Reviewing: Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked by Christa Carmen

Content warnings: Drug usage, gore, suicide, alcoholism, addiction, harm to animals, sexual assault, and self-harm.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 books

Highlights: 

  • The tone of some of the stories was genuinely unsettling. 
  • Feminist undertones ruled the narratives. 
  • I loved the references to horror ‘tropes’ such as the final girl.
  • Carmen’s writing is lovely to read and she’s exceptionally good at horrific imagery! 

The sound of ramping-up horror revving its engine came from the speakers and Marci turned to watch the action unfolding on the screen. 

“Shocking,” she said after a moment. “A woman trying to convince a cabin full of people they’re all gonna die and no one believes her.”

Here I go again, trying to figure out if I like short story collections or not. Horror is, in my opinion, a genre that works very well in bite-sized chunks. The structure of a short story or film allows for the maintenance of the atmosphere of dread and unease that makes horror so effective. The issue for me with anthologies is it can be incredibly difficult to uphold the same quality of story consistently throughout the collection – especially for single-author collection like this one. 

Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked is a collection of short horror fiction with a few central threads – such as the treatment of women in horror, feminism overall and a few wedding themed pieces as the title would suggest – but otherwise there seemed to be little in common between each story. There were a few stand out stars for me, such as Red Room wherein a woman receives violent and bloody pictures on her phone each night and her terror is ignored by those around her, brushed aside even by her partner, and Liquid Handcuffs during which a support worker at a drug rehabilitation facility is put through a genuinely terrifying ordeal. Both stories garnered physical reactions of unease as I read them, and very much lived up to what I wanted from a horror collection – to be frightened. 

Unfortunately, some of the stories I didn’t enjoy quite as much, as is a given for collections it seems. There were a couple where the vagueness required to pull off a short-story structure was perhaps a little too vague, and I didn’t entirely understand what was going on (which was probably the point) and a few that weren’t really that scary to me. Don’t get me wrong, these stories deal with some incredibly heavy topics ranging from drug misuse (quite a lot of them contain this, so I’d avoid if that is a hard nope for you) to sexual assault, and were emotional and uncomfortable to read, but weren’t necessarily horror for me as a reader. 

Perhaps more than any other genre, horror is subjective. What frightens me won’t even bother another reader. I mean I can watch a horror movie with Lauren and have a very different reaction to what is going on than she does, so why should stories be any different? In that sense I think for other readers this collection could contain some gems that simply didn’t appeal to me personally. I also think that perhaps my brain just rebels against short story anthologies, because I haven’t had a huge amount of luck with them overall. I did enjoy reading this however, even if a few of the stories just missed the mark for me. I’d definitely be interested in reading Carmen’s work going forward, and this book did definitely help me get into that spooky Halloween mindset, it just wasn’t my favourite horror read of this year!

Do you have any favourite horror anthologies? What is it that really makes your skin crawl when reading them? Drop them down below in the comments and let’s have a chat! 

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