Darkscapes is a top quality anthology of short stories put out by Curiosity Quills Press. I must say, this anthology delivers on the promise of the premise. The title says that the stories within may be on the darker side of things, where danger lays hidden beneath the layers of the mind’s eye. The cover image tells me I’m in for some rather unusual stories, ones that go to places which may defy logic. And, having read many books produced by Curiosity Quills Press, the fact that they published this book says it’s a collection of good quality, well-written stories. And that my friends, is exactly what I got – all of the above.
There are twenty-one stories contained in this collection, too many to be able to discuss all of them here. So, I will give you a brief overview of the six, yes six, stories which I deemed to deserve a five quill rating, meaning the authors of these stories have done an exemplary job of storytelling. Keep in mind that these stories are the best of the best in this collection, but all of them are good reading.
The first story in the anthology, Exley Avenue, is an extremely well-written ghost story of sorts, with a surprise ending. Going between the 1920’s and the twenty-first century, storytellers Jordan Elizabeth and W.K. Pomeroy unravel the unsavory history of the stone castle on Exley Avenue, when several bodies are uncovered on the premises.
Further into the collection is a cute noirish story, with an unlikely P.I. for a protagonist, which is sure to keep you chuckling until the end is Skeleton Jim, by J.R. Rain. Noir with humor is the only way to describe this bizarre tale. But, rest assured, Skeleton Jim always gets his man, (and the girl, for some reason). Things are no different when the client, Lucy Newman, hires him to find out if she killed her abusive husband, and who is blackmailing her, Jim may have his work cut out for him. No bones about it. (Skeleton humor. Har, har, har.)
Then, there is The Giovanni Effect, by Robert J. Defendi, an extremely well-crafted story with excellent world building. Readers will live this one. On a desert outpost planet where sand and wind are constants, Allred and his wife and child are the planets only occupants. They’ve always known others might come, but when a ship lands on the planet Allred is forced to put their emergency plans to the test. The planet’s harsh atmosphere may be the death of him, or it might just be his savior.
The forth story, Landing a Job in the Private Sector, by Rena Rocford, kept the pages turning with the best of them. Furies are conditioned assassins, but when Boxy, an enslaved fury acquires an organic ship that is loyal to her, and becomes a rogue mercenary, she learns that everything is negotiable, even under pressure.
The fifth five quill story is Out of Sight, by Mathew S. Cox. Sima is a street kid, who wakes up to find she’s been relocated to another planet and her pod crashed. She all alone, with no supplies, no clothes and no idea where she is. But then she discovers three other children who were sent here, as well, and she has more to worry about than just her own survival.
The One You Feed, by Katie Young was the last story in this collection to fall into my best of the best list. This was a well-written werewolf story, which left me wanting more. Dupree is haunted by more than just werewolves. As he spins his tale for the cowboy he just hired on with at the last rodeo, we learn more about the ghosts who haunt his past, and the curse that controls his future.
The above mentioned stories are, in my opinion, the best stories in this collection. However, they are all entertaining tales. I wouldn’t rate any of the stories in this collection with less than three quills. They really are that good. The smashing cast of talented authors whose work appears in this anthology also includes: Richard Roberts, Ann M. Noser, Randy Attwood, Nathan Croft, Tegan Wren, James Wymore, J.P. Sloan, Andrew Buckley, Darin Kennedy, J.E. Anckorn, Piers Anthony, B.C. Johnson, S.E. Bennett, Mark W. Woodring, and Benjamin Sperduto.
Overall, I give Darkscapes four quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
Cast No Shadows is a Curiosity Quills Press anthology of ghost stories for YA readers, but some may not be what you’d expect when you think of ghost stories. Stories such as The Last Act of Keri and Trent by Derek McFadden or Nellie’s Playmate by Lorna McDonald Czarnota use a different POV to tell their tale, and aren’t crafted to bring goosebumps to the flesh, but to unfold a ghost’s story in a creative way.
In other stories seeing and/or talking to ghosts is treated as a common every day occurrence. Stories such as Amity or Tillie in Utica by Jordan Elizabeth, Ghostly Affection by Grace M. DeLeesie, The Sun Valley Bistro by Kae T. Quinn, Ghosts of Holy Cross by Ashley Pasco, Graveyard Dust by Heather Talty, A Minor Matter of Deatb by W. K. Pomeroy, Death of a Necromancer by Misha Murphy, Ghost of Shadmoor Park by Grant Eagar, and Simon and the Ghost by Jeremy Mortis are crafted to entertain and make readers think, rather than to scare.
Still other stories in this collection are intended to surprise readers with the unexpected, as in Attic Secrets by Ashley Pasco, The Regal by Jeremy Mortis, Dark Rider by Amy L. Gale, The Sailor by Lisa Oaks, Sarah by Rachel Pond, The Staircase by Clare Weze, A Trace of Time by Joan O. Scharf, Try Me by Christine Blake, or Yankee Inn by Jordan Elizabeth.
Which is not to say that you’ll find no stories here that contain that eerie scare factor. It’s a large anthology, and stories like Faceless by James McNally, This Ol’ Haunted House by Gloria Slade, Jacked by A. F. Plant, Silent Opera and Swamp by Joan O.Scharf are aimed at stirring up that creepy feeling within readers.
Stories that I feel did this the best were Moving in with the Ghost by A Elizabeth Zumchak, Sweet Hollow Road by C. K. Raggio, House on Hazlenut Lane and The Blood Stained Handkerchief by Jordan Elizabeth. These four would be the five quill stories out of the entire collection, the ones that replay in your mind when you lay down to sleep at night.
Overall, I thought this anthology was a great group of ghost stories for a YA audience. Even the scariest ones achieved the effect without being too gruesome or violent. I give Cast No Shadows four quills.
Kaye gives honest book reviews and she does not charge for them. If you have a book you would like reviewed contact Kaye at kayebooth[at]yahoo[dot]com.
I’ve just had the pleasure of reviewing a new anthology of short fiction put out by Curiosity Quills Press. When asked if I’d like to review Chronology, I had the impression that it was a steampunk anthology, which is a genre I’m newly discovering. Some of the stories in this collection do have steampunk elements, such as Wind Up Hearts, the steampunk-ish romance that is sure to break readers’ hearts, by Bram Stoker Award finalist, Stan Swanson, or Flight of the Pegasus by Dr. Darin Kennedy. There’s also That Which is Hidden, a haunted steampunk-ish werewolf romance, by Julie Frost. But, I was pleasantly surprised to find the stories in Chronology to be a diverse mixture of speculative fiction.
Some are futuristic, leaning more toward science fiction, such as the apocalyptic Afterparty by Mark Woodring, Limited Liability, a futuristic outer space story by Matthew Graybosch or Gookie Visits Her Moma by G. Miki Hayden, an alternate universe science fiction story about a space bounty hunter whose current bounty takes her back to her home planet. Many others are more in the fantasy realm, such as Draconic King, by award winning author, James Wymore, or Yours Until the Ink Dries, a true faerie tale, as a young outcast girl discovers her true identity in her drawings, by Y.A. author Jordan Elizabeth. And then there are those stories that fall into the mythical realm, such as Strange Flesh, a well-crafted story of mythical creatures by Katie Young, or Wampus Cat, a tale of Appalachian legends come true by international bestselling author Scott Nicholson.
Still, others have a horror element or two, such as The Lair, a story of a cursed treasure hunt in jungle swamps, by best-selling independent author, Tony Healey, or Lava, a spectral love story by New York Times bestselling author, Piers Anthony, or In the Clutches of the Mummy Prince, by B.C. Johnson, which was not very scary. Also I had trouble relating with the main character in Johnson’s story, who wasn’t very likeable. There is also The Comeback, the weirdest zombie romance I’ve ever heard of, told from the zombie’s POV, by techno-thriller and MG fantasy author, Tara Tyler, and Inmate #85298, a chilling death row tale, by author and screenwriter, Andy Rausch.
Of course, there are also those stories that weren’t so easy to classify, including White Chapel, which sheds new light on the story of Jack the Ripper, by author, editor and podcast co-host, Andrew Buckley, or Signs Unseen, the story of a small town race war, by J.P. Moyahan, or Bait and Witch, a troublesome witch story by speculative fiction author, J.P. Sloan. There is also The Bull, by novelist and short story writer, J.R. Rain, which turns a Minotaur into a superhero, and The Unattended Life, a reminder to stop and smell the roses by J.E. Anckorn, and an intriguing airship romance, Above the Clouds, by Richard Roberts.
Yes, it is a big book, about 530 pages, but it is definitely a good read. In addition to the stories mentioned above there are the three I enjoyed the most, which I saved to tell you about in more detail. The following stories stuck out in my mind the most, but not in any particular order.
The Room Below, by novelist Wilbert Stanton is a horror story worthy of Lovecraft, or King. This story about a stay in a mental institution that puts One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to shame. It held my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat, and had a surprising, yet satisfying ending.
The Colorado King, by Nathan Yocum is a story in which survival is the name of the game as a father and daughter travel over post-apocalyptic badlands in search of kin and refuge, bringing with it some very hard lessons. This well-crafted tale grabs readers’ attention and doesn’t let go, yet it leaves readers feeling like there should be more, probably due to the fact that it is an excerpt. I’m guessing that it is from Yocum’s novel, The Zona.
And finally, Innocent Deception, by Matthew Cox is a well-crafted story which has a surprising reveal in its final pages. The daughter of a pharmaceutical company’s CEO is kidnapped and held for ransom, but the plan falls apart when the mother doesn’t want the kid back.
Overall, I give Chronology 3 Quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read, and she never charges for them. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.