Book Review: Tangled Lights and Silent Nights (anthology)

Tangled Lights and Silent NightsI was recently given the opportunity to review a charity anthology for The LifeAfter Project via an ARC. The book was published November 4, so I’m slightly behind on posting my review… Some of my favorite authors participated in the anthology, supporting the organization’s mission:

The LifeAfter Project aims to reach out and provide assistance for those who struggle with thoughts of suicide, substance abuse, or domestic abuse. All these things are related to mental illness. Our goal is to educate, inspire, and spread awareness. We hope that our efforts will help eradicate the stigma associated with this insidious epidemic.

Given that support, it should not be surprising that the range of stories included everything from high fantasy to mystery to romance to humor to poetry–every “genre” of person has had some experience with the issues associated with mental illness, so it was thoughtful of the organizers to include such a range of styles in the collection.

On the other hand, the strength of the individual stories varied widely–some had significant editing issues and some were not to my taste.

However, in keeping with my standard practice, I will call out the particular stand-outs of the anthology, because any one of them would be worth the $0.99 it takes to buy the whole set, and your taste might differ from mine–or you might find a new author to investigate.

Knowing my well-documented love of the Katie stories (I reviewed To Katie With Love when it came out in 2013), I was thrilled to see a short told from Cooper’s point of view. Revisiting the well-meaning terror of Silvia and the twin foils of Dean and icy blonde reminded me all over again of how much fun that series is. For me, this one alone is worth the price of admission.

Other strong contenders were (in order of appearance in the book): “Yuletide Homicide: A Liz Boyle Short Mystery,” by Kate Birdsall, “A Merry Mugging,” by Claude Bouchard, “Holiday in Hartland,” by Gail Cleare, “Some Carry-Tail: A Gabriel & Orson Story,” by Victor Catano, “The Christmas Jacket,” by Diane Byington, “A Gift for Momma,” by Debbie S. TenBrink, “Father Christmas,” by Timothy Woodward, and “And Mercy Mild,” by Justin Bog.

Many of these tie in to other, stand-alone books, as well as being authors who are new to me, so I’m happy to have had a short introduction to their styles and themes. Reviewing the list, it seems those with particularly strong redemption arcs–like in the Liz Boyle mystery, the “Merry Mugging” story, “A Gift for Momma,” “Father Christmas,” and “And Mercy Mild”–were the ones that spoke to me the deepest. Catano’s “Carry-Tail” story was pure, fun revenge and had just the right touch of magic in it. “Holiday in Hartland” was also about redemption, but on a generational scale, so felt like a different flavor altogether–and managed to wring a few tears from me.

Overall, given the charity these authors have chosen to support and the strength of a number of stand-out stories, you really can’t get much better bang for your buck–especially if you’re already a fan of these authors’ related works. I would highly recommend the anthology for those reasons.

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