I have two anthologies that I want to talk about and they have one thing in common. They both include a story from Horror Addicts hostess Emerian Rich. The First book is Shadow People and Cursed Objects edited by C. Le Mroch. There may be a lot of ghost anthologies out there but what makes make this one different is that it challenges you to guess if each ghostly tale is based on a true story or not. At the end of the book is a section that gives background info on each story and tells you if its true or the author’s imagination.
Shadow People and Cursed Objects has thirteen tales that are well written and delightfully spooky. The first story is The Busby Chair by Alice J. Black. In this one, a boy is dared by his classmates to sit in a cursed chair in a museum. According to legend, a ghost will come and kill you if you sit in his chair. I loved the atmosphere here and how it includes an old legend and kids doing something dumb due to a dare. This was the perfect set up for the rest of the anthology.
It’s hard to pick favorites, but one of mine was Bye Bye Blackbird by Emerian Rich. Set in 1926, it focuses on a shy woman who spots a raven necklace that she must have. Despite the shopkeeper refusing to sell, she ends up with the necklace after a series of events and wishes she hadn’t. What I love about it is how the twenties comes to life with references to flappers and the descriptions of the outfits they wear. I liked that despite the main characters getting warned about the necklace, they seem to think that the warning means something different and the woman with the necklace becomes a target. I loved the concept of a cursed object causing so much destruction.
Another story that stood out for me here is Doomsday Every Night At Five by Evan Dicken. The story looks at a simpler time where a young girl keeps seeing stories of the apocalypse on an old TV every night at 5. After awhile she comes to the conclusion that the people in the TV are watching her as she is watching them and there are things happening that she can’t control. There is only one way to end how she feels, I love the ending to this one. I also enjoyed the next story in the anthology which again deals with a kid taking a dare. Fatty And The Nothing Man by Sean Ealy follows a boy named Fatty who decides to venture into a haunted house in order to impress his so called friends. Inside he meets the old woman who owns the house and finds that there is only one way to leave the house. What I liked here was how the woman talks Fatty into what she wants him to do and then Fatty makes a big revelation of his own. Does anything good ever come from a dare?
Another great one here is Pedro by the book’s editor C. Le Mroch. Did you ever have an invisible sibling that your parents talked about being perfect in every way? We’ll Peter had that, his name was Pedro and now Peter is an adult and Pedro is getting Peter’s son into trouble. How do you stop a ghost from causing trouble? Peter will find out that there is only one way to do it. This was an excellent story with a good message to it. There are no bad stories in Shadow People and Cursed Objects. The editor did an excellent job of picking the best of the best and the concept of deciding what is real or what isn’t also makes this book a must read. This is one book that you shouldn’t pass up.
The other anthology is Wicked Gardens Edited by Mark Slade and Gavin Chappell. This book is different than most books out there. In this collection, we have several stories that range from the bizarre to the horrific and they all have to do with an apartment building and a garden. Anything goes in this anthology and if I had to describe it in two words I would say it’s oddly original. I’m no stranger to Mark Slade’s work. When you read a book that has him involved you just need to check your brain at the door and enjoy the ride, and I did just that.
One of my favorite stories here was from Emerian Rich called The Garden. Belinda went to live with her Gram after her dad died and mom ran off. She feels lonely sometimes but the roses in Gram’s garden are always there when no one else is. I love the foreshadowing in the beginning of this story with Belinda being compared to the flowers that her grandma grows. There is also a good message about how your loved ones never really abandon you and you are strong enough to survive anything.
Another good one is Giving Up The Ghost by Mark Slade. This one has to do with an unhappy couple, a trapped spirit and a man who doesn’t want to give up his old apartment. I loved the idea of a spirit being kept against its will.
If you like strange, there is one tale in this book that really fits the bill. Apartment 6-A by L.A. Sykes is about a serial killer stuck in an apartment after the apocalypse. One word to describe this one is bleak. There is no light and no living people, just one man alone with the memories of his past killings and some dead bodies which he has conversations with. This was one deranged story.
This may be an odd little book but it’s not one that you should pass up. All of the stories and poems here show a lot of imagination and you have to love a book where anything goes. Wicked Gardens is the kind of book you read when you want to try something totally different because this book will remind you how creative horror writers can be.