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Masks

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For some, Mardi Gras is a celebration. For others, it's a dangerous game.

Masks is a collection of 11 short stories by authors from various writing backgrounds. Each story takes a unique look at the celebration of Mardi Gras, from the bright and beautiful party culture to the dark and dangerous mysteries behind the fun. The collection includes stories in the historical fiction, romance, supernatural, and horror genres, all focused on the celebration of life, death, and all that happens in between.

400 pages

Published March 31, 2020

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About the author

M. Dalto

26 books349 followers
M. Dalto is a bestselling Young Adult and New Adult author of adventurous romantic fantasy stories. Two Thousand Years, her debut novel from The Parliament House, was one of Wattpad’s 2016 Watty Award winners for excellence in digital storytelling. She has since released its three sequel novels and four companion novellas, as well as numerous other contributions to various published anthologies. She was recruited to participate in Wattpad Paid Stories program for serialized authors in March 2019, has since been invited into the Wattpad Stars program, and since October 2021 has been welcomed as a Wattpad Exclusive Author. She continues to spend her time as both as a freelance editor and as a mentor, as well as WriteHive's Indie Profession-In-Residence, where she hopes to engage, assist, and inspire new writers through their literary journey. Working as a full-time real estate paralegal, she leaves her evenings to pursue her own writing agenda. When she’s not typing furiously at her computer, she enjoys reading fantasy novels, playing video games, and drinking coffee. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband, their daughter, and their hamster named Oreo.

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Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews
Profile Image for Candace Robinson.
Author 45 books972 followers
January 31, 2020
If you’re looking for a book full of mystery and intrigue, then this is it! I love reading anthologies because I can read the versatile stories between the authors with a common theme. This one being Mardi Gras! Which! I’ve never read a book centered around that so it was pretty cool! Each tale had me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out how the story was going to end. There are murderers, there are ghosts, there are crimes, there are kisses, there’s a Louisiana setting, and there is lots and lots of awesomeness!

And yes, I do have a short story in here but I’m not reviewing it! 😂 However mine does have an escape room!
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,765 reviews579 followers
April 5, 2020
New Orleans, Mardi Gras, a town and an event known for excess, celebrations, and the unexplainable. What a perfect subject for eleven tales, each with their own flavor of suspense, history and horror! Unlock your imagination with MASKS and fall into a world unlike anything you've known.

Do you like richly told tales with atmosphere? Have a penchant for the mystical or maybe something a little dark or passionate or just plain eerie? Her you go, almost a dozen chances to be entertained, to feel the flavor of Mardi Gras, behind the scenes where the ghosts wander, passions flare and VooDoo is real. Take a walk on the dark side of life, where no knows what could be behind that mask!

Each author has a fully developed tale to tell, each is short, easily consumed one by one or all at once! So much talent between the covers, so many authors to meet or revisit. You may even meet up with a gargoyle or two!

Fabulous reading that brings the magic and mystery of Mardi Gras to life! Highly recommended reading!

I received a complimentary copy from Candace Robinson! This is my honest and voluntary review.

Publisher: Filles Vertes Publishing; None edition (March 31, 2020)
Publication Date: March 31, 2020
Genre: Dark Short Story Anthology
Print Length: 266 pages
Available from: Amazon
For Reviews, Giveaways, Fabulous Book News, follow: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Jypsy .
1,523 reviews74 followers
April 6, 2020
I received a complimentary copy courtesy of
Filles Vertes Publishing. I voluntarily reviewed this book. All opinions expressed are my own.

Masks
By: M. Dalto, Myra Fiacco, et.al.


REVIEW ☆☆☆☆☆
Anthology. I used to cringe at the word. I disliked short stories for the longest time for no valid reason. Then, I read an anthology, and ate crow. What took me so long? Now, the older I get, the more I love short stories. I tell you this because a lot of you are like that, too. I implore you to give anthologies a chance, and begin with this one: Masks. Centering each story around New Orleans and Mardi Gras makes Masks truly unique. Mardi Gras conjures images in everyone's mind. How can it not? I see cobblestone streets, iron trellises wrapped with vines, cemeteries to lose yourself in, a voodoo priestess beckoning to me, an aged bar top imprinted with innumerable memories of sorrow, and at last the Bourbon Street sign. Every story invokes a memory, the good and the bad, for me. New Orleans has a darkly mesmerizing atmosphere, and it's easy to forget everything you never wanted to remember in this place. This collection touches on everything that matters. From the present and the past, voodoo dark and Mardi Gras bright, hauntings and terror, love and loss and at last what is magical versus what is not. Whatever you envision, these things, these feelings, are all here on the pages of Masks. Read it, and let the words spirit you away, at least for a little while.
Profile Image for Alexa Whitewolf.
Author 34 books104 followers
June 3, 2020
Sooo I love learning about customs and events and stuff from other areas of the world. New Orleans has always been surrounded by mysticism (in my mind) and I feel like this short story collection showcases that to the max! You’ve got everything with a bit of romance and fantasy and everything in between - a couple shivers too :) Loved it and the various writing styles! Loads to find and enjoy and a couple new authors I’m gonna keep my eye on :D
Profile Image for Gerardo Delgadillo.
Author 4 books131 followers
April 1, 2020
MASKS is a quite an engaging short story collection, set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Some of its tales are historical, others happen now, and all of them have a common element: Surprising twists!

MASKS is an anthology worth reading--give it a try!
Profile Image for Siobhan.
4,411 reviews463 followers
March 31, 2020
I have a love-hate relationship with short stories. I either finish with a feeling of awe due to reading such a wonderful story in so few words, or I find myself disappointed because there wasn’t enough to sustain me. With Masks, we have a mixed bag. Some I really liked; some I was not crazy about.

The Sin Exchanged (Ginger Root) by C. Vonzale Lewis was a police thriller mixed with the supernatural. The supernatural took a backseat for most of the story, but it certainly played an interesting part. As a lover of police thrillers and supernatural twists, this one had me hooked throughout. In fact, I can easily see it as an introduction to a series.

The Fickle Hand of Fortune by Dave Wickenden was a thriller. There were elements that left you questioning what was going on, but for the most part it was a race against the clock. Although not quite for me, I’m sure many will enjoy this story.

Epiphany by M Dalto was a story that will have you questioning if you’ve read a supernatural story or not. It certainly had me hooked throughout, and I happily powered through it to see how the pieces came together. There was a great vibe with this one, really getting into the feel of the collection.

The Mobile Spirit by Sarah Lampkin was a supernatural story set in the past. Both the historical aspect and the supernatural aspect kept me hooked, bringing the story to life. Although I worked out how things would play out, it did not lessen my enjoyment of the story.

La Femme en Rouge by Marlena Frank had me hooked from the start. For the most part, this one has a different vibe to the other stories in the collection. It deals with something that requires a lot of attention, and I loved the way we really got inside of our character’s head. When this one finally hit the vibe that matched the collection, it added an extra addictive element to the story.

Spirits of Le Petit by Melissa Eskue Ousley was an entertaining ghost story. I love stories that follow ghost hunters, and this one gave something slightly different. We have a haunted location, those out for proof, and humour to make the story extra entertaining. Together, it made for an entertaining read.

The Celebration Game by Candace Robinson was a story that gave readers an aspect of the supernatural world that is rarely seen. It’s something I would like to see more of, and I loved the way it played out in this one. Add in the fact it contained a great twist, and this was one of my favourites in the collection.

The Axeman Among Us by R.J. Garcia was another story set in the past, a thriller with a bit of a supernatural vibe. It’s a story that includes many elements of the past, bringing it to life in a way that is rarely seen. Although the thriller and supernatural elements were not as consuming as expected, they played together well.

The Blackbird Mask by Merry Jones was a story that had an air of uncertainty about it throughout. It’s an unusual situation that the characters found themselves in, and it’s not until quite far through the story that you see what category this one falls into. It’s another story that wasn’t quite for me, but I can certainly see it appealing to many.

Roll the Bones by Kristen Jacques was a story that existed in the world between. It had a clear young adult vibe to it, a feeling of many books that I read as a teenager. It has characters dealing with a real-life topic as a result of their introduction to the supernatural world. It certainly gave me flashback vibes to my reading in my early teenage years.

Ashes, Ashes by Myra Fiacco was a story that combined the past and the present. We’re given a murder tour, along with insights into the past, with the two coming together wonderfully. It’s not just a simple murder tour, however, as we’re pulled into the lives of the characters. With little elements thrown in to flesh this one out, it’s another favourite in the collection.

All in all, there was plenty to keep me entertained throughout. Although I wasn’t crazy about every story, there is something that is sure to appeal to everyone with this collection.
Profile Image for Emma Katherine.
271 reviews11 followers
March 27, 2020
Opinions: I don't often read short story anthologies, but I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps Masks raises the bar too high for others! To say that I loved this book is an understatement. I was on the edge of my seat from the eerie and uncanny plots, checking the house because of the murderous and spooky personages, and reading as slowly as possible to make each story last as long as I could. I love the originality of each story; not only are they all centered around Mardi Gras, a holiday seldom written about, but the principle themes, plots, and characters were unique and personal to the authors. And by God, this anthology depicts the good, the bad, and the ugly! Readers are jerked back and forth between hatred, curiosity, and shock through the immeasurable amount of cliffhangers and end-of-chapter twists! I would reread most of these stories in a heartbeat to experience the intensity and atmosphere again!

My Favourite Story: I debated over this for a long time, because each story spoke to me differently. Escape rooms, Roanoke, and ghost tours were top of the list, but "The Blackbird Mask" resonated with me most. A young man brings a mysterious girl to his room on the night of Mardi Gras for some fun, and when she dies by his side, he and his friend must redress and export her before they're caught. My shock is supplied by the short length and its abrupt ending, which brings up only one question: what was the point of the story? It is eerie and misplaced; the most drastic of all of the stories. Jones took this edgy, racy topic and turned it dark, a path I wasn't expecting at all! "The Blackbird Mask" was definitely the most thought-provoking, spooky, and odd story of the anthology!

Breakdown by Story:
The Sin Exchange: 5/5
The Fickle Hand of Fortune: 4/5
Epiphany: 5/5
The Mobile Spirit: 5/5
La Femme en Rouge: 4.5/5
Spirits of Le Petit: 4/5
The Celebration Game: 5/5
The Axeman Among Us: 3.5/5
*The Blackbird Mask: 5/5*
Roll the Bones: 3/5
Ashes, Ashes: 5/5
Total: 4.5/5, rounded up to 5/5 for Goodreads!
Profile Image for Christina.
216 reviews24 followers
March 31, 2020
An anthology with a great mix of scare levels, from the mysterious to the terrifying! I tend to stay with the somewhat spooky and mysterious instead of the truly scary stories. While some stories are set in current times and others are historical, they all connect well to the theme of the anthology. This would be a good book to read while stuck inside during quarantine. Solve mysteries with the characters, hide under your covers, and lose yourself to the atmospheric prose!
Profile Image for Sheila G.
506 reviews97 followers
April 8, 2020
I received an ARC of this book from author Candace Robinson in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! In no way does this affect my rating or review.

description

All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.

Masks is an anthology surrounding the theme of Mardi Gras. From mystery/thrillers to paranormal encounters, this compilation of short stories is a fantastic read for more mature readers around this time of year when the Mardi Gras celebration commences.

Story 1: The Sin Exchange (Ginger Root) by C. Vonzale Lewis
”He marks a sinner as a saint and a saint as a sinner.”

A mysterious murder happens along the river late one night. Detective Monroe suspects something very sinister afoot when evidence of Hoodoo rituals appears at the center of the murders. With haunting memories from her own past, Beatrice must track down the serial killer before more lives are lost to his terrible ritualistic behavior.

Story 2: The Fickle Hand of Fortune by Dave Wickenden
"Simonelli has to pay for his sins.

Winning the lottery has its downfalls--one being targeted by thugs seeking out an easy fortune. In this ransom thriller, Terry Paxon finds this out when his family is attacked in their own house one evening. On a fixed timeframe to transfer the money, he hires a team of Special Forces to keep his family safe as they try to sneak away under the throws of Mardi Gras celebrations.

Story 3: Epiphany by M. Dalto
Allister was careless, lecherous, and vulgar, but no one complained. No one asked him to stop his advances or change his ways, and sometimes, in between the nightly endeavors, he wondered if anyone would dare if they truly cared enough about the answer.

Playboy Prince Allister hates being alone. His large mansion is always packed with party guests, reveling in the celebrations of Mardi Gras. Looking to fill his evenings with new conquests, a woman in red catches his eye. Little does he know that his encounter with this transfixing woman will lead him down a path forcing him to face his fears.

Story 4: The Mobile Spirit by Sarah Lampkin
I heard no voice that day.
But I did discover one thing.
Death wore a mask.

An off-shoot story of her Dead Dreamer series, Lampkin develops a tale centering around two brothers that are soldiers in the Civil War in Mobile, Alabama. Charles had miraculously survived an attempt on his life which left him with a strange ability to walk the land of the in-between while he slept. This ability, however, clues him into a plot to unroot their presence and keep the peace.

Story 5: La Femme en Rouge by Marlena Frank
Nothing good ever comes from la femme en rouge, especially this close to Mardi Gras.

A story about accepting one’s self intertwines with the notorious La femme en rouge. A transgender woman with an abusive father is ultimately challenged by the woman in red to finally step into the shoes that she so desires.

Story 6: Spirit of Le Petit by Melissa Eskue Ousley
I don’t think any of us had been prepared for the spirits of Le Petit.

Le Petit, an old theatre in downtown New Orleans has no shortage of ghost stories. When a team of ghost hunters desires to make the theatre the center of their next show, they encounter some ghosts that aren’t too fond of their meddling.

Story 7: The Celebration Game by Candace Robinson
He was near perfect, beautiful, and dangerous. Like her, like their clan.

A Mardi Gras game turns down a wild path in fantasy short story about gargoyles. King cake, young love, and mayhem intertwin in this fast-paced short story thriller.

Story 8: The Axeman Among Us by R. J. Garcia
Voodoo is not only religion, it is survival.

Set in 1918, an ax murderer is on the loose. Two boys witness the axeman leaving the scene of a crime and must decide what to do, fearing that he may come after them next. The boys consult Madame Boudreaux, a voodoo priestess to keep the axeman away. Keeping a voodoo doll hidden from a prying mother may be the hardest trail yet.

Story 9: The Blackbird Mask by Merry Jones
After all, it had been Mardi Gras, and everyone, even death, had been in disguise.

Mardi Gras undoubtedly comes with its tales of debauchery. When a pretty woman in a raven mask dies in bed after an evening of indulgence, two roommates must figure out what their next steps will be. The bigger question is: how did the woman die?

Story 10: Roll the Bones by Kristin Jacques- fantasy thriller
”What shall we wager, young man?”

Josh just wants to attend a party on Mardi Gras, but his father forbids him. Instead, he must stay home and watch out for his younger sister, Helene. When his father leaves for another shift on duty, Josh is close behind out the door and onto the busy streets with his sister. Distracted by the sights, and a pretty woman, Josh loses sight of Helene and embarks on a fantastical journey in order to win her back from The Cunning One’s grasp.

Story 11: Ashes, Ashes by Myra Tiacco
Louis Lamott--New Orleans’ Forgotten Serial Killer.
Mardi Gras 1854, Louis Lamott kills again. Alternating a past and present timeline, this story unpacks the truth behind an infamous serial killer during the outbreak of Yellow Fever.

Vulgarity: Markedly.
Sexual content: Explicit adult content - not suitable for younger readers.
Violence: Markedly with ritual sacrifices/murders, gore, etc.

My Rating:★★★★

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10 reviews2 followers
March 31, 2020
I love reading anthologies. They give me a chance to explore authors who might be new to me within a general book theme. This anthology didn't disappoint! Each story brought its own flair to the Mardi Gras theme, with its own unique twists. Whether you like to envision scenes and their specific details for yourself, have more information given, or anywhere in between, this grouping of stories is the right mix. From voodoo to graveyards, detectives to demons, downtown NOLA to the outskirts, this collection provides mystery, intrigue, love, and loss, and keeps you coming back for more!
Profile Image for Donna (BookDragonGirl).
845 reviews5 followers
April 1, 2020
I love this anthology! It’s filled with creepy little mysteries and they all take place during Mardi Gras!! Plus I love to read anything that takes place in New Orleans!!! I ordered the paperback and am excited to have this on my shelf!!! This is definitely a must read if you like mysteries with a paranormal flare!!!
Profile Image for Marlena Frank.
Author 31 books229 followers
March 21, 2020
A fantastic group of tales that explore the myth, mystery, and malice of Mardi Gras. Every story in this anthology is steeped in mystery and magic, from theater ghosts to supernatural investigations, from Civil War mysteries to cursed bloodlines and ghost tours, this anthology has an incredible mix of voices and styles!

One of my favorites was Celebration Game by Candace Robinson. This story features an escape room with a terrifying twist that had me riveted. Let’s just say somebody in the room was asking me questions while I was reading it and I couldn’t put the book down cause I had to find out what happened next! An absolutely intense tale!

If you enjoy stories that keep you guessing at what will happen next, and adore the mystique of Mardi Gras and New Orleans like I do, do yourself a favor and check out this book!

Full Disclosure: I also have a story in this anthology, but I’m of course not including that in this review.
Profile Image for Bri.
11 reviews
April 2, 2020
4.5 This short story collection is binge-worthy. The combination of stories was perfect. One of my favorites included, The Sin Exchange. It was atmospheric, twisty and dark. It had my heart going. It was so well written I felt like I was watching a movie. It was The Axeman Among US that took me back in time. It was a Stand By Me for 1918. It was an awesome mix of memorable characters, history and horror with a sprinkle of humor and romance. Ashes to Ashes was another unique 5-star read. It's also a story with horror, humor, and history though it takes place in modern times. I love this one! Roll the Bones was an all-around wild and interesting read. Most of the stories were a solid 4. All worth reading.
Profile Image for C.M. Turner.
Author 5 books26 followers
April 14, 2020
“Masks” is an anthology that features eleven short stories about Mardi Gras from eleven different authors. This book is filled with lore and legend, as well as history, and provides hours of entertainment —from the foreword by its editor to the very last story.

Suffice it to say, reviewing each story would be entirely too time consuming and difficult to give a fair analysis of each, so I have chosen my favorite of the eleven to review.

“The Axeman Among Us,” by R. J. Garcia, is a fictional portrayal of the Axeman of New Orleans, a serial killer active from May 1918 to October 1919, murdering Italian immigrants in their beds with their own axes. As mentioned in the editor’s foreword, one of the more bizarre facts about this monster, is a letter someone claiming to be The Axeman wrote to New Orlean’s newspapers, stating that you were safe from his axe ... as long as you were playing or listening to jazz.

In Garcia’s “The Axeman Among Us”, three best friends, Vincent, Mikey and Dupree are hanging out in Vincent’s treehouse one night smoking cigarettes and playing cards—when they hear blood-curdling screams coming from the neighbor’s house. Next, they see a dark figure carrying a bloody axe exit the the property. They run into Vincent’s house to alert his parents of what they’d seen, who don’t waste a minute in helping get Mr. Romano, their neighbor, to the hospital. However, the attack on him has been too vicious and they will later learn he died from his wounds.

The boys are terrified that The Axeman has seen them, and are convinced they will become his next victims if they don’t find some way to stop him. Vincent’s mother discouraged them from talking to the police, since Mr. Romano’s niece’s are already giving eye-witness accounts. She tells them to stay inside where it’s safe, but they’re too scared to feel safe inside or anywhere else.

The next day they find the killers bloody slouch hat in the yard and instead of taking it to police, opt to seek help from a Voodoo Priestess in the French Quarter. Dupree is French and familiar with the Priestess through her beautiful Cajun granddaughter, Noola.

The boys pool all the money they could scrape together doing odd jobs, and a week later, headed to the French Quarter on a streetcar, along with the killer’s hat and enough money to pay the Voodoo Priestess to incapacitate The Axeman by putting a binding spell on him.

Upon their arrival in the French Quarter, they followed Dupree down an alley, entering an ancient brick building with iron work—where they were met by the enchanting, Noola. As she led them to her grandmother, each formed an instant crush, but Noola only had eyes for Vincent.

Madame Boudreaux put a binding spell on The Axeman, using his hat and Tarot cards as she spoke incantations in angelic tongues. She also stuffed a cloth with Spanish moss and several drops of liquid from a dark glass bottle, then stitched it into a doll. She pricked her finger with the needle she’d stitched the doll and smeared an X on the doll in her own blood, putting it, with the hat in a paper bag and instructing the boys the bag must remain like that and be hidden for life or curses would come down to their children’s children!

The Axeman stopped killing for a short while, until the spell was broken by Vincent’s mother, who discovered the bag underneath his bed , disturbing the hat and doll and causing the spell to wear off!

This is just one of the imaginative and chilling tales in this anthology. I highly recommend it, especially to Mardi Gras buffs and anyone who’s looking for hours of pleasurable reading.

C. M. Turner


Profile Image for C. Lewis.
Author 9 books68 followers
September 11, 2021
This was an excellent anthology! All those wonderfully dark tales are sure to please anyone.
Profile Image for Kattie.
303 reviews43 followers
March 30, 2020
I actually only read one story from this book, The Celebration Game by Candace Robinson. It was an interesting take on a horror escape room. A group of friends meets for an escape room on the first day of Mardi Gras every year. In such a short story you get so much! Sex, fear and even gargoyles. How fun!
Profile Image for Dianne Gow.
183 reviews
April 13, 2020
Great book of short stories from some great authors. Gives different perspectives of Mardi Gras.
Profile Image for Annette.
1,667 reviews23 followers
April 17, 2020
This is a group of short stories all taking place during Mardi Gras. I really enjoyed this collection, some of the stories were spooky good and I didn’t want them to end. Some i was wishing they were an entire book. There were a few that were kinda weird. I
Definitely recommend if you’re looking for a spooky read!
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