First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Curiosity Quills publishing for allowing me access to this title in exchange for an honest review.
'Seeing a ghost is meeting the past. Someone who should no longer exist still lingers. Communicating with a spirit is communicating with history. Who knows what secrets a ghost will reveal, or what doors they will unlock you never knew existed?'
I'm a sucker for a ghost story. I'm a sucker for short stories. So as soon as I saw this anthology on the Curiosity Quills catalogue, I requested it faster than the speed of light, almost burning my fingers off in the process.
Featuring 36 short stories from various Curiosity Quills authors (including Jordan Elizabeth, the author of the Treasure Chronicles, who was the main reason I wanted to read this) it was a pretty chunky book, which is why it's taken so long for me to finish it - I've been reading it almost constantly for over two weeks now!
I'm going to give very brief descriptions of each short story, and a rating out of five stars, and then at the end I'll give my overall rating for the entire compendium. Buckle up, this review is going to be hefty!
- 'The Final Act of Keri and Trent' by Derek McFadden: high school sweethearts reunite in their hometown after many years apart, but Keri is dead and trying to break the news to Trent that this day - Christmas Eve - is going to be his last. Bittersweet. 4/5
- 'Ghostly Affection' by Grace M. Deleesie: Tommy is the only one who can see his ghostly pal, and she falls in love with him. On his wedding day he admits he's in love with her too and kills himself so that they can finally be together. Cliche. 2/5
- 'Amity' by Jordan Elizabeth: Young girl meets kooky lady standing over the grave of someone called Amity. The lady tells her to go home and pull up one of her floorboards to solve an unanswered murder. Girl realises the lady is the ghost of Amity attempting to prove her innocence in her husband's murder. Very obvious, far too undeveloped. 1/5
- 'Attic Secrets' by Ashley Pasco: While moving house, a teenage girl spots a beautiful guy stood at the end of her road. They talk twice. He convinces her to go to high school instead of being home schooled, says "I'm really happy that I got to know you, though. I think you changed my life" and disappears. She finds a yearbook from the future in her new house, with an in memoriam page dedicated to the guy she met. So instalove, so cringey. 1/5
- 'Bar Room Nightmare' by Al Dorantes: A man buys a bar, despite being warned that it's haunted. He freaks out after realising there's a ghost who can communicate via the jukebox, playing appropriate songs that work as replies to conversations. Very unique idea. 4/5
- 'The Sun Valley Bistro' by Kae P. Quinn: After Roger dies, his bistro is sold to one of his favourite workers. The chef is annoyed that he wasn't chosen to be the owner, and decides to burn the place down. Roger puts the fire out, and the new owner falls in love with a firefighter and gets her happy ending. Cute. 4/5
- 'Candlestick Guilt' by Jordan Elizabeth: Many years ago, a young boy died after losing his father's candlestick. When moving into the house, the new occupants uncover the candlestick, and the boy and his father are finally put to rest. I'm always interested by unappeased spirits, but it felt like a lot of set up for not much pay off. 3/5
- 'Confined Awake By Insanity' by Tracina Cozza: After their teacher tells them about an abandoned insane asylum nearby, a group of friends decide to explore it on Halloween night. At the end of the story you find out it's all a fantasy by one of the patients in the asylum, which is very much still up and running. Groan. 1/5
- 'Ghosts of Holy Cross' by Ashley Pasco: Feeling more like a first chapter than a short story, we meet a girl who sleepwalks and wakes up in graveyards, and whose destiny is to listen to spirits and help them move to the other side. 3/5
- 'Graveyard Dust' by Heather Talty: A Cinderella retelling, but Cinderella can see ghosts who convince her to go to the ball. It's sassy and tongue-in-cheek, mocking the fact that the prince in the original story doesn't recognise his love and wants to marry her instantly. Very fun. 5/5
- 'Faceless' by James McNally: After moving with her family into their grandmother's house, a girl nearly gets murdered by her uncle as he searches for the lost treasure hidden somewhere in the mansion. The ghost that hid the money saves her life, deflecting the bullet with his ghostly hand, and pushes her uncle out of the window to his death. Eventually the girl finds the treasure, gets rich AF. Feels very old-fashioned, but mentions the internet and My Little Pony... Confusing time period. 4/5
- 'The Blood-Stained Handkerchief' by Jordan Elizabeth: You guessed it, there's a blood-stained handkerchief. After the tuberculosis outbreak a rich family turns their mansion into a hospital, but they close it again following the death of their daughter. Many years in the future a new family move in and are plagued by ghosts, but they solve the problem by reuniting the woman with her son, who dies as soon as he enters the house and joins her on the other side. An interesting look at the death of family and the desire to be able to see them again. 4/5
- 'This Ol' Haunted House' by Gloria Slade: A girl is bullied at school for moving in to the notoriously haunted house. She invites the bullies round for a sleepover, hoping to scare them with the ghosts, but when they explore the house late at night they find a skeleton trapped in a hidden room in the library. Very shudder-inducing. 5/5
- 'House on Hazelnut Lane' by Jordan Elizabeth: Basically 'American Horror Story: Murder House'. We flashback through the various deaths that have occurred at the property over the years. 5/5
- 'Sweet Hollow Road' by C.K. Raggio: The only story that made me literally jump from fear. There's a man in a graveyard, a broken down car and plenty of screaming and blood. If you like your ghost stories terrifying, just skip straight to this one. 5/5
- 'Jacked' by A.F. Plane: A hunter stays in an abandoned house. The ghost who inhabits the house guts him, just like he'd gut a deer. Bit too preachy for my tastes. 1/5
- 'A Minor Matter of Death' by W.K. Pomeroy: Jimmy is a favourite at the bar, but he gets shot when trying to talk down a criminal who comes into the establishment. His police officer friend kills the gunman, but it's too late to save Jimmy. On the day of his wake, Jimmy comes back to help ease the guilt of the gunman's brother and the police officer who had to shoot him. 4/5
- 'Moving In With The Ghost' by A. Elizabeth Zumchak: A couple move in. They have a ghost. The woman just happens to be a psychic, so she talks with the ghost and they find the body of a teenager who committed suicide, and whose parents were too ashamed to have buried. 2/5
- 'Death of a Necromancer' by Misha Murphy: Two necromancers have a face off. One dies. 2/5
- 'Silent Opera' by Joan O. Scharf: Three boys go to a farmhouse that's rumoured to be haunted by the body of a dead opera singer, who killed herself after losing her voice. One of the boys aggravates the ghost and sings, so she cuts out his tongue - except his tongue is still completely intact in his mouth, he just doesn't ever speak again. Moral of the story? Don't be a dick to depressed ghosts. 1/5
- 'Take My Place' by Nicole Green: Anna and her family move into her dead uncle's house, but it's haunted by the daughter of the woman he murdered. Nora insists that Anna takes her place, and when her mother and brother won't listen to her Anna tells her diary everything. 3/5
- 'Nellie's Playmate' by Lorna MacDonald Czarnota: A little girl gets thrown off of a bridge, and it's only after she desperately tries to get help that she realises she can't because she's a ghost. Heartbreaking. 5/5
- 'The Regal' by Jeremy Mortis: A woman wants to buy the theatre that her and her father always used to visit, despite the fact that's it's allegedly haunted by an evil ghost called the Shadow. She has her interview with the owner and it goes well, but as she's getting into her car in the parking lot a man runs up to her and apologises for being so late to their meeting. Creepy and very psychological. 4/5
- 'Dark Rider' by Amy L. Gale: A birthday girl gets into a car accident while driving to her 16th birthday, but a hunky boy called Nate helps her out of the car and offers to walk her to her party. When she wakes up in the hospital after being rescued from her car by police she's devastated to learn that Nate isn't real, but then she finds him in a hospital bed a couple of rooms away. Interesting exploration of fate and timelines. 3/5
- 'The Sailor' by Lisa Oaks: After her brother dies in a plane crash, our protagonist is devastated. She meets a mysterious stranger in the park who gives her a note from her deceased sibling and then disappears, and mere moments later she finds his decomposing body floating in the lake next to her. Apparently nothing stops the ghostly postman. 3/5
- 'Sarah' by Rachel Pond: A woman shares the story of when she started seeing ghosts... to a room full of ghosts. Unexpected twist, but extremely short. 4/5
- 'Ghost of Shadmoor Park' by Grant Eagar: My least favourite short story. Katie, the Ghost of Shadmoor Park, makes friends with Sheila after inhabiting her body and kissing her best friend. Cheap jokes about suicide and throwaway comments about disabilities are completely acceptable, the story is very disjointed and yawn-inducing. 1/5
- 'Simon and the Ghost' by Jeremy Mortis: Simon is in the library when a girl appears to him and tells him he needs to stop a murder. She disappears when he saves the intended victim, having travelled back in time to prevent her own death. 4/5
- 'The Staircase' by Claire Weze: Told entirely through a girl's emails to her brother, not allowing us to see the other side of the conversation via his replies to her. She travels to New York to meet her real father, bumps into him twice on the staircase but is too scared to tell him that she's his daughter, and then finds out he died months before. 5/5
- 'Swamp' by Joan O. Scharf: Boy hears a girl crying for help in the creepy swamp. He goes towards her voice and is never seen again. Boring. 2/5
- 'Tillie in Utica' by Jordan Elizabeth: Samantha is overjoyed when her beau proposes to her... But the next morning she appears to Tillie as a ghost, because he's murdered her. Yowch. Tillie solves the mystery. Apparently Tillie and her boyfriend, Ben, are characters that Jordan created inspired by her great-grandparents - now that's a cute historical note! 5/5
- 'A Trace of Time' by Joan O. Scharf: There's a creepy child stood under a streetlight alone in the rain, so a woman decides to get out of her car to help her. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?! But the little girl ghost just decides to dematerialise right over her grave, leaving the high visibility jacket loaned to her on the floor. Some people are so ungrateful. 3/5
- 'Truth or Dare' by Molly Jauregui: Remarkably less truth or dare than advertised, a boy summons a demon using an ouija board and everyone dies... Or do they? 2/5
- 'Try Me' by Christine Baker: The most polished and professional of the short stories, I sincerely hope Christine decides to extend this into a full length novel or at least revisits the characters at some point in the future. A girl whose father killed her mother, a boy whose brother and father died in a car accident and a mother who has a raging drug addiction, the characters are both instantly well-developed and I found myself really wanting to read more from these two. 5/5
- 'Winchell Hall's Mystery' by Gloria Slade: A body is found in the walls at an old school building, and a long cold missing person case is closed. 4/5
- 'Yankee Inn' by Jordan Elizabeth: After a woman buys a haunted inn, she employs the ghosts to be her staff. Very simple idea, but executed in a genius way. 5/5
And there you have it, 36 short story reviews!
While there were some absolutely amazing tales and some that I think really could have been cut from this anthology, my overall rating is: 3.2 stars (which I'm rounding down to 3 stars for the ease of my graphic!)