Book Tags

BOOK TAG!! The Spooky Scary Skeletons Tag – Movie Edition!

It is October! The month of spooky happenings is upon us and it will soon be time to crack out the Halloween reads and curl up by the fireside as the nights darken around us. So many thanks to Danni at For Books Sake for tagging me in this seasonally appropriate book tag, as created by Leafing Through Time!

Friday the Thirteenth: What is a superstition you believe in?

I’m a fairly rational person but there are certain superstitions I just follow because they were such a big part of my childhood, such as ‘see a penny, pick it up, and all day long, you’ll have good luck’. I also call black cats ‘lucky’ and avoid walking under ladders.

IT: What scares you the most?

I tend to be more scared of things happening to people I love than to me. In terms of personal fears, I’m really not fond of spiders. They’re fascinating creatures – and amazing for keeping the nasty bugs away from the garden – but the way they move just gives me the shivers! My compromise with spiders is that they get left alone if they stay outside – if they’re in my house I’m afraid they get served with an eviction notice sharpish!

Scary Movie: What’s a book or movie that made you laugh?

Anything by Bill Bryson tends to make me laugh – he has such a wry sense of humour and a great eye for the absurd. His two books about Britain – Notes from a Small Island and The Road to Little Dribbling – always make me howl, although his book about houses, At Home: An Informal History of Private Life is probably my favourite book by him as it is packed with interesting bits of social history.

Frankenstein: Who is your favourite monster?

I’m not sure that ‘monster’ is the right word but I think the story of Medusa is really interesting. For a long time she’s been known as the woman with the snakes for hair who can turn people to stone, but – as with many female figures in antiquity – her story is much more complicted than that. According to Ovid, Medusa was seduced (read: sexually assaulted) by the god Poseidon in the Temple of Athena. This act of sacrilige angered Athena who, for some inexplicable reason, decided to punish Medusa by turning her hair into snakes (instead of, I don’t know, taking the matter up with Poseidon maybe?). The Medusa myth is long overdue a re-write and I’d love to see an author such as Natalie Haynes or Madeline Miller provide Medusa’s own persepctive on her experiences, in the manner of A Thousand Ships or Circe.

Paranormal Activity: You’ve turned into a ghost! What ghostly thing are you going to do?

Haunt people I don’t like. There’s a few world leaders in need of a good old-fashioned haunting right now!

Scream: What is the scariest book/movie you’ve ever read/seen?

Definitely Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black! I read the book on one dark and stormy October evening when I was curled up in a caravan with the wind howling around the van and rain lashing on the roof – it made for a very atmospheric read and I didn’t sleep a wink! It’s an exemplary ghost story, filled with atmosphere and with one of the most malevolent ghosts to grace the pages of a book. The film, whilst not an exact adaptation, does an excellent job of rendering the atmosphere and the scares, whilst the stage play adaptation is suitably terrifying!

Zombieland: The zombie apocalypse has begun! What will be your weapon and hideout of choice?

I’m going to follow the guidance given in Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide – a long-handled melee weapon and a remote location (because everyone knows that, in the zombie apocalypse, human survivors are going to be the real enemy). So its a nice weighty golf club and a remote house (preferably moated) for me. Although no hiding for too long – the secret to survival in the zombie apocalypse is to keep moving!

Dark Shadows: What is your favourite book or movie featuring vampires?

You can’t beat a classic so I’m going to go with Dracula by Bram Stoker. Whilst Stoker wasn’t the first writer to turn to vampires, he did create a lot of the traits we associate with them today and the book remains a riveting read today.

Hocus Pocus: You are now a witch. What would be your first wicked act?

As with the haunting, I think there’s a few world leaders, global businesses, and lukers in dark corners of the internet who are in need of a good hexing in the world right now!

The Nightmare Before Christmas: You get to plan Halloween this year! What will you do to make it an unforgettable day?

I’m not a big celebrator of Halloween – as a Brit, I find the decorations and the trick and treating to be overly commercialised. I prefer to think more in terms of the Gaelic tradition of Samhain, which marks the end of Harvest and the coming of Winter – so this time of year is all about bonfires, ghost stories, and cosy winter food and drink!

Thank you again to For Books Sake for tagging me! I’m going to tag Drew at The Tattooed Book Geek, Stephen at Stephen Writes – and you! If you decide to give this tag a go, please link back to this post as well as to the tag’s original creator!

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Seasonal Reads

Spooky Reading Recommendations

The leaves are changing, the nights are drawing in, and it’s time to drag that favourite  jumper out of the closet. Is any more of an excuse needed to settle down with a mug of tea, curl up under your favourite blanket and pick up a book? And, for me personally, if that book has a touch of the sinister about it – something that’ll send a slight chill down my spine despite all that cosiness – then even better! So without further ado here are five of my favourite chilling reads, plus a few choices that I’m hoping to get to during 2018’s season of spookiness.

584843I can’t talk about spooky books without mentioning The Woman in Black. Susan Hill has written a number of ghost stories but this, without a doubt, remains my favourite. Possibly this is because I first read the book one dark All Hallows Eve, curled up in a caravan on the wet and wild Welsh coast whilst the rain lashed on the roof and the wind howled outside. Talk about pathetic fallacy! Having re-read the book many times in considerably finer weather since however, I can attest to it being an extremely fine ghost story with just the right level of menace. Arthur Kipps’ visit to desolate Eel Marsh House and his glimpses of the vengeful woman in black remain utterly terrifying on even the brightest of days.

8350864More readily known for her young adult series, Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, Michelle Paver has also written two chilling ghost stories after the Gothic mould. My favourite of the two, Dark Matter, is set during an ill-fated expedition to Arctic and brilliantly adds chilling events to an even colder location. Her second, Thin Air, takes place during a similarly doomed mountaineering expedition. Both books play with ideas of repression and psychology, cleverly weaving the characters’ fears into the narrative so that the reader begins to doubt the veracity of their narratives. Paver is also excellent at using the stark yet dangerous beauty of the natural environment to great effect when creating her sinister tales.

36434359Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions, which I reviewed at the start of the year, is an unsettling gothic chiller that will leave you curled up under the covers and peering into the shadows. Part ghost story, part psychological mystery, the book uses interweaving narratives from the 1600s and 1800s to unravel the unhappy tale of the wooden companions that haunt crumbling country estate The Bridge, with possibly sinister intent.  Plus it has a really creepy child in it and nothing says dark and disturbing quite as much as childish innocence gone bad.

10692Moving away from ghost stories for a moment, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian is a brilliant romp which combines the gothic horror of Dracula with the country-hoping adventure of a Dan Brown thriller. Late one night when exploring her father’s study, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters ominously addressed ‘To my dear and unfortunate successor’. When her father goes missing, our unnamed narrator is forced into an epic cross-continental quest that takes her into the heart of Romania, uncovering the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s disappearance, and constantly coming up against the name of one Vlad Ţepeş. As you can probably tell from the synopsis, The Historian is a bit of a romp but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable one written in a high gothic style and with plenty of literary and historical references for Dracula fans.

6550482For those who like their horror to come with a more literary flavour, Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger combines Waters masterful prose with a dash of the supernatural. Set in the crumbling Hundred Hall, the novel follows the provincial, middle-class Dr Faraday as he gradually integrates himself into the life of the once wealthy Ayres family. Struggling to keep up with a changing society, the Ayreses are haunted by past glories. But are they also being haunted by something more sinister than their dying way of life? Combining a thoughtful meditation on class in post-war Britain with a creeping sense of dread and a fantastically creepy atmosphere, this is a slow, understated chill of a novel with a fantastic twist in its tale.

So what is on The Shelf’s spooky TBR for this season? Having still not got around to Laura Purcell’s latest chiller, The Corset, I’m eager to pick that up. Sarah Perry’s latest slice of gothic, Melmoth, is also on the pile – I loved The Essex Serpent so much that I’m almost afraid to read it! I’m taking part in the blog tour for SJI Holliday’s psychological ghost story The Lingering in November so am also very much looking forward to reading that, especially given all the high praise it has been getting from fellow bloggers. Finally Katherine Clements’ The Coffin Path picked up a lot of praise on its release last year but remains unread so I’m hoping to get to that now that the season is appropriate again.

As always, I would love to know if you’ve read any of my recommendations – or any of my TBR books. I do love a good ghost or supernatural story so if you’ve got any chilling recommendations for me then do also drop me a line in the comments, or come say hi over on Twitter (@amyinstaffs), and let me know about them!

Happy Reading!!