Book Reviews

From a Heart-Shaped Box

What do you collect in your heart-shaped box? Fragments of memories. False promises. Shattered dreams. We are forged into ever-changing masterpieces by the gravity of the keepsakes we choose to collect. The adhesive binding the fragile remnants of our souls? Love. From the fractured soul of author Keira Lane, who helped bring The East Wind: A Horror & Weird Fiction Collection to life, featuring stories from Autumn Curtis and W.H. Ringer, comes a new anthology straight from the heart.

In the interest of full disclosure, rather than being provided an advance reader copy of From a Heart-Shaped Box, I acted as a beta reader for the book. Because of this, it is worth noting that the contents of the book are subject to change; however, the version I read was close to final. There was very little feedback I could provide; which is a true testament to how well-written this book is, and what a pure pleasure it was to read.

I will also mention upfront that From a Heart-Shaped Box is available for preorder now, to be released on 7 November 2021. I strongly encourage you to preorder a copy; the stories contained within are well worth your time. After the review, I will include the links to assist you in doing yourself the favour of preordering.

For anybody who has been reading my book reviews, you might notice that this review is a little different. Not only did I make the disclaimer about being a beta reader for From a Heart-Shaped Box, but the book is an anthology of short stories; not a novel, like the majority of my reviews (at the end of my review, I will provide my thoughts about the individual stories themselves). The stories in this book are about love: not entirely romantic love (although there is definitely some romance in the book), but love in the myriad forms it can take.

This collection of ten stories comes from Keira Lane, who wrote eight of these, with assistance from Autumn Curtis and W.H. Ringer, who contributed one story each. For the bulk of this review, I will focus on Lane’s writing, but will also touch upon the others when specifically discussing their stories.

Named for Nirvana’s hauntingly beautiful “Heart-Shaped Box,” From a Heart-Shaped Box contains all the beauty, all the romance, and all the melancholy that the song provided some twenty-eight years ago. But where Kurt’s lyrics offer a depressing view of the world, Keira’s prose offers hope throughout the distinct tones of its tales.

And what prose it is. Lane has filled the stories with wonderful prose, making every story a thing of beauty that flows poetically. The words throughout From a Heart-Shaped Box have been finely crafted to convey meaning in every sentence. As these sentences combine into paragraphs, and the paragraphs flow into stories, they transport you to the author’s mind’s eye, seeing the world—and love—from her vantage point.

With any story, the author’s vantage point is important: two authors could write the same sequence of events, stressing different areas. One might feel heartfelt, the other distant. Throughout From a Heart-Shaped Box, Lane is keenly aware of what a vantage point can bring, and it is evident that she dug deep into her heart (or heart-shaped box, as it were) to write honestly about love.

The individual stories in From a Heart-Shaped box all stand on their own two feet, and offer the reader something different. This anthology is about love: the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of it. Lane’s stories all contribute to the wider theme of love, while feeling distinct from one another. The entries by Autumn Curtis and W.H. Ringer also contribute to the wider theme, and bring their distinct voices to it. These different voices add to the overall feel of the book: different to the core author, but thematically similar with their own emphasis. These serve to break up the book with their own examinations of love while also adding an extra dimension to the story.

While reading this book, I had my favourite stories, as I am certain you will after reading it. While there were stories I enjoyed more than others, the quality of these tales remains exceedingly high throughout. My favourites are only based on my personal enjoyment, and there is not a single story I felt was a letdown. In any anthology, this is a genuine achievement.

In the week between providing my notes to the author and writing this review, From a Heart-Shaped Box has lingered with me, its haunting prose embedded in my own heart. From a Heart-Shaped Box is purely a thing of beauty, coming from the heart of Keira Lane, and traveling to the heart of the reader.

I have included some brief thoughts on the individual stories below. Where no author is listed, it was written by Keira Lane.

Quiet Hearts

This is a lovely, heartwarming tale about memories of old and how they influence the present. This tale offers a glimpse of love and how it can endure, even when the lovers are separate.

Fret No More

One of the shorter stories in the anthology, this is about the polar opposite to Quiet Hearts. Dark and brutal, this is an unrelenting look at a love affair that really shouldn’t be.

Soul Mender

My personal favourite in the collection, Soul Mender, is a heart-wrenching story about life under a pandemic. Not only is this story wonderfully (and upsettingly) relatable, despite the sadness, it still offers hope.

Forever, by W.H. Ringer

As Ringer notes in their author note, “fucked up takes on love still fit the overall theme.” Forever is definitely a fucked up take on love; a brutal story about unhinged love. The escalating dread of the story builds up to a wonderful crescendo.

Absolution

This is a wonderful story about death and despair, and the evils of humanity. The prose in this story is incredibly vivid and does a superb job of placing the reader inside the protagonist’s head.

Star Holder

Star Holder, like its very title, is a thing of beauty. This is a pure tale about the purest love, that between a parent and their child. This story is beautifully realised and will be sure to move the most stoic of readers.

Amelia

A tale about freedom and isolation, Amelia mesmerises with its descriptions of the world’s beauty, and the deprivation of said beauty.

Bottle a Butterfly, by Autumn Curtis

A magical tale, both figuratively and literally, Bottle a Butterfly captures the beauty of nature, and in particular, an oak tree.

Last Dance

This is the first story from the collection I read, having initially read a draft some months ago. A love story set within the high society of yonder, Last Dance is a beautifully romantic tale.

Oath Breaker

By far the longest story of the lot, Oath Breaker, is broken into ten chapters. With these chapters comes a rewarding tale about what people would do for love, the consequences be damned.

Favourite Passage

Dust floated around in the air as the sound of the two black word destroyers colliding filled the silence. A fine mist of tiny invaders infiltrated her nose, sending her into a sneezing fit. Wild strands of her hair had worked their way out of her messy bun throughout the day, which seemed longer than most.

From a Heart-Shaped Box, Soul Mender

From a Heart-Shaped Box is available for preorder in paperback and eBook formats from the retailers below. It will be released on 7 November 2021.

You can follow Keira Lane online, via:

You can follow Autumn Curtis online, via:

You can follow W.H. Ringer online, via:

You can follow Kimber Delaney (foreword) online, via:

You can follow C.B. Everett (editor) online, via:

You can follow Fish Spice (art and cover) online, via:

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