5 Reasons to Support Your Local Independent Bookstore

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It’s no secret that in the age of super-fast broadband when every store is online and you can find what you need at the click of a button, online superstores like Amazon are increasingly monopolising the booksellers’ market to the detriment of SME providers. Fewer and fewer of us are actually stepping outside and into our local bookstore to find something new to read, and if we’re not careful, there might not be a lot of places left to do so if the economy continues its downward trend.

In Nottingham (UK) where I live, we are lucky enough to have some really great bookstores, including our very own indie outlet Five Leaves, which follows in the footsteps of Nottingham’s radical bookshop tradition – the very first being opened in 1826 by Susannah Wright – by offering local readers alternative, political, weird, wonderful and often controversial texts they won’t find in mainstream outlets.

 

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Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham City Centre

 

 

As a recipient of the Five Leaves Prize for creative writing in my Uni days, I admit I may be somewhat biased on the subject, but I fiercely believe that we need our local independent bookstores just as much as they need us: it’s important that we offer them both our patronage and our coverage to make sure that these treasure troves of creativity, diversity and inclusivity survive.

That’s why I’ve put together a list of five reasons you should be doing all you can (if you’re not already!) to support your local bookstore.

 

 1. Supporting Local, Diverse and/or Upcoming Writers

Most of the big names in publishing prioritise selling potential and profits above all else, which is understandable, but it also means they’re less likely to take a chance with a new author or text if they’re not ‘mainstream’ enough to guarantee big sales for the company. That can only be bad for readers and writers everywhere. Literature needs diversity, but the only way to ensure that it can thrive is to give all sorts of people a voice.

That’s where independent publishers and bookstores come in. Not only do they publish and sell great texts that would be turned down by big publishers that are used to playing it safe, they are also far more likely to champion home-grown writers and help them build their fanbase at a grassroots level.

I happen to live in a city that has long since proven its literary pedigree – Nottingham has strong links to prestigious authors such as D.H. Lawrence, Lord Byron, and Allan Sillitoe, amongst others – but the truth is that every region has something unique to offer its readers, and it’s well worth visiting your local indie bookstore to find out what writers from your locality and/or culture have to say about life, love and everything in between.

 

 2. They Might Be Stocking Your Book Someday

There are many people out there who, like me, would love to be published but know the chances of getting in with a well-known publisher like Random House or Faber & Faber are pretty darn low, no matter how good the writing.

The other side of supporting new and upcoming writers is that one day you might be the one selling the books instead of buying them, in which case you will find that small independent bookshops are quite literally a godsend (or some other sort of lifeline not granted by a religious deity, depending on your preferences).

They’re far more likely to agree to stock smaller numbers of your book and give you a chance to prove yourself, whereas the big names will have millions of writers jostling for space (most of them with agents to fight their corner) and don’t have any real incentive to give you a shot. Fact is, without independent bookstores, there are far fewer chances for writers to get the leg-up they need to make it big. If you foster hopes of seeing your name in print one day, supporting indie outlets is a wise move.

 

3. Finding Gems the Big Publishers May Have Missed

This might sound counter-intuitive, but you’re actually far more likely to discover your new favourite book or writer by shopping independently than you are relying on Amazon’s automated recommendations and lists of top sellers in each genre.

Why? It’s simple – small, curated bookstores are usually staffed by well-read and enthusiastic booksellers who are far more likely to want to engage with you and help you find something perfectly suited to your taste.

Yes, the big bookshops usually have titled and organised sections, but their employees cannot be expected to have knowledge of every book stocked, nor are they necessarily going to have the time or energy to offer you their expertise. Recommendation cards can only go so far, and are only usually provided for big sellers, which means you could easily walk past the perfect book without ever knowing it was there. Plus, let’s face it, talking about books with someone who can ask questions, knows the stock well and will easily be able to tailor choices to your personal preferences is a lot more rewarding and likely to succeed than defaulting to “customers who bought items in your recent history also bought… [x, y and z].”

The likelihood that you’ll find the right book without hassle increases exponentially if you visit an independent bookstore that specialises in your areas of interest and employs people who have actually read and care about the subject matter. Five Leaves, for example, have particular interests in lesbian/gay counterculture, alternative politics and regional fiction/poetry (amongst other areas), which is why their staff are well-versed in these topics and can offer friendly advice on what to read next based on likes and dislikes, favourite authors, and niche subjects.

In fact, their store has become a local hub for writers, artists, left-wingers and misfits to come together, share experiences and recommendations, and generally have a good ol’ literary-themed chinwag… which brings me to my next point rather nicely.

4. Meeting Interesting and Likeminded People

I once heard a joke that went something along the lines of “I’d be far more likely to consider a date with someone who bought me a book in a bookshop than someone who bought me a drink in a bar.” I’m missing the punchline, but you get the general idea: book choices tell you an awful lot more about a person than their ability to guess what kind of drink you like, and establishing shared interests makes for good, long-lasting relationships.

Not that you have to be on the look-out for love to benefit from the social aspect of a bookstore. Bookshops, particularly small and/or quirky independent ones, are a great place to start a conversation with someone new, because there’s a pretty good chance that the person standing next to you either shares some of your likes/dislikes or can offer you an interesting new opinion on a topic you can both approach with genuine interest.

Indie bookshops tend to attract certain subcultural groups, thus bringing together people with shared experiences and interests that extend beyond a love of all things paperback. This excerpt from the Five Leaves website is an excellent example of what I mean:

“If there was any doubt that Five Leaves is a radical bookshop it was dispelled the day after the General Election when a stream of Labour voters, Greens and assorted lefties drifted into the shop seeking comfort after the storm. We found ourselves providing an open therapy group for the forlorn (as we were ourselves). We printed up some badges – ‘Don’t Blame Me, I Voted Labour/Green/I’m an Anarchist’, as well as a set carrying the Joe Hill slogan, ‘Don’t Mourn, Organise’…

All in all, it’s fair to say that your new best friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/ranting partner/book club invitee could be browsing the next shelf over from you!

 

5. Promoting the Local and National Economy

Most people are aware by now (as it’s been all over the news in recent years) that many of the big name booksellers like Amazon actually pay either little to no tax at all, despite making billions in profits from their annual sales. This hurts the local and national economy in two main ways.

Firstly, tax avoidance tactics allow Amazon and their ilk to offer books at prices which smaller retailers can’t match, meaning many smaller outlets are either having to sell exclusively online to reduce overhead costs and/or shut down completely because they cannot maintain sufficient profits. Sure, you might have an extra £3 in your pocket, but at what cost?

The small, independent booksellers are paying taxes which the government uses to pay for education, infrastructure, healthcare services, and all the other things we pretty much rely on to live our lives. So spend £10 on a new book in an indie bookstore, and you know a significant proportion of that money is going to be fed back into keeping the country running. As such, you can bask in the warm glow of knowing you’ve made the ethical choice.

Secondly, having a quirky little bookstore in your local area has benefits for the entire community. They almost always hire local people, which means an increase in jobs (always a good thing). ‘Destination’ shops like this are proven to help maintain local property prices by giving the impression it’s a rather nice place to live (and why wouldn’t it be, with books on the doorstep?). They hold regular events such as poetry readings, book clubs, discussion groups, and even the occasional afternoon tea to promote local writers and engage more fully with the people who buy, read and have things to say about the books being sold. All this means they are far better placed to cater to local interests and cultures than your big-brand bookstore.

Plus, as places to read are becoming fewer and farther between as libraries are forced to close, not everyone wants to spend £4 on a sticky-swishy-latte-chino in Starbucks and waste time finding a good seat only to have some idiot with a mobile phone stuck to his face sit down somewhere close by and ruin the ambience. Many indie bookstores actively encourage in-store reading and will even provide comfy seating fit for purpose.

In short: indie bookshops can actually make your city, and your country, a better place to be.

(Image: Five Leaves Books)

Arundhati Roy’s Back with a New Novel, 20 Years After The God of Small Things

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The literary world rejoiced this week as Arundhati Roy, winner of the 1997 Booker Prize for her debut novel The God of Small Things, announced she will publish a new piece of fiction in 2017 entitled The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.

Speaking in a Hamish Hamilton UK and Penguin India press release, Arundhati expressed her joy that “the mad souls (even the wicked ones) in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness have found a way into the world, and that I have found my publishers.”

Although little is known about the novel as of yet, its editors Simon Prosser (Hamish Hamilton) and Meru Gokhale (Penguin India) have been generous with their praise, calling their association with the book “both a pleasure and an honour” and stating the text is “one of the finest we have read in recent times.” David Godwin, the agent managing the acquisition of rights to the book, added that “only Arundhati could have written this novel. Utterly original. It has been 20 years in the making, and [is] well worth the wait.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Arundhati Roy’s work, then The God of Small Things is well worth a read. It tells the story of Rahel and Esthappen, fraternal twins full of secrets whose varying experiences of the laws of Love – that is, “who should be loved, and how… and how much” – have left them damaged and traumatised, with one sibling living in silence and the other being left in a state of insatiable emptiness. The end result is somewhat difficult to describe: the novel functions as both political fable and psychological family drama, yet its overall effect is more akin to that of a fairytale, or perhaps a half-forgotten dream.

Time is splintered and disordered meaning Roy’s text constantly meanders, but these tangents and side-steps can be easily forgiven as readers are kept well-entertained along the way. Revelations are staggered between sentences that are repeated like mantras, giving the narrative a sure and steady rhythm not unlike poetry, and although there are times at which the author’s rich and evocative language can become somewhat overwhelming, one cannot help but become completely immersed in the sights, sounds, smells and sensations that Roy so adeptly describes.

If this doesn’t really sound like your cup of tea, it’s worth noting that Roy is also a prolific political and cultural writer – her non-fiction works, tackling everything from Gandhi’s racism and freedom of the press to femininity and India’s nuclear program, are available in most good bookstores.

(Image: Penguin Random House UK)

13 Creepy Reads for Halloween

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With only three weeks to go before spooky celebrations get underway, I’ve got Halloween on the brain. I love the idea of Halloween, because I love scary stories… and let’s face it, All Hallows Eve is the perfect backdrop for them. Think about it: the wind’s howling like it’s being beaten, there are autumn leaves strewn everywhere, the streets are lost to shadows, and there’s that ever-present chance that just around the corner, something awful is going reach out and touch you…

Yes, okay, that ‘something awful’ is most likely to be a small child in an elaborate costume who wants sweets, but that’s not the point. Halloween, for me, is all about embracing the deliciousness of fear – it’s a night when anything can happen, and you think twice about ignoring that strange bump in the night.

In honour of the occasion, I’ve put together a list of thirteen scary stories that are well worth a read this Halloween. If, like me, you love a fright, why not give one of these a try and spook yourself silly?

#1 Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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If you’re looking for a story to give you the chills, then look no further… Shelley’s Frankenstein is a classic for a reason. Inspired by a challenge to write a short ghost story by the great Lord Byron, Shelley claims to have subsequently dreamt of a scientist who galvanises life from the bones he has collected in charnel houses. Enter Viktor Frankenstein.

Shelley’s story follows the long and tragic chain of events that are set into motion by the ‘birth’ of the scientist’s monster, after which Frankenstein must watch his creation destroy everything he loves, bringing him to the brink of madness. This is a tale of friendship, hubris and horror – an oldie, but most definitely a ‘goodie.’ Shelley is credited by many as the producer of one of the first great works of science fiction and, after reading her debut, I am sure you will be inclined to agree.

#2 The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

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Ah, another classic. Jackson’s archetypal story of the creepy, old haunted house on the hill might sound cliché, but you should let her off given that this story is the original that inspired oh so many copies and adaptations! Jackson is a master of tension and suspense, and certainly knows how to tell a good ghost story – there are quite a few moments reading this book where every hair on the back of my neck stood on end.

The novel follows four characters in search of a paranormal experience wherein, at first, all seems to be well. However, soon enough, strange things start to happen. Due to the unreliability of the characters and the unwavering presence of the place, Hill House (the setting for the novel) becomes practically a character in itself, and it is perhaps here that Jackson really works her magic – whilst you’re reading it, the quirks of your own surroundings suddenly become a lot harder to ignore… is that really rain on the window, or the gentle tapping of fingernails? Is the house creaking because its old, or is there really someone up there? Anyone who can get me thinking like that is a genius in my book… I don’t scare easily.

#3 The Collector by John Fowles

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Fowles weaves a sinister tale of obsession and abduction, told from the perspective of loner and butterfly collector, Frederick Clegg. Clegg develops an obsession with a beautiful Art student called Miranda and, not wanting to be lonely anymore, one day decides to “collect” her. You probably think you can guess the rest, more or less, but Fowles still has a few plot twists up his sleeve…

What is so impressive about this book is the way in which Fowles portrays his central character – even Miranda, as his captive, views him with both scorn and pity, although she is unable to love him in any kind of real way. Miranda, too, is far from perfect – Fowles himself declares that she is an “arrogant… liberal-humanist slob”. Subsequently, what follows is a story wherein the lines between victim and attacker become blurred, and where nothing is quite what it seems. If you’re in the mood for a horror story that is simultaneously tense, frightening and sad, then this book is well worth a read.

#4 The Thing on the Doorstep, and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft

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‘The Thing on the Doorstep’ is Lovecraft at his finest, and it’s a great place to start if you’re unfamiliar with his work. The protagonist, Daniel Upton, narrates the woeful tale of how he came to murder his best friend… or did he? Lovecraft has been credited as the godfather of horror, and modern writers like King and Barker offer Lovecraft’s work much acclaim, even going so far as to say that horror as we know it would never have existed without him.

After reading a few of Lovecraft’s stories, I would challenge anyone not to look twice at that funny-looking shadow in the periphery of your vision…. then again, I’m one of those people that would never run upstairs if a killer was after me. That is partly because I live on the ground floor, but mostly because I learn from these stories. So, just remember this Halloween: if it walks like your friend and talks like your friend, it’s probably a demon occupying your friend’s skin and you should get out of there, quick, before you suffer the same fate!! *ahem* Better safe than sorry.

#5 The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

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Forget ghosts; forget werewolves; forget vampires – Shakespeare figured out early on that the demons are all here, because the real demons are us. That’s a lesson not lost on Banks. Frank, his central character, is isolated from the world, fearing how it sent his brother mad, and resenting them because he is impotent (after what he believes was a childhood castration in a vicious dog attack).

Frank occupies his time undertaking a series of sadistic rituals, one of which involves the ‘Wasp Factory’ referred to in the title, which is a huge clock face encased in a glass box. Behind each of the twelve numerals is a trap which leads to a different ritual death (such burning, crushing, or drowning in Frank’s urine). Frank believes the death ‘chosen’ by the wasp predicts something about the future.

The horror is his novel is not created by something that goes bump in the night – that, perhaps, is what is most unsettling about it. If you’re unfamiliar with Banks’ work, I would thoroughly recommend this book. If, however, you prefer science fiction, he also writes in this genre under the name Iain M. Banks, and his stories are just as unsettling.

#6 Dracula by Bram Stoker

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Well, you can’t really have a Halloween reading list without Dracula on it, can you? Don’t let a few dodgy films and Stephanie Meyer novels put you off the vampire genre – vampirism taps into an almost instinctual fear we possess (the fear of being neither living nor dead – something unnatural and limitless, like a God), and no work of fiction has explored that better than Stoker’s work.

Is it dated? Yes, of course it is, it was written in 1897! Does that matter? I really don’t think so. The approach taken to the storytelling – a combination of diary entries, prose, and newspaper cuttings – remains to this day novel and intriguing. Although the format has been copied several times (King, for instance, attempted something similar in ‘Salem’s Lot and openly acknowledges Dracula as his inspiration), no one does it better than Stoker. This novel has plenty to offer, and it’s a perfect choice for a good read this Halloween. What more do I need to say?

#7 The Shining by Stephen King

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No list of horror stories is complete without at least one offering from the reigning king of horror, Stephen King. Forget the Kubrick film adaptation: this is the real thing. There’s no “here’s Johnny!”, or “all work and no play…”, no silly garden maze or childish voices groaning “REDRUUUUUUUM!”. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kubrick; but the frights he offers are nothing compared to the chills Stephen King can give you.

The Shining follows the story of Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic who accepts a position as an off-season caretaker in the Overlook Hotel. Then, after a winter storm leaves he and his family snowbound, the supernatural forces inhabiting the hotel gain enough power to be able to influence Jack’s sanity, leaving his wife and son in incredible danger. This is a story of a battle with the supernatural.

In this novel, King shows how easily the mind can play tricks on us, how we cannot trust even those closest to us when darkness falls, and how vulnerable we all are to sinister forces that lurk in bad places… and make no mistake, the Overlook is a bad place. Perhaps most importantly, though, The Shining shows us why we should never, ever trust topiary animals. Seriously. Don’t believe me? Read the book.

#8 Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

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I warn you, this one is not for the squeamish. Trumbo’s acclaimed anti-war novel explores the horrific fate of Joe Bonham, a young soldier who, after serving in World War I, awakens in a hospital to learn he has lost his arms, legs, and all of his face (including his eyes, ears, teeth, and tongue). However, his mind functions perfectly, effectively rendering him a prisoner in his own body.

This is, effectively, my worst nightmare: he human body becomes a cage for someone’s consciousness, and there is no way out.  In excruciating detail, the novel explains Joe’s failures to commit suicide and to raise awareness of the horrors of war. It remains highly read despite being published as early as 1939 and, once read, is impossible to forget. The book became a rally point for the political left that had opposed involvement in World War II during the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact, and serves to this day a powerful reminder of the human casualties of war. If you’ve got the stomach for it, it is well worth a read.

#9 House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

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Step up, step up, all those who like a challenge: of all the novels highlighted in this series of recommendations, easily the most sophisticated offering is Danielewski’s debut novel, House of Leaves. In terms of format and structure, the book is intriguingly unconventional, containing copious footnotes (many of which contain footnotes themselves) including references to fictional books, films and/or articles. Some pages contain only a few words or lines of text, arranged in strange ways to mirror the events in the story, often creating both an agoraphobic and a claustrophobic effect. The novel is also distinctive for its multiple narrators, who interact with each other throughout the story in elaborate and disorienting ways. It is, truly, a work of art as much as it is a work of fiction.

Here’s the thing about House of Leaves: you could simply enjoy it as a horrifying story that could possibly be true, or as a love story on a number of different levels, or as a whole bunch of puzzles and codes and ciphers, or as a satirical critique of academic criticism, or as a unique reading experience that will make you fall back in love with actual paper books… all of these readings stand alone in their validity. However you choose to enjoy it, though, you’ve got to commit to it if you really want to unlock its magic. You have to let the book take hold of you; believe in the world it creates… and when you’re done, you have to know that Danielewski’s novel will probably embed itself deep inside your mind, in some dark, neglected corner, and will stay with you… and if that’s not the recipe for a cracking Halloween novel, I really don’t know what is!

#10 ‘The Midnight Meat Train’, from Books of Blood by Clive Barker

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Of all the stories in Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, ‘The Midnight Meat Train’ is by far the goriest and most sinister. The protagonist is a down-and-out man, Leon Kaufman, who falls asleep on a New York City Subway train, later waking at a secret station beyond the end of the line. Worse, the train carriages contain the carcasses of murdered people, who have been hung up on hooks to drain the way cattle are hung in a slaughterhouse. Who is this mysterious butcher, and who does he work for? The answer is enough to make even the strongest of stomachs turn…

All of Clive Barker’s stories are decidedly dark, and so if you like a good horror story but haven’t encountered his work before, I’d recommend investing in all six volumes of the Books of Blood: they are packed full of gruesome tales of hauntings, demons, the undead, and the worst kind of the living. He has a way to getting under your skin; making you look right into the eye of the beast. As with many of these recommendations, though, these stories are not for the faint-hearted!

#11 Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

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Heart-Shaped Box tells the story of aging rock star, Judas Coyne, who spends his retirement collecting morbid memorabilia such as a witch’s confession, a real snuff film and, after being sent an e-mail directly about the item online, a dead man’s suit. He is told by the seller that the old man’s spirit is attached to this funeral suit, and that the ghost will go wherever it does. Thus, buying this suit would effectively be buying a poltergeist – and this is an opportunity Judas simply cannot pass up. Cue scary music.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a straight-up ghost story, though: the narrative offers by Hill here is full of darkness, anger and the desire for revenge. It is subsequently a story about consequences, rather than simply of supernatural spirits. If you’re a Stephen King fan, then I’d heartily recommend that you see what his son has to offer. There might be a new King of horror in the family…

#12 The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

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Beukes’ novel, set in Depression-era Chicago, follows the story of a drifter named Harper Curtis, who finds a key to a house that grants him access to other points in time. Cool, right? Wrong. Accessing the house comes at great cost: Harper is now tasked with killing all of the ‘Shining Girls’: bright young women throughout history who are burning with potential. Harper thus becomes a time-travelling stalker, following women in different eras and taking their lives.

The turning point comes when, in 1989, one of his victims – Kirby Mazrachi – survives. Being a fiercely bright young woman, Kirby decides to track down her attempted killer, and thus starts to hunt him back. What follows is a fascinating game of cat and mouse, in which the hunter becomes the hunted and the victim becomes the one with all the power. Beukes shows us all why you should never mess with a girl with potential – it’s too hard to get the best of her. There’s a moral we can all get behind!

#13 Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

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Don’t let the film adaptation of this novel put you off: Lindqvist’s novel is deliciously creepy and sinister, and deals with such hard-hitting issues such as existential anxiety, fatherlessness, alcoholism, school bullying, paedophilia, child transgenderism, and murder. The story centres on the relationship between a 12-year-old boy called Oskar and his friend, a centuries-old vampire child called Eli who was turned as a child and is therefore stuck forever in a young body and mind. Oskar and Eli develop a close relationship, and Eli helps Oskar fight back against his tormentors. However, if you think this is a simple undead friendship story, think again….

Throughout the book their relationship gradually becomes closer, and they reveal more of themselves and in particular fragments of Eli’s human life, where we learn that the most dangerous desires cannot even be eradicated by death. This is deeply unsettling stuff, but makes for compelling reading. If you love a good Swedish horror story, why not give Lindqvist’s novel a try this Halloween?

(Images: Amazon UK)

Novel Dedications

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Usually, the dedications page of a text is somewhat of a formality – the author thanks their family, or a colleague whose assistance has been invaluable, and the book proceeds with no further ado.

However, I’d like to draw attention in this post to those authors who have used their wit, humour and honesty in order to create dedications that are, quite simply, novel.

I’ve listed a few that I think are worthy of note below. How many do you recognise?


House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

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Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith E. Hicks

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Ruins by Dan Wells

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The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell

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Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

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The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

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Just A Girl Standing In Front Of A Boy by Lucy-Anne Holmes

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No Thanks by E. E. Cummings

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An Introduction To Algebraic Topology by Joseph J. Rotman

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The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Makbara by Juan Goytisolo

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A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

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Hope you enjoyed them!

If you know of any other great dedications, feel free to comment and add to the list! 🙂

You’ve Heard of Advent Calendars… So How About an Advent Bookcase? :) #SeasonsReadings

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It’s been a while, but I’m back! I hope everyone’s well and that you are all enjoying the countdown to yuletide. I came across this idea online of creating an advent calendar, but for books – under the hashtag #SeasonsReadings – and so I thought I’d give it a try!

So, here are my recommendations for every day of December – my very own advent bookcase!


1. Iconic First Line

I choose Tom Robbins’ opening to Still Life With Woodpecker: “If this typewriter can’t do it, then fuck it, it can’t be done.”

2. Last Read

The last book I finished was Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam. I’m currently reading Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake. Take your pick!

3. On My Christmas List

Too many to list! Erm, OK, I choose The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers.

4. For Chilly Nights

Ooh, something a bit unnerving, like The Shining by Stephen King. Something that makes your heart flutter with fear every time the wind blows.

5. Quintessentially British

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. English wit at its finest.

6. Everyone Should Read

Animal Farm by George Orwell. Its representation of politics gets more relevant by the day!

7. Childhood Favourite

If we’re talking early childhood, then something like the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, or The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. However, once I got my adult library card aged 12, I got a taste for horror… (I was a weird child.)

8. It’s A Mystery!

I’m not massively into mystery novels, but I do like Raymond Chandler’s detective novels, such as The Long Goodbye… does that count?

9. I Judged This Book By Its Cover

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I figure I wouldn’t enjoy the books as they’d be childish… thank goodness my sister talked me out of that!

10. Latest Purchase

My last book purchase was Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – I bought it as a birthday present for my sister.

11. Christmas Classic

The ;Winter Story’ in Bramley Hedge, illustrated by Jill Barklem. Don’t know if it qualifies as a ‘classic’, but I certainly loved it as a child If not, then a bit of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens should do the trick!

12. Book of Poems

I have a collection of W.H. Auden’s work of which I am rather fond…

13. Stocking Filler

Party of One: The Loner’s Manifesto by A.S. Rufus, the Postsecret compilation by Frank Warren, or Stoned, Naked, and Looking Through My Neighbour’s Window by Gabriel Jeffrey are all good ones.

14. Read at School

Lord of the Flies by William Golding – not actually on the reading list for my classes, but it was recommended by my favourite English teacher. If that doesn’t count, then I choose Macbeth by (of course) the great Bard himself, William Shakespeare.

15. Favourite Cover

My copy of The Illuminated Works of William Blake has one of his works in large print across the front cover – I absolutely love it; the colours, the combination, just… everything. I’ve even hugged it a couple of times. 🙂

16. For Someone I Love

For this, I choose The Fault In OUr Stars by John Green… my mother and sister are still getting over the ending.

17. Funny Read

Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy made me actually laugh out loud. Not in the ‘lol’ sense… I mean I really did laugh; made noise and everything. It was a beautiful thing 😉

18. Massive Tome

You could kill someone with a hardcover copy of The Stand (by Stephen King). If that won’t do it, try a little Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – it’s a workout just lifting the book!

19. Travelling Home

I like getting stuck into a book I already know and love when travelling away from home, such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.

20. Set Where I Live

Quite a few books are actually set where I live – Nottinghamshire’s home to D.H. Lawrence, and so Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley’s Lover are both set here. The Killing Jar by Nicola Monaghan is set in Nottingham, too, as is Ruth Rendell’s To Fear a Painted Devil.

21. To Be Read

The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith. Haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but have heard great things about it!

22. Favourite Festive Scene

How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss – c’mon, admit it, you all love it when the Grinch realises he loves the festivities really!

23. The Best Present

My sister always buys me a Stephen King book for Christmas – it’s become a bit of a tradition. My favourite of the ones she’s bought for me is probably Hearts in Atlantis.

24. For Father Christmas

Hmmm… what would Father Christmas like to read? Who knows?! For my father this Christmas, I plan on getting him started on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series… maybe ol’ St. Nick would like those?

25. Under The Tree

I have my fingers crossed for Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Back by Frank Miller being under the tree for me this year! We will have to wait and see though…


So, there’s my suggestions for this year’s #SeasonsReadings…. what are yours? 🙂


13 Creepy Reads for Halloween: Installments #12 & #13

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13HalloweenReads2With only a couple of days to go before spooky celebrations get underway, I’ve got Halloween on the brain. I love the idea of Halloween, because I love scary stories… and let’s face it, All Hallows Eve is the perfect backdrop for them. Think about it: the wind’s howling like it’s being beaten, there are autumn leaves strewn everywhere, the streets are lost to the shadows, and there’s that ever-present chance that just around the corner, something awful is going reach out and touch you…

Yes, okay, that ‘something awful’ is most likely to be a small child in an elaborate costume who would very much like some sweets, but that’s not the point. Halloween, for me, is all about embracing the deliciousness of fear – it’s a night when anything can happen, and you think twice about ignoring that strange bump in the night.

In honour of the occasion, I’ve put together a list of thirteen scary stories that are well worth a read this Halloween. If, like me, you love a fright, why not give one of these a try and spook yourself silly?


#12 The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

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Beukes’ novel is simply one of the most compelling books I’ve ever read. Set in Depression-era Chicago, it follows the story of a drifter named Harper Curtis, who finds a key to a house that grants him access to other points in time. Cool, right? Wrong. Accessing the house comes at great cost: Harper is now tasked with killing all of the ‘Shining Girls’: bright young women throughout history who are burning with potential. Harper thus becomes a time-travelling stalker, following women in different eras and taking their lives.

The turning point comes when, in 1989, one of his victims – Kirby Mazrachi – survives. Being a fiercely bright young woman, Kirby decides to track down her attempted killer, and thus starts to hunt him back. What follows is a fascinating game of cat and mouse, in which the hunter becomes the hunted and the victim becomes the one with all the power. Beukes shows us all why you should never mess with a girl with potential – it’s too hard to get the best of her. There’s a moral we can all get behind!


#13 Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

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I know this isn’t the first time I’ve said this, but don’t let the film adaptation of this novel put you off: Lindqvist’s novel is deliciously creepy and sinister, and deals with such hard-hitting issues such as existential anxiety, fatherlessness, alcoholism, school bullying, paedophilia, child transgenderism, and murder. The story centres on the relationship between a 12-year-old boy called Oskar and his friend, a centuries-old vampire child called Eli. Eli lives with an older man named Håkan, a former teacher who was fired when caught with possession of child pornography and has since become a vagrant. It is soon revealed that Eli is a vampire who was turned as a child and is therefore stuck forever in a young body and mind. Oskar and Eli develop a close relationship, and Eli helps Oskar fight back against his tormentors. However, if you think this is a simple undead friendship story, think again….

Throughout the book their relationship gradually becomes closer, and they reveal more of themselves and in particular fragments of Eli’s human life. Among the details revealed is that Eli is a boy who was castrated when he was turned into a vampire over 200 years ago. However, Eli dresses in female clothing and is perceived by outsiders as a young girl. Håkan serves Eli, whom he loves, by procuring blood from the living, fighting against his conscience and choosing victims whom he can physically trap, but who are not too young. Eli gives him money for doing this, though Håkan makes it clear he would do it for nothing if Eli allowed them to be physically intimate. This is a desire which cannot even be eradicate by death, and the novel goes on to show…

This is deeply unsettling stuff, but makes for compelling reading. If you love a good Swedish horror story, why not give Lindqvist’s novel a try this Halloween?

(Images: Amazon)

13 Creepy Reads for Halloween: Installments #10 & #11

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13HalloweenReads2With less than a week to go before spooky celebrations get underway, I’ve got Halloween on the brain. I love the idea of Halloween, because I love scary stories… and let’s face it, All Hallows Eve is the perfect backdrop for them. Think about it: the wind’s howling like it’s being beaten, there are autumn leaves strewn everywhere, the streets are lost to the shadows, and there’s that ever-present chance that just around the corner, something awful is going reach out and touch you…

Yes, okay, that ‘something awful’ is most likely to be a small child in an elaborate costume who would very much like some sweets, but that’s not the point. Halloween, for me, is all about embracing the deliciousness of fear – it’s a night when anything can happen, and you think twice about ignoring that strange bump in the night.

In honour of the occasion, I’ve put together a list of thirteen scary stories that are well worth a read this Halloween. If, like me, you love a fright, why not give one of these a try and spook yourself silly?


#10 ‘The Midnight Meat Train’, from Books of Blood by Clive Barker

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Of all the stories in Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, ‘The Midnight Meat Train’ is by far the goriest and most sinister. The protagonist is a down-and-out man, Leon Kaufman, who falls asleep on a New York City Subway train, later waking at a secret station beyond the end of the line. Worse, the train carriages contain the carcasses of murdered people, who have been hung up on hooks to drain the way cattle are hung in a slaughterhouse. Who is this mysterious butcher, and who does he work for? The answer is enough to make even the strongest of stomachs turn…

All of Clive Barker’s stories are decidedly dark, and so if you like a good horror story but haven’t encountered his work before, I’d recommend investing in all six volumes of the Books of Blood: they are packed full of gruesome tales of hauntings, demons, the undead, and the worst kind of the living. He has a way to getting under your skin; making you look right into the eye of the best. As with many of these recommendations, though, these stories are not for the faint-hearted!


#11 Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

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Joe Hill is actually a pseudonym – the writer of this book is none other than Stephen King’s son… and I think it is safe to say that he has inherited his parents’ talents (as his mother, Tabitha, is also a successful writer). Heart-Shaped Box tells the story of aging rock star, Judas Coyne, who spends his retirement collecting morbid memorabillia such as a witch’s confession, a real snuff film and, after being sent an e-mail directly about the item online, a dead man’s suit. He is told by the seller that the old man’s spirit is attached to this funeral suit, and that the ghost will go wherever it does. Thus, buying this suit would effectively be buying a poltergeist – and this is an opportunity Judas simply cannot pass up. Cue scary music.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a straight-up ghost story, though: the narrative offers by Hill here is full of darkness, anger and the desire for revenge. It is subsequently a story about consequences, rather than simply of supernatural spirits. It also, interestingly, gives a window into the old culture of rock ‘n’ roll; of drugs, booze and women; late nights, fast cars and constant parties. This makes it grittier and all the more real.

If you’re a Stephen King fan, then I’d heartily recommend that you see what his son has to offer. There might be a new King of horror in the family…

(Images: Amazon)

13 Creepy Reads for Halloween: Installments #7, #8, & #9

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13HalloweenReads2With less than a week to go before spooky celebrations get underway, I’ve got Halloween on the brain. I love the idea of Halloween, because I love scary stories… and let’s face it, All Hallows Eve is the perfect backdrop for them. Think about it: the wind’s howling like it’s being beaten, there are autumn leaves strewn everywhere, the streets are lost to the shadows, and there’s that ever-present chance that just around the corner, something awful is going reach out and touch you…

Yes, okay, that ‘something awful’ is most likely to be a small child in an elaborate costume who would very much like some sweets, but that’s not the point. Halloween, for me, is all about embracing the deliciousness of fear – it’s a night when anything can happen, and you think twice about ignoring that strange bump in the night.

In honour of the occasion, I’ve put together a list of thirteen scary stories that are well worth a read this Halloween. If, like me, you love a fright, why not give one of these a try and spook yourself silly?


#7 The Shining by Stephen King

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No list of horror stories is complete without at least one offering from the reigning king of horror, Stephen King, and this is one of my absolute favourites. Forget the Kubrick film adaptation: this is the real thing. There’s no “here’s Johnny!”, or “all work and no play…”. There’s no silly garden maze, or silly childish voices groaning “REDRUUUUUUUM!”. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kubrick; but the frights he offers are nothing compared to the chills Stephen King can give you.

The Shining follows the story of Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic who accepts a position as an off-season caretaker in the Overlook Hotel. As the job means remaining in the hotel all winter, Jack’s wife and young son family accompany him on this job. Danny, Jack’s son, possesses “the shining”: an array of psychic abilities that allow him to see the horrific things that have happened in the hotel. Then, after a winter storm leaves them snowbound, the supernatural forces inhabiting the hotel gain enough power to be able to influence Jack’s sanity, leaving his wife and son in incredible danger. This is a story of a battle with the supernatural.

In this novel, King demonstrates his uncanny ability to vocalise the most primitive of our fears, and give a face to the darkest aspects of the subconscious. He shows how easily the mind can play tricks on us, how we cannot trust even those closest to us when darkness falls, and how vulnerable we all are to sinister forces that lurk in bad places… and make no mistake, the Overlook is a bad place.

Perhaps most importantly, though, The Shining shows us why we should never, ever trust topiary animals.

Seriously.

Don’t believe me? Read the book.


#8 Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

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I warn you, this one is not for the squeamish. Trumbo’s acclaimed anti-war novel explores the horrific fate of Joe Bonham, a young soldier who, after serving in World War I, awakens in a hospital to learn he was caught in the blast of an exploding artillery shell and has subsequently lost his arms, legs, and all of his face (including his eyes, ears, teeth, and tongue). However, his mind functions perfectly, effectively rendering him a prisoner in his own body.

This is, effectively, my worst nightmare. The human body becomes a cage for someone’s consciousness, and there is no way out. Trumbo does not flinch or shy from the subject, though. In excruciating detail, the novel explains Joe’s failures to commit suicide and to raise awareness of the horrors of war.

That is, perhaps, the reason why this novel was so highly acclaimed – it is at once horrific and eye-opening. It remains highly read despite being published as early as 1939 and, once read, is impossible to forget. The book became a rally point for the political left that had opposed involvement in World War II during the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact, and serves to this day a powerful reminder of the human casualties of war. If you’ve got the stomach for it, it is well worth a read.


#9 House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

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Step up, step up, all those who like a challenge: of all the novels highlighted in this series of recommendations, easily the most sophisticated offering is Danielewski’s debut novel, House of Leaves. In terms of format and structure, the book is intriguingly unconventional, containing copious footnotes (many of which contain footnotes themselves!) including references to fictional books, films and/or articles. Some pages contain only a few words or lines of text, arranged in strange ways to mirror the events in the story, often creating both an agoraphobic and a claustrophobic effect. The novel is also distinctive for its multiple narrators, who interact with each other throughout the story in elaborate and disorienting ways. It is, truly, a work of art as much as it is a work of fiction.

The book begins with a first-person narrative by Johnny Truant, a Los Angeles tattoo parlor employee, desperate flat-hunter, and professed unreliable narrator. Truant discovers a manuscript written by the deceased Zampanò, the former elderly tenant of a flat in his friend Lude’s building, which turns out to be an academic study of a documentary film called ‘The Navidson Record’. The rest of the novel incorporates several narratives, including Zampanò’s report on the fictional film; Truant’s autobiographical interjections; a small transcript of part of the film from Navidson’s brother, Tom; a small transcript of interviews of many people regarding ‘The Navidson Record’ by Navidson’s partner, Karen; and occasional brief notes by unidentified editors, all woven together by a mass of footnotes. There is also another narrator, Truant’s mother, whose voice is presented through a self-contained set of letters titled ‘The Whalestoe Letters’. All this interweaves to create one unforgettable story.

Here’s the thing about House of Leaves: you could simply enjoy it as a horrifying story that could possibly be true, or as a love story on a number of different levels, or as a whole bunch of puzzles and codes and ciphers, or as a satirical critique of academic criticism, or as a unique reading experience that will make you fall back in love with actual paper books… all of these readings stand alone in their validity.  The possibilties really are endless here, because the interpretation required is so subjective – the text manages to be whatever you want it to be.

However you choose to enjoy it, though, you’ve got to commit to it if you really want to unlock its magic. You have to let the book take ahold of you; believe in the world it creates… and when you’re done, you have to know that Danielewski’s novel will probably embed itself deep inside your mind, n some dark, neglected corner, and will stay with you. You’ll find yourself closing the cover, wondering if the nightmares will actually come (assuming they haven’t already, that is)… and if that’s not the recipe for a cracking Halloween novel, I really don’t know what is!

(Images: Amazon)

13 Creepy Reads for Halloween: Installments #4, #5 & #6

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With less than a week to go before spooky celebrations get underway, I’ve got Halloween on the brain. I love the idea of Halloween, because I love scary stories… and let’s face it, All Hallows Eve is the perfect backdrop for them. Think about it: the wind’s howling like it’s being beaten, there are autumn leaves strewn everywhere, the streets are lost to the shadows, and there’s that ever-present chance that just around the corner, something awful is going reach out and touch you…

Yes, okay, that ‘something awful’ is most likely to be a small child in an elaborate costume who would very much like some sweets, but that’s not the point. Halloween, for me, is all about embracing the deliciousness of fear – it’s a night when anything can happen, and you think twice about ignoring that strange bump in the night.

In honour of the occasion, I’ve put together a list of thirteen scary stories that are well worth a read this Halloween. If, like me, you love a fright, why not give one of these a try and spook yourself silly?


 #4 The Thing on the Doorstep, and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft

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‘The Thing on the Doorstep’ is Lovecraft at his finest – in my opinion, this is one of his creepiest stories, and it’s a great place to start if you’re unfamiliar with Lovecraft’s work, because it will give you a good idea of what to expect. The protagonist, Daniel Upton, narrates the woeful tale of how he came to murder his best friend… or did he? If you’re familiar with the Cthulhu mythos universe of horror fiction, then the idea of a body-snatcher that may look, sound and move like us but contains something much darker may be expected – admittedly, none of Lovecraft’s stories have happy endings.

He has, however, credited as the godfather of horror, and modern writers like King and Barker offer Lovecraft’s work much acclaim, even going so far as to say that horror as we know it would never have existed without him. Whether you believe that or not, it’s hard to deny that Lovecraft’s stories are imaginative, sinister and deeply unsettling. After reading a few of these, I would challenge anyone not to look twice at that funny-looking shadow in the periphery of your vision…. then again, I’m one of those people that would never run upstairs if a killer was after me. That is partly because I live on the ground floor, but mostly because I learn from these stories.

So, just remember this Halloween: if it walks like your friend and talks like your friend, its probably a demon occupying your friend’s skin and you should get out of there, quick, before you suffer the same fate!!

*ahem* Better safe than sorry. 🙂


#5 The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

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Admittedly, I am a little bias, as this is one of my favourite books (OK, it has a lot of company on that list, but it’s still a favourite) – however, I think I can fairly say that Banks’ novel is truly a work of modern horror. Forget ghosts; forget werewolves; forget vampires – Shakespeare figured out early on that the demons are all here, On Earth, because the real demons are us. That’s a lesson not lost on Banks. Frank, his central character, is isolated from the world, fearing how it sent his brother mad, and resenting them because he is impotent (after what he believes was a childhood castration in a vicious dog attack).

Frank lives on a rural Scottish island and occupies his time undertaking a series of sadistic rituals – one of these involves the ‘Wasp Factory’, referred to in the title, which is a huge clock face encased in a glass box and salvaged from the local dump. Behind each of the twelve numerals is a trap which leads to a different ritual death (such burning, crushing, or drowning in Frank’s urine) for the wasp that Frank puts into the hole at the centre within tubes. Frank believes the death ‘chosen’ by the wasp predicts something about the future. There are also ‘Sacrifice Poles’, upon which hang the bodies and heads of larger animals that Frank has killed and other sacred items. They define and ‘protect’ the borders of Frank’s territory – something which he guards with an array of weapons (from a catapult to pipe bombs and flame throwers) – and allow him to effectively control his part of the island.

The horror is his novel is not created by something that goes bump in the night – that, perhaps, is what is most unsettling about it. If you’re unfamiliar with Banks’ work, I would thoroughly recommend this book. If, however, you prefer science fiction, he also writes in this genre under the name Iain M. Banks, and his stories are just as unsettling.


#6 Dracula by Bram Stoker

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Well, you can’t really have a Halloween reading list without Dracula on it, can you? Don’t let a few dodgy films and Stephanie Meyer novels put you off the vampire genre – vampirism taps into an almost instinctual fear we possess (the fear of being neither living nor dead – something unnatural and limitless, like a God), and no work of fiction has explored that better than Stoker’s work.

Is it dated? Yes, of course it is, it was written in 1897! Does that matter? I really don’t think so. The approach taken to the storytelling – a combination of diary entries, prose, and newspaper cuttings – remains to this day novel and intriguing. Although the format has been copied several times (King, for instance,  attempted something similar in ‘Salem’s Lot and openly acknowledges Dracula as his inspiration), no one does it better than Stoker. For the academics out there, Stoker’s text offers a rich demonstration of colonialism in action, and when read in this light, it is difficult not to sympathise with the vampires (even if their culinary tastes are somewhat primitive). Stoker also offers an interesting portrayal of womanhood, particularly with Mina, who meets all the standards for a Victorian heroine.

Basically, Stoker’s work has plenty to offer, and it’s a perfect choice for a good read this Halloween. What more do I need to say?

(Images: Amazon)

13 Creepy Reads for Halloween: Installments #1, #2 & #3

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With less than a week to go before spooky celebrations get underway, I’ve got Halloween on the brain. I love the idea of Halloween, because I love scary stories… and let’s face it, All Hallows Eve is the perfect backdrop for them. Think about it: the wind’s howling like it’s being beaten, there are autumn leaves strewn everywhere, the streets are lost to the shadows, and there’s that ever-present chance that just around the corner, something awful is going reach out and touch you…

Yes, okay, that ‘something awful’ is most likely to be a small child in an elaborate costume who would very much like some sweets, but that’s not the point. Halloween, for me, is all about embracing the deliciousness of fear – it’s a night when anything can happen, and you think twice about ignoring that strange bump in the night.

In honour of the occasion, I’m putting together a list of thirteen scary stories (in instalments) that are well worth a read this Halloween. If, like me, you love a fright, why not give one of these a try and spook yourself silly?


 #1 Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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If you’re looking for a story to give you the chills, then look no further… Shelley’s Frankenstein is a classic for a reason. Inspired by a challenge to write a short ghost story by the great Lord Byron, the then-18 year old Shelley claims to have subsequently dreamt of a scientist who galvanises life from the bones he has collected in charnel houses. She famously stated that: “I saw – with shut eyes, but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion.”

She takes the same eerie approach shown here to the narration in her novel, and the results are breathtaking. The reader soon comes to realise that the creator of this patchwork horror, the scientist Victor Frankenstein, has unleashed forces far beyond his control. Shelley’s story follows the long and tragic chain of events that are set into motion by the ‘birth’ of this monster, in which Frankenstein must watch his creation destroy everything he loves, bringing him to the brink of madness.

This is a tale of friendship, hubris and horror – an oldie, but most definitely a ‘goodie’.  The book embodies qualities of both Gothicism and Romanticism, subverting the Biblical myth of creation to create something both beautiful and terrible. Shelley is credited by many as the producer of one of the first great works of science fiction and, after reading her debut, I am sure you will be inclinced to agree. If you’ve never read it before, why not give it a try this Halloween?


#2 The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

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Ah, another classic. Jackson’s archetypal story of the creepy, old haunted house on the hill might sound cliché, but you can let her off for that, given that this story is, in fact, the original that inspired oh so many copies and adaptations! There’s a good reason so many people have copied it – Jackson is a master of tension and suspense, and certainly knows how to tell a good ghost story. There are quite a few moments reading this book where every hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Jackson has certainly earned her title as the creator of one of the most unnerving ghost stories ever written!

The novel follows four characters in search of a paranormal experience wherein, at first, all seems to be well. However, soon enough, strange things start to happen. Interestingly, it never really becomes clear whether any of this is really happening or simply is a product of their imaginations. Due to the unreliability of the characters and the unwavering presence of the place, Hill House (the setting for the novel) becomes practically a character in itself, and it is perhaps here that Jackson really works her magic – whilst you’re reading it, the quirks of your own surroundings suddenly become a lot harder to ignore… is that really rain on the window, or the gentle tapping of fingernails? Is the house creaking because its old, or is there really someone up there?

Anyone who can get me thinking like that is a genius in my book… I don’t scare easily.  If you think this might be your kind of thing, I would thoroughly recommend it!


#3 The Collector by John Fowles

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In his debut, The Collector, Fowles weaves a sinister tale of obsession and abduction, told from the perspective of loner and butterfly collector, Frederick Clegg. Clegg develops an obsession with a beautiful Art student called Miranda and, not wanting to be lonely anymore, one day decides to “collect” her. You probably think you can guess the rest, more or less, but Fowles still has a few plot twists up his sleeve…

What is so impressive about this book is the way in which Fowles portrays his central character – even Miranda, as his captive, views him with both scorn and pity, although she is unable to love him in any kind of real way. Miranda, too, is far from perfect – in the series of philosophical essays that follows this work, The Aristos, Fowles himself declares that she is an “arrogant… liberal-humanist slob”. Subsequently, what follows is a story wherein the lines between victim and attacker become blurred, and where nothing is quite what it seems. If you’re in the mood for a horror story that is simultaneously tense, frightening and sad, then this book is well worth a read.

(Images: Amazon)