Rating: 5 out of 5
Christa Carmen’s Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked is an intense and harrowing collection of horror short stories. A handful of them interconnect, with a couple mentioning the same city, a couple connecting at the same methadone clinic, a couple taking place on the same All Hallow’s Eve, and one that just uses two familiar names and leaves you to speculate. While some of these stories may seem paranormal in aspect, the tales have a real-world grime to them. Heroin addiction is a familiar refrain that comes back several times over. Even a story involving a visitation by three ghosts on All Hallow’s Eve is heavily grounded in real relationship and career troubles. Besides, with one mental health facility making an appearance in here, as well as drug use, there’s always a question as to just how real certain things might (or might not) be.
Some stories are a touch surreal, like the opening “Thirsty Creatures,” in which the water supply suddenly becomes poisonous. A couple of the stories have a poetic air to them.
The trees were fire and the sky was panicked birds and the horse was made of bone.
While some stories end without much explanation of what happened, there always seems to be enough possibility to them that for the most part I didn’t feel confused or cheated. There’s plenty to hang your imagination on.
Some stories are long and involved, such as “Liquid Handcuffs”. Heroin addict Eddie kidnaps counselor Olive as revenge, and proceeds to shoot her up with heroin repeatedly. This one feels real-world hellish and scary, and by the time it ended I absolutely loved it. Other stories, such as “A Fairy Plant in Grief” or “The One Who Answers the Door”, are shorter, and tend to rely a little more heavily on atmosphere and/or twists. They pull it off well.
Any nit-picks I had are really too small to be worth mentioning. I found these stories immersive, entrancing, and quite tense. I felt my heart race a few times as I got drawn in! There’s even a rather bloody, somewhat humorous tale called “The Girl Who Loved Bruce Campbell,” in which several heroin addicts shoot up using contaminated water and turn into hungry monsters who can feel no pain. “Flowers from Amaryllis” was another favorite, in which a woman who has tried to commit suicide and been committed to a mental ward seems to have an unusual protector. These are dark tales, with blood, gore, and some adult content. The content is well-balanced and fun to read!