Hardened Hearts Anthology #BookReview

Title: Hardened Hearts | Editor: Eddie Generous | Publisher: Unnerving | Pub. Date: 2017-12-4  | Pages: 260 | ASIN: B077CNPLC4 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Triggers: Child Death, Murder, Suicide | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Kindle Unlimited

Hardened Hearts Anthology

17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel), Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row, and many more.
Hardened Hearts dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless. – Goodreads

Book cover for Hardened Hearts

Hardened Hearts Review

Hardened Hearts was a well-put together anthology covering a wide range of stories falling under the sole – but never simple – subject of ‘love’. Reading it, I was never quite sure what the next story was going to bring. I can’t say that I claim to understand the point of all the stories involved in the volume, but I appreciate that the editor tried to make sure that as many aspects as possible were represented.

Because of the topic and the fact that many of the stories strayed from my comfort genres, I can’t say that I was super crazy as about Hardened Hearts. The Death’s Realm anthology was definitely more my style. However, there were a few stories in Hardened Hearts that I absolutely loved, and only a couple that I disliked. Most of them were interesting, but just didn’t strike the right chord for me. The stories were all well-edited, the range of characters displayed was wide, and it was obvious that a lot of thought had went into the curation. This is an anthology that should grow to be very popular within it’s target audience.

I wanted to briefly talk about my favorites in Hardened Hearts. The first one was Dog Tired by Eddie Generous (who happens to be the editor as well). It was well-written, the disease caught me off guard, and I liked the twist on fighting the infection. It was followed by another winner in my eyes – The Pink Balloon by Tom Deady. Normally I hate child death in stories, but this one was done right. Then there was Burning Samantha by Scott Paul Hallam, which made me have a rather serious amount of the sads for the main character. Finally, I really liked Matchmaker by Meg Elison, though some of my affection for the story does come from the fact that I thought it was perfectly placed. It was nice to end the anthology on an up note.

Overall, Hardened Hearts was a pleasant reading experience and none of the stories are ridiculously long, so they’d make for good lunch time reads over a week or two. Can’t say I loved it, but it was well-done nevertheless.

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For my notes on the individual stories, please see below.

40 Ways to Leave Your Monster Lover by Gwendolyn Kiste – This was an interesting read. I like the flashes style the author employs. Can’t say it was scary, or even close to scary, but it was a good read. 4/5

What is Love? by Calvin Demmer – I’ve never heard of the Inpundulu before, so right away I was fascinated. The story itself was a bit disturbing though. Well-written, and gross at the end. 4/5

Heirloom by Theresa Braun – An interesting read about the intertwining of souls, dangerous mirrors, and infanticide. 3/5

The Recluse by John Boden – Wait…WTF? This was weird. Nothing more to say. 3/5

Dog Tired by Eddie Generous – Oh, I liked this one. I think this is my favorite so far. The take on being able to out-last the infection period by staying awake. The furry instead of the other… All good. And well-written to boot!! 5/5

The Pink Balloon by Tom Deady – I don’t like child death in stories. However, this was done right. There was no focus on the dead child’s body. It wasn’t a tragic event used as a starting point for trying again, nothing like that. It was just pain and love and foreboding. Very well done. 5/5

It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I want To by J.L. Knight – Weak and boring. 2/5

Consumed by Madhvi Ramani – This one bothered me. The MC is completely unlikable, and the reason that he does everything… That’s fine, though. However, it did feel like it ended far too abruptly. 3/5 

Burning Samantha by Scott Paul Hallam – This one made me sad. 🙁 Someone trying to be who they felt they really were, peer pressure, isolation… Very well written. 5/5

Class of 2000 by Robert Dean- A man snaps when he runs into childhood bullies that have obviously never changed. Sometimes it happens, so I’m willing to buy it. 4/5

Learning to Love by Jennifer Williams – This one I connected with. I’m not sure why, but it impacted me more than a lot of the other stories have. It’s a little too deliberately vague, but that’s a minor thing. 4/5

Brothers by Leo X Robertson – Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this one. Death, life, love, magic. It’s a confusing story but not enticing enough that I want to read it again to try to figure it out. 3/5

Porcelain Skin by Laura Blackwell – This one touched me. It would be so nice to have a place to slip away to, where everything was peaceful and quiet and you never had to face pain again. But, at the same time, the ballerina aspect is a tad creepy, so that was nice too! 4/5

The Heart of the Orchard by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi – This was interesting. I liked the fairy-tale aspect of it. Most of what was going on was fairly obvious, though a little bit of the ending did surprise me. 4/5

Meeting the Parents by Sarah L Johnson – What the f… Okay, yeah, this was paired perfectly with the one before it. Got a laugh out of it! 4/5

Matchmaker by Meg Elison – This made me smile. They were perfect for each other. I loved the way they got together. A perfect, sweet note to end the anthology on. 5/5

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