Sideshow: How Dark is Your Shadow?
Last show of the day by Phil Hickes: Pete & Jenny decide to open a fast food chain; they just need to boot the old Punch & Judy show off the end of the pier plot first.
The old man leaves them a parting gift and whilst you can sort of tell what’s going happen (nature of the book!!) PH writes so well I was drawn in, and horrified. Loved the fast pace a short story forces on author, but PH does well to give a good rounded outline and focus. Fabulous start to the anthology and thought the picture was very creepy.
Missing link by S. McLeod: Lewis makes a living off exploiting Zora, the bearded lady. But it seems she is only a substitute for Juanna who now spends eternity mummified in a glass box.
SM give the reader little glimpses of the past via Juana’s dreams. It’s all bit surreal but riveting nonetheless I enjoyed the little “how this came about” blurb at the back of the anthology with author bio’s.
It’s all in the cards by Leigh M. Lane: Sandra s life has taken a strange turn; she now finds herself reading tarot cards with a rather repulsive boss.
A chance meeting at the coffee stand and a fateful reading sets into motion a night of terror. LML uses the carnival setting to full creepy effect, especially in the chase scene. The ending is spooky all if its own. I loved the clear knowledge apparent regarding the tarot card meanings.
Daughters of Bimini by Tina Swain: John has found a unique “act” to add his carnival family. Unfortunately, the beautiful twins are only that on the outside as nature takes its course when they show their true selves.
This was a riveting story of food, lust and misdirection until it suddenly stopped; which was a bit disappointing, in my opinion.
Tattoo by Shawn Pfister: Lydia’s tattoo is her curse. After a bad date night and an incident with a safety razor she meets her tattoo only it’s not a cute, funny or friendly one.
A really great story and I loved how it bounced back and forth giving snippets of history This was my favourite in the anthology; I thought it well staged, with great characters’ a unique story and fab ending.
The Karma Carnival by C B Doyle: Henry and Lori are strange childhood friends, but loyal. When they visit the local carnival they meet a few oddities. A few Pinky swears and true names later and destiny is set.
A lovely story of wishes, snakes, karma, love and promises. Very meandering but beautiful timing in telling this story.
Anna by Melissa Stevens: it takes talent to give curtains a melancholy description and pull it off. This short is full of brooding and darkness.
Thomas is enamoured by Raggady Ann and longs to see her after a brief show, but Thomas has a secret of his own, yet yearns to cure of her maladies. He manages to secure an interview and slowly her life unfolds.
The story is both sad and gruesome, whilst the ending is sort of predictable (if you read enough horror) was horrifying. MS writes well and really gave me a rounded story, with great characters.
Show Time by Carole Gill: I think this the worst horror story in the anthology as it bring the start reality of what humans do to each other, not a monster or even a psychopath, just a regular human and usually for profit. Brilliantly written story though. A random start that progressed into a fabulous ending.
The Amazing Mirror Maze by Lisamarie Lamb: Another heart rending story that really works well in that Twillight Zone/chicken ‘n’ egg way. I enjoyed the writing if not the story as it was sad and scary. Very clever manipulation of emotions, mixed with gore and a good ending.
The One and Only by Rob M. Miller: The writing style was a bit too bouncy for me, like riding a carnival ride and I had trouble focusing on the characters.
I never fully got into the story and therefore chose to skip on to the next. I did try to come back to it a couple of times but it’s a no go from me…. But that’s the joy of anthologies, some you love some you hate.
The Human Illumine by E. A. Irwin: I did not get the first paragraph of this short story; too poetic and fluffy for me, but then the story started and I was gripped.
It goes on to reveal a serial killers madness, or does it!! Very descriptive writing is either your “thing” or not, not so much for me but the story was consuming.
Burning Hearts by Jody Neil Ruth: A short tale of love, brutality and sacrifice. So beautifully written, it’s really a love story with horror enfolded within it. The setting was a surprise and skilfully written as to only hint at before a further reveal.
The premise that all the stories are set in a side show carnival gives rise to some awesome ideas and stories, allowing great imagery from the authors.
At the end are the authors bio’s and story inspiration, I don’t think it would have stopped the flow of the book to put these at the end of each chapter; personally I would have preferred it.
I thought the story illustrations at the start of each chapter were amazing and really worth a mention.