Dead Leaves: 9 Tales From the Witching Season — Kealan Patrick Burke

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TITLE: Dead Leaves: 9 Tales From the Witching Season
AUTHOR: Kealan Patrick Burke
RELEASED: September 18th, 2018
GENRE: Horror
AGE RANGE: Adult

SYNOPSIS:
From Bram Stoker Award-winning author Kealan Patrick Burke comes the second in his series of seasonal collections. Featuring seven reprints, a brand new story “The Toll”, an introduction, and rounded out by the author’s recommended reading and viewing lists, DEAD LEAVES makes for the perfect autumnal read.

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Does anyone else have an author (or a few) whose work you’ve never read, yet you just know they’re going to be a perfect fit for you? Kealan Patrick Burke has been right at the top of that list for me. Between how cool his stories sound, how much I love the covers he designs, and what an all-around great guy he strikes me as, I knew that was going to be really sad if I didn’t love his writing.

Halloween provides us with the choice to be scared, or to scare others. It allows us to vicariously slip behind the mask and see the world through the eyes of things that evoke fear in others. It allows us to be scared out of our wits, safe in the knowledge that it isn’t real.

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Thankfully, I was worried for nothing, because this Halloween-themed collection of stories is literally flawless. I enjoyed every single story immensely and was so sad when the collection came to an end, because I needed more! Kealan has such a distinctive writing voice and his ideas are so unique and clever, but they’re also incredibly emotional at points, and I love a horror author who can creep me out and make me feel things at the same time.

The collection picks up with Andromeda, where a teen girl is glued to her phone when she begins to receive some very strange messages, just before the world around her becomes very bizarre. Then, the first moment of sadness strikes in Someone to Carve the Pumpkins, when two brothers come across an elderly woman they suspect is a ghost. In Haven, a man finds relief when his mother passes, but returning to his childhood home stirs painful and terrifying memories.

We’re brought back down to a moment of quiet heartache for How the Night Receives Them, in which a young girl wanders a lonely road at night, seeking out the detective whose poetry keeps her company. In Tonight the Moon is Ours, a taste of fantasy enters the mix when a boy’s friends convince him to visit a fairy stone in rural Ireland, their motives filling him with a dread he can’t shake. The Toll shifts to an air that is, unexpectedly, a little bit humorous—the plot of an old businessman finding himself buried alive shouldn’t be funny, but something about his devil-may-care view of the situation made me smile.

The strangest story of the bunch for me was Will You Tell Them I Died Quietly?: a young man’s mother has passed away and he’s agreed to allow a local religious group to host her funeral, despite a life-long feud between the group and his family, but there’s a very peculiar history there, after all. The next-to-last story was a tie for my favorite—in The Tradition, a young woman wakes in a decrepit old house, unsure of how she got there, but as her memories slowly return to her, we’re treated to a surprisingly unsettling moment of body horror mixed with a fantastically immersive atmosphere.

Finally, the collection rounds out with my other favorite: The One Night of the Year. An elderly widower sits on his porch every Halloween night with a bucket of candy, a shotgun, and his dog, waiting to greet the only three visitors he will receive. I can’t say anything about this story without spoiling the ending, but for those of you who know the piece, I’ll say that I found myself choking back tears with the biggest smile on my face.

She wanted a boy, a soul, anyone.
Someone to carve the pumpkins.

On top of the wonderful stories, the end of the collection contains a list of Kealan’s personal recommendations for horror reads and films, and I’ll just say that I recognized a lot of books I love, but the movie list? Flawless. I love almost all of the films he listed, so I’ll be checking out the ones I haven’t seen. I thought it was such a great idea to add in those recommendations, and it really adds a personal touch to the collection.

So, like I said, nothing about this collection disappointed me. This is one of the easiest 5-star ratings I have ever given in a collection or anthology review, and I am so happy to say that I have finally officially joined the ranks of Kealan’s fans. I will eagerly be picking up more work from him as soon as possible, and one hundred percent recommend adding this to your TBR. At right around a hundred pages, Dead Leaves is a quick and immersive read that would be perfect for Halloween night.

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Just a 25-year-old trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

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