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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
there is something just extra cool and extra harrowing about all these stories taking place under the same moon on the same halloween night. very galaxy brain of these editors. Leyla Mendoza and the Last House on the Lane was my very personal favorite – it really meant the entire world to me. and Rocky Road with Caramel Drizzle is one i feel so thankful to have been able to read, and i know it will sit inside my heart forever. but here are my thoughts on all the stories in this collection, and i think so many people are gonna have a good time with this one, especially if you read this during spooky season.
━━♡ Welcome to the Hotel Paranoia by Vanessa Montalban ★★
“If you would’ve just waited for me to tell you I felt the same, if you would’ve never come here, I’d be yours. We’d be ours.”
i was obsessed with this sinking abandoned hotel setting, but sadly that was one of the few things i did like about this short story. i kept waiting for a different kind of revenge story to start because of the set up, but, sadly again, i was let down.
tw/cw: drinking, drugs, mention of bullying in past, brief mention of seizure in past (insinuating bc of overdose or excessive drug use), death
━━♡ The Visitor by Kalynn Bayron ★★★
“They were like beacons in an endless abyss of grief.”
this story has a few lines that made me tear up. this is a very sweet and spooky tale about a girl and her father celebrating halloween and honoring someone they lost. i feel like the author did such a good job conveying so many different emotions and feelings in the different scenes in this short work, i was really impressed.
tw/cw: loss of a parent in the past, grief
━━♡ A Brief Intermission by Sara Farizan ★★★
“Whenever someone talks about the “good old days,” they forget to mention who it was “good” for.”
okay truly, drive in movies are just the perfect creepy setting, especially ones that are closed for halloween because of a generational secret being kept. i really liked both of our main characters in this one, and i liked seeing this secret unravel alongside them.
tw/cw: blood, gore, brief hospital setting, mention of fatal car crash in past, microaggressions, vomiting, animal death (rats)
━━♡ Guested by Rebecca Kim Wells ★★★
“Mrs. Choi thought Guested parties were white people nonsense or the work of the devil. Sometimes both.”
you all know a story about sibling love is always going to get me, and this being told in second person really amplified all the feelings. i will say, i just didn’t enjoy the ending of this one, but the concept was really unique and smart, and the writing was very captivating – i would love to read more from this author.
tw/cw: very brief mention of parents divorcing + death of a parent, possession, depression depiction
━━♡ Rocky Road with Caramel Drizzle by Kosoko Jackson ★★★★★
“There is no God here tonight. Only me, and I am vengeful.”
this short story is worth reading the entire anthology for alone. this was truly everything for me and, even though it pulled on everything inside my heart, the very vulnerable, real, + raw feelings were just so powerful to me. this is exactly what i want in horror, because, at the end of the day, humans are more horrifying than any paranormal creature could ever dream of being.
tw/cw: needle imagery, toxic friendship, codependency depiction, chronic pain mention, homophobia, homophobic slurs, blood, abuse, ouija board, very brief mention of domestic abuse + parental abuse + loss of a parent + murder in past with a side character. this story has a central focus on a gay hate crime / gay bashing – please use caution while reading and make sure you’re in the right headspace
━━♡ The Three Phases of Ghost Hunting by Alex Brown ★★★
“Terrifying Bob won’t even mess with the Jollibee, which makes me sad on his behalf.”
my favorite part of this was just how filipinos really do normalize ghosts + spirits hahaha. but i really loved the set up of this one, and i felt like it’s really different than anything else in this collection. i loved these characters instantly too, and the sibling relationship made my heart so happy in so few pages. i just really didn’t love the end of this one and it left me more confused than anything else. but i would happily read a full-length story with this crew + their new friend!
tw/cw: talk of death + possession
━━♡ Nine Stops by Trang Thanh Tran ★★
“You can love something so hard that you hate it at the same time. Each shortcoming hurts more because you care. The city and my body are like that.”
ahhh, this one is going to be a bit hard to write feelings for just because this story is centered around one of those “if you dont do BLANK, then BLANK will happen” on the internet things – and i just loath those so much. but then it just got more and more gross and confusing, and added so much that just didn’t need to be there, but felt like they were added because it was a halloween anthology. we got to see some heartfelt themes of grief and the helplessness you feel when you lose someone you love – and i loved that – but sadly everything else just overshadowed it for me.
tw/cw: asian hate crime, racism, loss of a loved one, grief depiction, graphic animal cruelty + death for a ritual, insect mention, blood
━━♡ Leyla Mendoza and the Last House on the Lane by Maya Gittleman ★★★★★
“The smell of sampaguita fills the air. It’s coming from you, the magic that’s always been you, that you’ve finally given yourself the ability to unlock.”
not only my favorite of the collection, but a brand new all time favorite short story. this was everything and so very powerful. i might be a little biased because i am fillipino (and i have a matching sampaguita tattoo with my cousin haha), but i think this story is truly just perfection, while being so deep in culture and so deep in heart. and i was weeping through the ending with a smile on my face. the author was so galaxy brain for this entire story, but the amount of hope it was able to evoke from me too. i really am speechless.
whatever this author does next, i will be in the publisher’s emails begging for an arc, because these few pages truly made me feel not only seen, but like i am finding a brand new all time favorite author.
tw/cw: talk of loss of a parent in the past, mention of deaths, one sentence mention of whitening cream/treatment
━━♡ In You to Burn by Em X. Liu ★★
“Magic wasn’t real, after all. There were better, more mundane ways to explain things.”
ah, i wish i would have loved this one more. i am not really sure what to say other than maybe the writing just wasn’t for me. but the plot just seemed a little all over and i wasn’t really sure where the story was going most of the time. it also felt very long to me.
tw/cw: fires, drinking, blood, death
━━♡ Anna by Shelly Page ★★★★
“I know that bone-deep loneliness that comes with being abandoned and the fear that it’ll keep happening no matter what you do.”
okay i think this story was like exactly what i was expecting from this collection, and it just was really good and really halloween spooky. it was the paranormal scariest of them all for me, and i was really feeling the eeriness while reading (and while finishing). a good reminder why i love short story collections so much, because i am now very excited to read more from this author.
tw/cw: abandonment, child abuse in past, starvation, ouija board
━━♡ Hey There, Demons by Tara Sim ★★★★
“Halloween. One way or another, he was going to get rid of this poltergeist for good.”
oh this was just a good read all around, and so different in tone from the rest of the collection. and it just really made my heart overflow with happiness, while still being spooky. i know these are fictional characters, but i really wish them the best because they were able to get into my heart in so few pages!
tw/cw: ghost leaving scratches on children, blood, implied loss of a parent in past
━━♡ Save Me from Myself by Ayida Shonibar ★★★★
“Today, my outside resembles the way I feel within.”
this really is the short story from this collection that is going to be the hardest (and most all over the place) to talk about. i loved this story, i loved what it was doing, i loved that i very easily could see how much this will mean to so many teens, especially queer bipoc teens, who i know are feeling these things, thinking these things, and seeing themselves like this main character. this is an important and powerful read, and was able to evoke so much emotion from me. but i just absolutely hated the end of this. i felt like it was for shock value and just felt terrible when the rest of this story was everything i could have hoped for for this collection. again, i feel like this is just a hard one to talk about, but it still is a bright, but heartbreaking, shining light in this collection for me.
tw/cw from author at start of this story: suicidal ideation, death
tw/cw that i found additionally: mention of parent abandonment, loss of a friend, loss of a parent, and… so many intrusive thoughts
━━♡ Knickknack by Ryan Douglass ★★★
“And…how do we find a sacrifice worthy of his Clownliness?”
truly, very few things in this life are scarier than clowns. and a clown who is a ghost and kidnaps and kills children? like, i was unsettled from start to end! i also really enjoyed the queer rep in this because i think its a very relatable “is this person maybe queer too” highschool experience, and i know a lot of people will be able to relate. this was spooky and sweet and i had a good time with it.
tw/cw: murder in past, death in past, kidnapping, brief one sentence mention of parent alcohol addiction and cheating of a parent, just not the best parents in general, brief mention on bullying in past, mention of 4chan, ouija board.
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
♡ buddy read with evie