Another day, another post… Yes it’s Blogtober! Here’s a review from Theresa, and I have to say, this collection looks perfect for Halloween!
Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked (Release Date: August 21, 2018)
A young woman’s fears regarding the gruesome photos appearing on her cell phone prove justified in a ghastly and unexpected way. A chainsaw-wielding Evil Dead fan defends herself against a trio of undead intruders. A bride-to-be comes to wish that the door between the physical and spiritual worlds had stayed shut on All Hallows’ Eve. A lone passenger on a midnight train finds that the engineer has rerouted them toward a past she’d prefer to forget. A mother abandons a life she no longer recognizes as her own to walk up a mysterious staircase in the woods.
In her debut collection, Christa Carmen combines horror, charm, humor, and social critique to shape thirteen haunting, harrowing narratives of women struggling with both otherworldly and real-world problems. From grief, substance abuse, and mental health disorders, to a post-apocalyptic exodus, a seemingly sinister babysitter with unusual motivations, and a group of pesky ex-boyfriends who won’t stay dead, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked is a compelling exploration of horrors both supernatural and psychological, and an undeniable affirmation of Carmen’s flair for short fiction.
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Searching for some thought-provoking, yet entertaining dark stories? Look no further. Grab some Dunkin Donuts coffee (you’ll find the author has a penchant for it J) and launch into a reading binge.
Carmen showcases her story writing chops in this collection. Her pieces have appeared in numerous publications, so it’s handy to have thirteen of them right here. Carmen doesn’t shy away from grim subjects like substance abuse or self-loathing. Her characters are real and relatable, yet gorgeously flawed. Even if you don’t particularly like them, you will be fascinated with how epically they muck up their lives. In a world where it’s difficult to find redemption, Carmen pushes us to root for her protagonists. And, often they manage to steady the reins on their circumstances, achieving empowerment on their own terms. They may not always be terms we are comfortable with, but that is half the fun.
Despite the fact that there are no bad tales here, I’ve highlighted the ones that stood out for me.
The Red Room: This is a creepy story about some photos that mysteriously appear on a wife’s phone. Her husband brushes it off, making all kinds of excuses. Although I toy with saying the moral here is to listen to your wife, I’m not so sure that would have mattered. Supernatural situations suck. Life is sometimes out of our control. The end.
Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked: Marriage, Murder, Ghosts, and the Stanley Hotel—what’s not to love? There’s also a splash of wrestling with issues of female power. How far does a girl have to go? This is a cautionary tale about what happens when you seek to dominate a woman. She might just go rogue on your ass.
Souls, Dark and Deep: I really liked the way this story plays with point of view and perceptions. A couple goes out for the night, leaving their children with a last-minute baby sitter. The ominous details foreshadow that this baby sitter has some hidden agenda, however, it isn’t one that I saw coming. The conclusion has a beautifully shocking twist.
All Souls of Eve: This has to be my favorite story in the collection. Instead of Scrooge being visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, a young woman is visited by three dead boyfriends. Not only that, but this visitation occurs on the eve of her wedding. I love how we get the protagonist’s characterization through her interactions with these men, both then and now. It’s an extremely relatable exploration of relationships, regret, and wanting to become a better person. Will this self-reflection lead to a happy future, one where she is empowered? You’ll have to read to find out.
Liquid Handcuffs: A tale about a therapist who works with patients in substance abuse recovery. It’s an unsettling examination of the demons of addiction. When the therapist is kidnapped by an addict from the center, we keep wondering if there is more to fear than the heroin he injects her with. The portrayal of drug use and the specifics thoughts and actions of the therapist is so true to life that I wasn’t surprised to read in the acknowledgements that the author drew from personal experience. This was another story with an unexpected ending, although you might be able to pick up on it based on the foreshadowed breadcrumbs left along the way.
Lady of the Flies: One thing I enjoyed about this one (in addition to the cool title) is how it deals with a bit more cringy gore than the others. The female protagonist is also very different from the others in this collection in that her brokenness stems from being a total social outcast, which makes it harder for her to rise above it all. You’ll be wincing one moment, and feeling sorry for her the next. Don’t expect a happy ending here, folks.
Wolves at the Door and Bears in the Forest: This story was trippy, mixing elements grounded in reality with the fantastical. Molly is a mother who is also a recovering addict. We empathize with her, but also flinch at her shortcomings, all at the same time. When one of the characters speaks of this mystical staircase in the middle of the woods, I eagerly waited for that angle to play out. It was fun to be kept on my toes during this read, and the ending is a satisfying one.
This Our Angry Train: Two words: haunted train. That’s all I’ll give you here. Past and present suspensefully collide in this story. Read up.
Again, this collection has a lot to offer. The plots and characters are engaging, and we are nudged toward some interesting themes. Can we escape our fate, or our choices? Can we maintain sanity? Most of the time Carmen paints a grim picture of the human plight, so if you prefer your horror with a side of death, doom, and destruction, you’ve come to the right place. You won’t regret it.
Wow! This sounds soooo good! You know what else is really good (Shameless plug coming…)? Fountain Dead by Theresa Braun, and I’m organizing a blog tour. The tour runs from November 12th to the 16th, so if you would like to hop on this train to celebrate the release, let me know!
Photo Credit: Helene Choo