Why did I read this book?
1. I liked the cover (I'm easily swayed by nice packaging).
2. Carolyn Crane wrote something in here.
Yep, I'm pretty easy.
This anthology is a collection of ghost stories. Some of them are excellent, and some are less than stellar. From an editing perspective, there is a good mix of romantic, historical, funny, serious, intense and contemporary. I thought the flow was good from one story to the next, although it is sometimes tough to transition from a reality-based contemporary to a sci-fi or steampunk. But in an anthology you need to mix it up. On the other hand, I found some of these novellas to be very polished, professional pieces, and others to be amateur-quality writing. That's not too easy to gloss over in an anthology like this.
The anthology starts out strong with Anna Campbell's The Chinese Bed, a lovely paranormal story about two different couples, separated by time, but both under the evil influence of some malevolent forces which threaten their love. Campbell's novella is very romantic and satisfying.
Next up is Carolyn Crane's hilarious and quirky contemporary story Old Salt. It's no secret that I am a huge fan of CC's writing, and this story really showcases her talents. I could not stop laughing out loud at the toilet flushing scene (you had to be there), but what always astonishes me about Crane is that she manages to successfully mix the humor, a well-crafted story, interesting characters, and romance. This one's a winner. (✯ Favorite)
Some of the stories didn't hook me right away, but others I loved.
Here are the high-lights for me.....
I really enjoyed Hat-Trick by Gwyn Cready, an appealing contemporary story about a hockey lover ghost and the woman he falls in love with.
The Lovers by Julia London, about a couple whose rocky marriage is revived in an old, haunted house, was a well-written piece that jumps from a historical POV to a contemporary POV. I loved the ending.
✯ (A favorite) A Single Girl's Guide To Getting Ahead by Liz Maverick, is an absolutely hysterical piece that had me in stitches (and ready to read more books by this author). Her voice is fabulous, and the humor is spot-on.
✯ (A favorite) Jonquils in the Snow by Annette Blair, is another favorite. I totally fell in love with this gorgeous novella. Like her other Amish story I've read, it is very emotional, intense and romantic. I adored it!
The Heart Thief by Cindy Miles is a super romantic tale set in Scotland, with an intriguing ending that hints at more to come (I'll be reading).
✯ (A favorite) Ghost in the Machine by Dru Pagliassotti, is an incredible action-packed steampunk novella. Really outstanding. The world Pagliassotti creates in this short story has fantastic imagery and a very satisfying story. This was a great introduction to this author.
Ghost of a Chance by Caridad Pineiro packs a whole murder mystery into a short piece. The setting is atmospheric, the cast of characters intriguing, and I love how the mystery is solved and the romance develops. Cool story.
✯In His Hands by Sara Reinke is another favorite. It's a sexy, well-written, well-crafted story with a very cool mythological bent and a great ending.
The last couple of stories were the weakest. With some head-hopping POV issues, a major plot hole in one of them (power is out, the heroine puts bread in the toaster), weak storyline in the last one. I didn't think the writing was nearly as strong in these novellas as the others.
However, overall I found this anthology to be an entertaining read. I'm really glad I discovered some new author voices that were so superb, and I'm looking forward to reading more of their books. Which is really what a good anthology should do.
Overall Grade: B
Have a ghostly day!