Step through the prettiest cemetery gates you've ever seen and experience tombstone raves and widow's dances, Japanese snow-spirits, Aztec bruja and temple goddesses, vengeful ghosts, djinn and cannibals, vampire hunters, plague bearers, graverobbers, and terrors beyond reason. Read through the night as the dead rise from boneyards all around the world!
Jill Girardi is the internationally best-selling, award-nominated author of Hantu Macabre and the founder of Kandisha Press, a company dedicated to women horror authors from around the world. She loves writing darkly humorous creature features and still believes in twist endings. Find her on Instagram or Twitter @jill_girardi
3 stars! Thank you to Kandisha Press and author, Janine Pipe for a review copy in exchange for review consideration. This anthology is recommended for #FrightGirlSummer reading! This is a very eclectic gathering of horror stories from a wide range of talented women. Some of these authors are very familiar to me and some voices were brand-new. I'll go through the tales that captured my imagination and stood out as a little brighter than the others. As with most anthologies, not every story resonated with me and I might have skipped a couple. It's the same thing with a music album, very rarely does one come along where every song knocks it out of the park and you spin it cover to cover-A side to B side with no skips. Featuring chilling tales from: Christy Aldridge Carmen Baca Demi-Louise Blackburn R.A. Busby V. Castro Dawn DeBraal Ellie Douglas Tracy Fahey Dona Fox Cassidy Frost Michelle Renee Lane Beverley Lee J.A.W. McCarthy Catherine McCarthy Susan McCauley Ksenia Murray Ally Peirse Janine Pipe Lydia Prime Paula R.C. Readman Yolanda Sfetsos Sonora Taylor ___ I enjoyed the foreword by Doc Holocausto. Nice take on Lilith.
HOLES by R. A. Busby- Perfect "first story" because it's fast-paced and deals with a fairly well-known fear, trypophobia (of which I am a sufferer). This is the tale of a woman who suffers a fear of holes. She embarks on a series of therapeutic attempts to lessen or eliminate her fear but to no avail. This has a great ending.
UNTIL THERE'S NOTHING LEFT by J. A. W. McCarthy- an engaging story about the ability to bring the dead back to life. Great, building tension and some cringe-worthy scenes.
THE CLOCKMAKER by Sonora Taylor- a little coastal town is home to a quiet clockmaker named Nathaniel. In classic "fable" form, a mysterious customer makes an odd request of Nathaniel that ends up costing him more than he originally anticipated. I loved the ending. This is like a classic cautionary/campfire tale.
LOVE YOU TO DEATH by Yolanda Sfetsos- Imagine a bar called "Hades" where the customers buying shots or rounds were the citizens of the underworld.
TEMPLO MAYOR by V. Castro- This story takes you to Mexico City and the Templo Mayor- an ancient temple of blood sacrifice to the gods. A woman meets up with her attractive tour guide to see the ruins and ends up in a compromising situation. V. Castro never disappoints. I will always show up for her unique brand of final girls, priestesses, and monsters.
THE CHILD by Carmen Baca- Back to back with V. Castro's story this was the best possible follow up. THE CHILD is a young girl named Atla (Atlacamani) who is from the maternal lineage of powerful Aztecas. The child is *too powerful and is problematic for those who look out for her.
THE ROLL OF THE DICE by Beverley Lee- This is a beautiful, haunting tale about an angel's existence. "Ours is the burden of acceptance of the result, that what we deem to be loathsome is the very thing we are bound to convey."
GRAVEYARD OF THE LOST by Tracy Fahey- This might be one of my favorite stories. This is the story of a photographer cataloging graveyards and tombstones in Ireland when he learns of 'The Cemetery of the Lost'. The atmosphere of this one was so vivid and immersive. I really felt like I was on the quest for this mysterious, hidden cemetery.
THE INVITATION by Janine Pipe- I've come to know Janine's storytelling style pretty well this year. It's fast, modern, and accessible. This one is a story that isn't exactly what it appears to be at first blush but once the reader figures it out, it's over. Wham? Bam! Thank you Ma'am! I thought it was fun and it made me want more of this Buffy-style universe.
For Women of Horror Month, I vlogged the hell outta this book! Graveyard Smash was a fantastic anthology featuring an entire army of awesome female authors in the horror genre, and I'm glad I decided to capture my reactions to each story as I went. You can see my full video HERE!
Thank you, Kandisha Press, for sending this book in exchange for an honest review!
You see, I kinda… accidentally… received this yesterday and kinda… accidentally… read it in one sitting.
This anthology is STACKED. Jam packed with such amazing stories, I couldn’t stop. I initially was just going to read the first two stories of Vol.2 as well as Vol. 1 which Jill kindly sent my way… but that went out the window as soon as I read the opening story ‘Holes’ by R.A. Busby.
What I liked: Look, the TOC listing alone should get you excited to dive into these amazing authors stories. This is a veritable who’s who of Women in Horror and never once do these stories let up. It’ll sound cliched, but there is a story for everyone here.
Typically in an anthology, there are one or two ‘highlights,’ you know, the stories that were the strongest and are often marketed to entice buyers in. Much like a hit single for an album. Stunningly – there are no misses here. Every story was top notch, which really speaks to the level of story telling here.
‘Holes’ by R.A. Busby starts us off. This was an absolute hair-raising story about someones personal phobia and how it completes consumes all aspects of their life.
A few stories after, Sonora Taylor unleashes ‘The Clockmaker.’ Jesus. Wow. Look, I’m a massive fan of Taylor’s writing, but this story showed an entirely new level for her. I’ve praised ‘Weary Bones’ from her ‘Little Paranoias’ collection ever since reading this, but wow, this story was perfect.
‘Love You to Death’ by Yolanda Sfetsos will make you rethink visiting any establishment named Hades, and ‘Cicada Song’ by Michelle Renee Lane will have you second guessing just what is happening in the world when you hear those little critters singing.
‘Templo Mayor’ by V. Castro follows Renee Lane’s and if you’ve ever read any of Castro’s work, you’re in for a treat. I’d love to see V. dive into reworking or creating her own version of Indiana Jones/Lara Croft with the fantastic Mexican stories and myths she dives into so masterfully.
But don’t worry – things don’t slow down at all.
In fact, we get the one-two punch soon after of the stunningly dark ‘The Roll of the Dice’ by Beverley Lee, paired with ‘Rewake’ by Ellie Douglas. You could release that as a double feature and it would fly off the shelves. Absolutely fantastic stories.
The back nine stories of this anthology feature some hidden gems.
‘Graveyard of the Lost’ by Tracy Fahey was really great, a creep fest for sure, and I loved ‘The Snow Woman’ by Susan McCauley.
For me personally, the highlight of the second half was ‘The Invitation’ by Janine Pipe. The set up was swift, the usage of text messages between daughter and mom was bang-on needed for the story and the ending hits you like a ton of bricks. Great story and I’d love to see more of just what that world is.
All in all – this TOC knocks it out of the park
What I didn’t like: I adored this anthology, and even though I’m going through a ‘not wanting to read collections/anthologies’ phase in my head, I couldn’t put this down and have already started on Vol. 1. So, my one note here would be, I wish there wasn’t so many stories. The quality of stories was so strong, that splitting this up wouldn’t hurt either release (at least I don’t think so), which would in turn give some of the later stories in the anthology earlier billing.
Why you should buy it: A) IT’S AMAZING. B) LOOK AT THE FRIGGIN’ TOC?! C) I’m not lying here when I say the majority of these stories could easily find themselves shortlisted for a Stoker and when that happens, I’d still feel sad for the other stories not nominated. This was such a well done grouping of stories that each one worked to elevate the one immediately before and after.
Kudos to Kandisha Press for this release. This is a must read.
This collection of short stories covers a variety of horror subgenres from women of diverse backgrounds.
It was a quick and fun read. Great for Halloween, Spooky Campfire, and even bedtime.
The horrific banshee figure reminds me of a "Pontianak". “Pontianak” is one of the most famous, scariest, and violent ghost in the Malaysian culture. Primarily, the Malays believe that it originates from a stillborn child, a woman who dies while giving birth, women who were killed by the Pontianak, or their spirits captured by them. The phrase “Pontianak” was believed from the acronym of “Perempuan Mati Beranak” in the Malay language, meaning the woman death by childbirth" ("Chap Ayam Photographers Blog").
Above them, Vicky stood at the brewhouse window. She held the hammer above her head, and paused, trembling. Then she plunged it down through the glass, shattering the idyllic industrial image into a million tiny pieces.
Jill Girardi’s Kandisha Press is doing some cool things in 2020. They released Under Her Black Wings in January, an anthology I absolutely loved, jam-packed with horror stories by women. Assuming this anthology might be an annual thing, I was pleasantly surprised to see they were doing it again in July with Graveyard Smash, and as of this writing, Kandisha is open to subs again for volume three.
One of my favorite things about these collections are the mixture of known and loved entities with up-and-coming names, a fair few new-to-me authors. Graveyard Smash is a bit bigger than its predecessor at 21 stories. As with any anthology, some hit hard, some sink their teeth in, and some simply didn’t resonate with me for whatever reason. Allow me to highlight some favorites:
“Holes” by RA Busby - The opening gambit in this anthology comes out swinging. Admittedly this is the first short story I’ve read that directly references corona, and I was worried at first, but the execution here is top notch and really encapsulates paranoia using trypophobia.
“Two’s Company, Three’s a Shroud” by Catherine McCarthy - This one stood out for being really different, not an easy feat in such a sizable collection. Funny and original, I really enjoyed being immersed in this story. I mean, there is a pun in the title.
“The Clockmaker” by Sonora Taylor - The best story in the collection comes in pretty early. Taylor’s creepy story is note perfect and has the feel of a classic story in the vein of Poe or Shirley Jackson.
“Love You to Death” by Yolanda Sfetsos - Yolanda’s story in Under Her Black Wings was a stand out there as well. This author seems to have it, and I look forward to reading more by her. That said, I adore horror mixed with mythology and this story had it in spades and did it well.
“Cicada Song” by Michelle Renee Lane - Another top notch tale. Lane’s story had a very original premise and even though it was laugh-out-loud funny at points, the humor didn’t detract from the weight of the story.
“The Invitation” by Janine Pipe - It’s hard to lay out what I liked about this story without spoilers, or at least affecting the reader’s experience. I will say that it’s well-plotted and Pipe’s use of misdirection is Prestige-level. “Are you watching closely?”
Lest this write-up exceed the length of one of the stories contained within, I’ll leave longer story descriptions at that. There are other fun, creeptastic, engaging, and even beautiful stories by V Castro, Beverley Lee, Ellie Douglas, Susan McCauley, Ksenia Murray, and Christy Aldridge. Kandisha is putting out consistently entertaining work by women of horror, drawing readers in with the big names and introducing future stars. As long as they keep these anthologies coming, I’ll keep lining up for them.
The title of this Women of Horror Anthology Vol 2 is true to form! These horrifying stories revolve around or in the graveyard in some way! There is something for everybody here! And I have to mention I read it in one day, couldn’t put it down!
As with all anthology’s we all have our favorites! Each had their own unique, horrific, twisted storyline that kept me turning the pages! A few that made me shiver were Until There’s Nothing Left by J.A.W. McCarthy-person can bring the dead back to life, The Clockmaker-Sonora Taylor-local clockmaker gets a request for a pocket watch made from bone, The Roll of the Dice-Beverly Lee-messenger that keeps the balance of light and darkness spinning with the outcome of a roll of the dice! The Snow Women-Susan McCauley, Night of the Djinn-Ksenia Murray and Thirty Questions-Dawn DeBraal! These last three threw me for a loop! Wow! Readers need to pick this one up!!
Engrossing collection of disturbing, in a good way, tales. Sailed right to the end with demented pleasure, highlights appealing to my folktale obsession being Carmen Baca's THE CHILD, V. Castro's TEMPLO MAYOR (felt like I was underground too!), Sonora Taylor's THE CLOCKMAKER, Lydia Prime's SOUTH DAKOTA. Lots of graveyard-dirt layers: body snatching (REWAKE by Ellie Douglas, eek!), vampire-slaying (THE INVITATION by Janine Pipe). Dawn DeBraal's creepy THIRTY QUESTIONS hit home strangely (of course). But really all stories are topnotch spooky, best NOT read during lunch if descriptions of rotting flesh give you pause.
I love horror anthologies, but I can't recall ever reading one written solely by women. This was everything I hoped for and, as a huge supporter of women in horror, I'm so grateful to Kandisha Press for bringing together so many amazing authors. This anthology is exceptional and a treat for all horror fans.
Reviewing an anthology is always tricky because some stories resonate more with the reader than others. All of these stories were engaging and well-written, but some did hit me harder. Every fan of the genre enjoys certain themes and tropes more than others. But just because a certain story wasn't for me doesn't mean it won't be 100% entertaining for another type of horror fan. Brava to all the ladies who contributed their thrilling and original stories! This would be an excellent read as Halloween approaches so pick it up as soon as possible.
Listed in the same order as the ToC:
“Holes” by R.A. Busby -- Tryptophobia, or the fear of holes, is something I'd long heard of but never really experienced. After this story, I totally get it. Holy hell, what a riveting and nail-biting tale of a woman's whose phobia surges out of control.
“Until There's Nothing Left” by J.A.W McCarthy -- A touching tale of sisters, one of whom has a startling gift . . . or is it a curse? No spoilers, but this tale was both creepy and absolutely heartbreaking. How far would any of us go to keep our loved ones with us, no matter the consequences?
“Two's Company, Three's a Shroud” by Catherine McCarthy -- I'm not sure if this was intended to be funny but I found myself laughing throughout. What an original tale, and the characters were an absolute delight. What happens if one's spirit is sentient, stuck sharing a grave with strangers to save space? Fans of The Odd Couple will love this one!
“Smash and Grab” by Demi Louise Blackburn -- A robbery gone very wrong. The consequences are dire when one steals from the dead.
“The Clockmaker” by Sonora Taylor -- Nathaniel the clockmaker is approached by a stranger for a special piece, a challenge he can't refuse. An chilling tale which reads like something from New England legend/folklore instead of fiction.
“Love You to Death” by Yolanda Sfetsos -- Everyone who knows me knows I will stop everything to devour any story featuring Hades and Persephone. I adored this tale, not just for featuring my favorite mythological couple but making me love a new one, Dea and San, who fight to save the Underworld from an unexpected threat.
“Waiting at the Dance” by Dona Fox -- A daughter is troubled by her mother’s new, vibrant social life. But Mom is intent on doing her own thing, having a valid reason for dancing every night in the graveyard.
“The Crumbling Grave” by Cassidy Frost -- Dane is homeless and stays in the graveyard. A lonely existence until he meets a troubled young woman who he’s moved to help. Will he find redemption for his past mistakes by protecting her?
“Cicada Song” by Michelle Renee Lane -- Not all sister stories are loving and sweet. Anna is fed up with her sister, Sadie, but what can one do? This tale of fierce sibling rivalry is not to be missed.
“Templo Mayor” by V. Castro -- A woman visits an underground Aztec temple in Mexico City, but the tour does not work out as planned. One should always take care when trying to summon a goddess, cause she just might answer!
“The Child” by Carmen Baca -- Wow, this story blew me away. Atla is the newest member in a family of powerful women, each gifted with magic through matrilineal descent. Her mother and grandmother attempt to teach her but will Atla listen and play by the rules, or will she make her own?
“The Roll of the Dice” by Beverly Lee -- The opening of this story will suck you right in. A young girl is chosen, but she did not choose. What will happen to this "miracle child" when the moment of truth arrives?
“Rewake” by Ellie Douglas -- Another story about the perils of grave robbing, A corpse breathes something nasty into Emma during one of the robberies, which begins to change her in this gruesome tale.
“Graveyard of the Lost” by Tracy Fahey -- An archaeology student travels to Ireland, hunting for a special graveyard at the foot of a grand castle. Despite tantalizing leads, the student struggles to get much from the locals. Maybe some mysteries are better left unsolved?
“The Snow Woman” by Susan McCauley – Egypt isn’t the only place with cursed mummies. In this awesome twist on a classic trope, a doctor receives a female mummy from Japan, sharing with his son the dark legend of the Queen of the Snow Spirits. But of course, the pair discover the legend is far more than just a story.
“Night of the Djinn” by Ksenia Murray -- What happens when a wild group of teens hangs out in the graveyard, watched over by a sardonic cat who decides it’s time to play? This story is gory as hell but also wicked fun!
“Don’t Scream” by Christy Aldridge -- A young man gets a job at the local graveyard, but he doesn’t realize until his first night what all he signed up for.
“Thirty Questions” by Dawn DeBraal -- Losing a loved one is devastating, especially when one never receives closure. A year after Tawny loses her cousin, Cheryl, she visits the graveyard with a Ouija board to find out what happened.
“The Chimes at Midnight” by Paula R.C. Readman -- This is gothic horror at its best. The ghost of a wronged woman returns to her home, delivering a message and more for the woman who now lives there.
“The Invitation” by Janine Pipe -- Amber gets an invitation to the exclusive Graveyard Smash party—yay! Will that cute boy be there? Will her parents be home in time to offer support and advice for this big night? Can’t say much more, but brace yourself for quite the surprise ending.
“South Dakota” by Lydia Prime -- A young girl enjoys hanging out at the frozen lake, making friends with a reflection of herself that seems a bit more real than just an image. Can she free the other girl, and finally have a chance at a real friendship?
“Atmosphere” by Ally Pierse -- Vicky has a chance to write a story on a popular beer while also hanging out with a cute guy all night. Should be fun, until she discovers the brewery’s dark secret.
Anthologies have to be the best way to find writers you want to explore further. I love reading them; there's just so much possibility under the cover.
What I loved about this collection was the sheer range of the stories. From the graveyard to Hades to a temple in Mexico and beyond, these stories will take you on a wildly horrific ride all across space and time. I loved the diversity of characters and tropes that the writers took on.
Here were some of my favorites: "Holes" by R.A. Busby This one opens the collection and it is perfect. With a very simple and seemingly innocent premise, Busby pushes the envelope until we're left with something deadly. I see holes in everything now and I may be ruined for life.
"Until There's Nothing Left" by J.A.W. McCarthy This is a haunting tale about loss and grief. McCarthy's writing was engaging, and I love that the story plays on a literal and metaphorical level.
"Two's Company, Three's a Shroud" by Catherine McCarthy A quick and funny horror story, I loved how this one broke up the tension of the other very dark stories around it. It offers a unique perspective on what the dead might get up to in their graves.
"The Clockmaker" by Sonora Taylor This story read like a fable, and I loved the old-fashioned quality Taylor brought to it. A clockmaker winds up with an unusual customer who keeps coming back, and his decisions lead him to a dark place.
"The Child" by Carmen Baca This story follows a family of women who are training the young Atla ancient Azteca magic. The girl is more powerful than her caregivers are prepared for and she causes some bad things to happen. I would have loved to see even more of this story; it felt like it could have been much longer.
My thanks to Kandisha Press for sending me a copy of this one to read and review. I expect great things from you in the future!
As part of the countdown to Vol. 4 of Kandisha Press' Women of Horror Anthologies DON'T BREAK THE OATH, I'm reading the first three volumes straight through! Next up, it was a GRAVEYARD SMASH!
Graveyards mean different things to different people. For some they bring peace, for some fear. For others they're a place to say goodbye or a place to check in with loved ones. For another more nefarious group they're places to scheme or worse. Kandisha Press has gathered another killer group of women to write another killer group of horror stories and they don't leave a gravestone unturned. Doesn't get much better.
Reviewing anthologies is really difficult, because you end up having favorites and/or some stories work better than others, so how do you wrap that up and convey your thoughts about that many different voices and tales? Honestly, I liked this even more than Vol. 1 and I really enjoyed UNDER HER BLACK WINGS. Is it because I think graveyards are cool? Maybe. Is it because the story count here is higher and then there's even more to love? I think that's part of it. 22 stories and I found something to enjoy in every single one of them, so the more the morbid merrier.
As I continue my journey into horror I'm learning that one of things that keeps the pages turning is variety and the range of stories here is impressive. Yes, they all have to do with graveyards...or at least the title (that'll make more sense when you read it), but some of the takes are just so unique. There are yarns of resurrection, legacy, regret. Of profound realizations and GRAVE mistakes. Of mummies, djinn, and....beer.
Here are some favorites in no particular order:
Love You To Death by Yolanda Sfetsos: One of the coolest takes on a zombie story I've ever read.
The Clockmaker by Sonora Taylor: There's taking pride in your work and then there's this.
Two's Company, Three's A Shroud by Catherine McCarthy: Crowded graveyards make for amusing conversations.
The Invitation by Janine Pipe: I can't say why I really liked this without spoiling it, so I'll say that I really dug the format of story.
Until There's Nothing Left by JAW McCarthy: A story about holding on. Beautiful and sad.
Atmosphere by Ally Peirse: Crafting beer can be dangerous. This one really stuck with me, but I can't quite put my finger on why.
Rewake by Ellie Douglas: Eye don't recommend reading this one after eating.
Templo Mayor by V Castro: I need to read V's novels. She brings this epic sense to her fiction unlike any other.
That's eight. EIGHT. More than a third of the book and I could easily keep going. There's just so much good stuff and there's something for everyone. If you made it this far, go grab this and the other Women of Horror anthologies Kandisha Press has put out. You won't be disappointed.
Graveyard Smash is such a fitting title as The Women of Horror knock it out of the graveyard again with this second anthology. You have a huge variety of stories in which to drink your fill. Very odd stories like a woman who is afraid of holes to malevolent spirits trying to get payback to someone in the living world. New, creative, and original takes that run the gambit from vampires to ghosts and Djinn (and his wishes) to age-old spirits (and their curses). Gripping tales like a grave-robbing gone horribly wrong and those ghosts trying to right that remaining wrong before crossing over. All hell breaks loose in a bar called Hades, a story that takes place in a graveyard, (and in reading that story, I’ll never look at a graveyard the same way again), and an eerie tale of a clockmaker who is asked to make a pocket watch with some very odd materials. Cringeworthy and simply horrific tales that are the best in every way. Thank you again, Women of Horror for these dark stories of the macabre. My hat is off to you.
An anthology of horror stories, and a mix of stories from the humorous to the downright terrifying. I’m not a big fan of full-on scary horror, but this collection focuses more on creating the suspense and leaves you imagining what may or may not happen, which I think is far more scarier. My favourites were Two’s Company, Three’s a Shroud, Smash and Grab, The Invitation and The Clockmaker.
This was such an enjoyable read! Dark, spooky, and satisfying, with a wicked sense of play wriggling through the collection and popping up now and again like a cheeky, well-fed worm.
You get a lot of stories for your money, and there wasn't one I didn't like. With anthologies, however, you're always going to have personal favourites, so dipping through my scribblings and in no particular order, I'm going to mention:
'Holes' by R.A. Busby: despite the name, as solid a start to an anthology as it's possible to get. Thoroughly absorbing from start to finish;
'Graveyard of the Lost' by Tracy Fahey: would, I jotted down, make a wonderful short film;
'Two's Company, Three's a Shroud' by Catherine McCarthy: mischievous and engaging. A joy to read despite the gloomiest of subject matter;
'Waiting at the Dance' by Dona Fox: lighthearted yet poignant;
'The Invitation' by Janine Pipe: difficult to say here what I loved about it because it would give away too much, so you'll just have to read it to see what I mean;
'Love you to Death' by Yolanda Sfetsos: wonderfully playful with the mythology of death.
Other favourites included 'The Roll of the Dice' by Beverley Lee, 'Cicada Song' by Michelle Renee Lane, 'Templo Mayor' by V. Castro, 'South Dakota' by Lydia Prime, and, well, all of the others too. The thing is, I marked each out of 10 as I went along and at the end the mean score came out as 8.2 out of 10!
I'll end this eulogy by saying there's not a single tale buried within this collection that should be left to rest in peace. Read them, enjoy them, and grant them all everlasting life. Amen.
I enjoyed reading Graveyard Smash: Women of Horror Anthology Volume 2, but thought volume one, Under Her Black Wings, was a little bit better. Once again, I have to knock them just a little for having the foreword of an all-women-authors book be written by a guy; it gives the impression that the women can’t stand on their own and need a man to speak for them.
R.A. Busby’s “Holes” is a great tale. Kathryn has trypophobia, a fear of holes. She’s living in the middle of a pandemic, and her paranoia spirals in bad directions. A favorite of mine is J.A.W. McCarthy’s “Until There’s Nothing Left,” in which a girl has a bizarre ability to raise people from the dead–but it doesn’t always end well. She’s determined to bring her sister back. This story is so very poignant. Sonora Taylor’s “The Clockmaker” is another favorite. Nathaniel, an unremarkable man who makes remarkable clocks, is commissioned to make one out of bone. But the man who hired him wants more, always more. Another favorite is “Templo Mayor,” by V. Castro. When going on a tour of a very old temple, it’s good to have other people on the tour with you.
Catherine McCarthy’s “Two’s Company, Three’s a Shroud,” was fun but didn’t wow me. A town is running out of room in the cemetery, and they decide to start stacking coffins. This doesn’t sit well with the dead. Another story with a sense of humor is Yolanda Sfetsos’s “Love You To Death.” It takes place in the underworld, in a bar run by Hades and Persephone. It’s silly, and I didn’t like the depiction of Persephone, but it has a couple of good characters. Another fun story, Janine Pipe’s “The Invitation,” is an enjoyable story about Amber, who’s going to go to a party at the cemetery called “Graveyard Smash.” She’s not exactly going for an evening of fun, however–and her mother sends her texts reminding her to go armed!
Dona Fox’s “Waiting at the Dance” involves a widow, Alisha, whose daughter Jenny wants her to get back to dating. When Alisha goes dancing at something called “the widow’s dance,” things get a little bit strange. In Cassidy Frost’s “The Crumbling Grave,” Emilia asks homeless guy Dane for help regarding her abusive boyfriend. I didn’t entirely buy into some of the details of the ending, but it was an intriguing story. Michelle Renee Lane’s “Cicada Song” has Anna hearing voices that tell her to kill her annoying sister Sadie (“…killing her seemed a bit extreme”). I like where this one went.
Demi-Louise Blackburn’s “Smash and Grab” introduces us to two office workers who decide to start grave-robbing for extra cash. One of them is desperate for the money and drags the other along. It’s a bit predictable, but a nifty premise. Carmen Baca’s “The Child” involves three generations of women who have inherited magical “recipes” from their Aztec ancestors. Unfortunately, Atlaclamani’s ability with said recipes appears to outreach her moral growth. This story didn’t feel like it had a definitive ending. Another grave-robbing story is Ellie Douglas’s “Rewake.” Emma and Carl are cousins who are robbing graves to satisfy some guy they’re working for. Emma has a bizarre experience with a corpse and starts to change. The bad stuff happens right away, before we can come to care about the characters at all. The dialogue is very awkward. And Emma’s cousin notices things like the fact that her breasts have changed size without thinking much about it. It also doesn’t really have an ending.
I didn’t think that Beverly Lee’s “The Roll of the Dice” felt like horror, at least to me. It involves a man who’s seen an “imaginary friend” with no mouth since he was a child. The ending is strange, but I didn’t get much out of it. Tracy Fahey’s “Graveyard of the Lost” involves an archaeology student trying to find a grave that’s said to only be found when the tide goes out. This one was pretty good. Susan McCauley’s “The Snow Woman” introduces us to Eric, whose father is a professor of anthropology. He’s just had a 300-year-old mummy delivered to him. Legend has it that once set free, she’ll freeze the world. This was an interesting read; the characters were a little flimsy (eh, it happens in some short stories), but the events were great.
I wanted to like Ksenia Murray’s “Night of the Djinn” more than I did. Some goth kids are hanging out in a cemetery and decide to sacrifice a cat. One of the kids, Jade, refuses to let them harm the cat. Said cat happens to be temporarily inhabited by a Djinn, who decides to have some fun with the kids. It’s all very quick, without much variation in the pacing, and the Djinn gets the best of the kids simply by declaring a deadly “price” for each wish he grants. I feel like this could have been more than it was.
Christy Aldridge’s “Don’t Scream (You’ll Wake the Dead)” introduces us to teenager Mike, who gets a job at a cemetery working for an undertaker. The undertaker calmly tells him that the dead sometimes walk, and that he should never scream, because that will get their attention. The rest is obvious. Dawn DeBraal’s “Thirty Questions” has Tawny’s dead cousin Cheryl come back to help her figure out who killed her in a hit-and-run. She never actually saw the person, but Tawny can ask 30 questions to help her figure out who it might have been. The ending was a bit too quick, and Cheryl’s dialogue was very stilted, and not in a “this is a corpse/ghost/whatever” kind of way.
Paula R.C. Readman’s “The Chimes At Midnight” sees Eleanor come back from the dead, only to find out that her murderous husband has taken yet another wife. Can the two of them work together to save the new wife’s life? The prose and dialogue are a little purple, but it’s basically a good story. Lydia Prime’s “South Dakota” is fascinating, particularly given the implications of the events on the world-building. I would love to know more about this place in which young Dakota meets a friend who looks exactly like her, but is trapped beneath the ice of a lake. She becomes determined to free this copy of herself. I also enjoyed Ally Peirse’s “Atmosphere,” except for one detail. Young reporter Vicky talks brewery cleaner Rob into taking her along on his job, since his Uncle Dave is out like a light. He has her doing Uncle Dave’s part, which is vital to his safety, when she has no training or experience in that. Things (obviously) go wrong in that area; it was really hard to imagine that he would have made that decision. The interesting part is what happens to them after that, and why.
Overall this anthology is worth reading, even if it isn’t perfect. But that often happens with anthologies–not all stories will match any given reader’s preferences.
I picked this up right after I finished Under Her Black Wings, and damn, this did not disappoint. Even though every story follows a graveyard/cemetery theme, each is so unique and horrifying in its own way. Highly recommend!
To start us off, I read and enjoyed my first Women of Horror Anthology by Kandisha Press. Each story in this collection falls under the theme of "Graveyard Smash", but still offers plenty of variety. While these are horror tales, none were too gory for me (though some came close) and I honestly enjoyed each story.
Until There's Nothing Left - J.A.W. McCarthy
The collection opens with a heartbreaking tale of a young woman with an unusual power and her efforts to deal with loss and grief. This story brought tears to my eyes, even as it sent chills down my spine.
The Clockmaker - Sonora Taylor
Easily my favourite story in the collection. With elements of fairy tales, Taylor weaves a story about a clockmaker who lets his pride get the better of him, with horrific results.
The Chimes ad Midnight - Paula R.C. Readman
A creepy little ghost story about murder and betrayal. This story was chilling and a delight to read. I always enjoy a good ghost story.
Atmosphere - Ally Peirse
From the engaging opening sentence right to the end, this story was gripping and a perfect wrap up to the collection. Vicky, a young reporter hungry for her first big story, heads to the local brewhouse. There she finds out that her small town is not as boring as she once thought. Peirse keeps readers on their toes and offers a different interpretation of the theme.
I gotta be honest...this is the second anthology I've tried to read this year and it's the second one that I just couldn't really get into. I think it's just a me thing...I WANT to read these...but I feel like I'm forcing myself to pick them up and then I find myself not loving the experience because I'm forcing myself to read them when I'm really not in the mood. I might revisit this one at some point in the future when I'm having better success with anthologies...but right now is just not that time. And let me be clear...there wasn't anything BAD here...I just couldn't get into it.