimate objects become possessed or do something that they don’t usually do. This story has all of that and more – there was a dream sequence that I thought oddly placed (seemed out of tone with the story) also the voice of our six year old protagonist I felt was a little too old in his language and view of the world (but having said that the dream sequence seemed more apt for his age). A story with Lovecraftian undertones.
Call Of The Tide by Demi-Louise Blackburn – So many beautiful visuals in this dramatic and haunting tale – it’s a powerful story that is an assault on the senses!
Date Night Ablaze by Rowan Hill – really enjoyed this story. Our protagonist is disfigured, she’d been burned in a bushfire years ago, the fire that claimed her father. Now she lives with the scars and the loneliness – but a new ranch hand has started working in a neighbouring farm and she decides to go on a date with him, but things don’t go according to plan and there’s another bushfire to contend with. This story was moving and very chilling… I loved it!
Shell by Barrington Smith-Seetachitt – a story about body image that was told in a Black Mirror style – deeply engrossing and a real page turner, the idea behind this story is crazy good and reminded me of The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin in its execution.
From Scratch by Sonora Taylor – what a fabulous story, I don’t think there’s a story I don’t love of Sonora Taylor’s each one is bloody banging – and this one is a right treat! We’ve a main protagonist who loves to hurt things, or imagine hurting things, but she also loves cooking and pictures the faces of the people she hates in the meat that she’s tenderising or the carrots that look like fingers that she’s blitzing or chopping. She can’t help herself when she gets these urges, she needs to expel those thoughts somehow or she’ll act out her darkest thoughts… so she makes cobbler. It’s a brilliant story, the concept, the prose, the distinct voice and the comedy in it are marvellous! Another cracking story from Sonora Taylor – who’s proving to be one of my current favourite writers!
Invasive Species by Dawn DeBraal – Eco horror runs rampant with a story reminiscent of The Day Of The Triffids – I loved the suburban nature to this story, the backdrop that frames the nightmare, the story was quite simple and there was nothing really new brought to this trope (there are no twists – I knew what was going to happen with it the first few paragraphs), but I enjoyed the storytelling and characters.
Josephine by Michelle Renee Lane – I was surprised with the inclusion of this erotica / horror story. It is delivered tastefully and I enjoyed the look behind the curtain and the subtle exposure of the inner workings of the porn industry – it’s objectifying, abusing of women and racism. Such a cool idea done expertly well. A real change of pace to the anthology.
Lure by Catherine McCarthy – another beautifully haunting tale from McCarthy – this one told in 2nd person is a delight. McCarthy’s storytelling voice is so captivating and eloquent that I could read her words forever, also the work on place and location is irresistible – I felt as if I were there on the side of the lake with our protagonist, richly detailed and immersive!
The Thrill of the Hunt by Villimey Mist – I’ve not read any Villimey Mist other than her nocturnal series and although that’s great I’d love to see her tackling more topics outside of the vampiric – because this stuff is golden! A fusion of horror, abuse and mythology all rolled into one terrifying tale… more please!
Simba of the Suburbs by Ashley Burns – a change of pace for the collection and one that I felt I didn’t really connect with, the idea sounded great a child with some supernatural ability, but for me o didn’t click with it. I did enjoy the premise, the voice of the parents and story telling craft but it just wasn’t for me.
Rippers by Ellie Douglas – a creature feature on a speeding train, that’s the rollercoaster that Douglas brings us in this gripping story of the Rippers, I enjoyed the story but felt it was a little repetitive in places – but it was a very cool setting and the uniqueness of the creature was very cool.
Liked by Mocha Pennington – this is one of the best stories in this collection. Full of brilliant prose and nerve shredding prose, it deals with a captive woman breaking free from her captors – captors who reminded me of the Sawyer family from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Brutal and brilliant. I’ll be looking up more work by Pennington for sure!
The Lady of the House by Yolanda Sfetsos – a lovely bit of gothic in this story which was also supported by some strong story telling prose. I loved the subtle melody of haunting that was sprinkled throughout.
Should Have Gone To Vegas by Janine Pipe – I loved the relationship between the two protagonists; the shit talking and wisecracking were spot on. I loved the feeling Janine was able to create with this offering, it screamed of films of the 80’s the plot straightforward, just business! The creature feature element was greatly accomplished and I loved that although we get a view of what this thing is Janine doesn’t spell it out to us – could it be a Sasquatch, a big foot or some Neanderthal being? You’ll have to read it to find out! If you like blood and cussing and an action story… this has it all in bucket loads.
Atla’s Journey by Carmen Baca – I enjoyed the storytelling narrative of this one, flowed really well and the protagonist were engaging… almost fable like in its execution.
Nightcrawler by Ushasi Sen Basu – an interesting story about the lengths an insomniac will go to in staving off boredom… cool idea but I feel there was more of a story to be told.
Little Sally Ann by Shawnna Deresch – one of my favourite horror sub-genres is the haunted house, I’ve only really discovered that recently with reading Andrew Cull’s ‘Remains’, Michael Clark’s ‘Patience of a Dead Man’ series and Beverley Lee’s ‘The Ruin Of Delicate Things’ and boy does Shawnna give us a mighty fine offering here to match those great books! I really enjoyed this offering and I’ll be searching out more of her work in due course! Haunting brilliance!
Bramblewood by Meg Hafdahl – do you ever read a story that leaves you breathless, not like wow that was brilliant; but physically leaves you panting for breath due to the tension and pacing of the story? (The last time I felt like that was reading Tyler Jones’ ‘Criterium’) Well Bramblewood has all that tension and more – and by goodness the creepy stuff abounds!
Cold Comfort by Amy Grech – a fabulous little story which in my opinion is full of prose magic and an acute ear for dialogue, the way these characters jumped out of the story was brilliant, they were living breathing entities – masterful work!
Kiss by R.A. Busby – I first came to know the name R.A. Busby from her Short Sharp Shock ‘Bits’ damn this woman can write good horror, it traverses the inner fears of the reader and snakes it’s way into your brain. Another stunning story that needs to be read far and wide, now I’m searching for what else I can get my hands on.
The Last Thread by Paula R.C. Readman – unfortunately I’m not a big space / planet / spaceship guy, so I didn’t really get on with this one (I skipped it after a few paragraphs), but I’m sure it’ll find its audience – that’s what I love about anthologies, the mix of styles and stories, they have something for everyone!
The Letter by Lydia Prime – interesting story, the joviality at the end of the story threw me a bit as before then the story is pretty nerve shredding and dark – ominous even.
Piano Keys And Sugar by Hadassah Shiradski – a harrowing little tale about a mother’s mental abuse of her daughter and how that daughter breaks out and free from that tyrannical rule.
Dear Meat by J Snow – this is a stunning story a very different flavour from the rest, dystopian, horror – brilliantly written and just swallowed me whole! Would love to see more stories set in this world… the prose in this story is beautiful and I’ll now be checking out more stories from J Snow!
The One That Got Away by Rebecca Rowland – the second person POV really helps this story hit the mark to conclude this enjoyable collection. I enjoyed this story and how it leaves the reader, in that state of looking over their shoulder.
Kandisha Press have produced a mighty fine offering here with ‘The One That Got Away’ – my favourite stories were KC Grifant, Sonora Taylor, Marsheila Rockwell, Catherine McCarthy and Janine Pipe.
It’s an interesting anthology that I enjoyed reading, as always there are stories I enjoyed more than others, there were some that just weren’t for me.
The only issue I found is that the anthology is a brick, it’s bloody massive! I feel that there were just too many stories in this book, but I appreciate what Kandisha are doing, amplifying female voices in horror, but having so many stories in one book was slightly daunting.
But that comes down to personal taste. If I’m honest I would have got around to reading this sooner if it had had less stories in it – you see when I write a review of an anthology I like to touch on each story in a review and doing this takes time, takes me away from whipping through a book and moving onto the next – and when I saw that it was such a big book I was like ‘I’m not ready for that yet!’ – but as I said it’s personal preference and I’m glad I read it and discovered some new voices and writers to champion!
Featuring chilling tales from:
Carmen Baca, Ushasi Sen Basu, Demi-Louise Blackburn, Ashley Burns, R.A. Busby, Amira Krista Calvo, Dawn DeBraal, Shawnna Deresch, Ellie Douglas, Amy Grech, KC Grifant, Meg Hafdahl, Rowan Hill, Stevie Kopas, Michelle Renee Lane, Catherine McCarthy, Villimey Mist, Mocha Pennington, Faith Pierce, Janine Pipe, Lydia Prime, Paula RC Readman, Marsheila Rockwell, Lucy Rose, Rebecca Rowland, Yolanda Sfetsos, Hadassah Shiradski, Barrington Smith-Seetachitt, J Snow and Sonora Taylor
With Foreword by Gwendolyn Kiste (Bram Stoker Award Winning Author of The Rust Maidens)
Edited by Jill Girardi
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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