Book & Movie Review: Needful Things by Stephen King.

Book & Movie Review: Needful Things by Stephen King.

For the second instalment of my Stephen King book club, my friends and I read Needful Things before watching the 1993 movie adaptation and once again, we discovered exactly why he is the one true King of horror.  So, what is it all about?  The book takes place in the quiet US town of Castle Rock, where a new shop called Needful Things is being opened by the town’s new and mysterious resident Leland Gaunt.  The shop sells curios and antiques which appear to be a steal but inevitably come with a heavy price.  Intriguing right?

First of all, the premise is wonderful.  I love the idea of the Devil being bored and going place to place selling cursed goodies to unsuspecting punters.  The objects in question are needfulalways relatively generic- a children’s game, a baseball card, a glass lamp or silver teapot.  These items hold no significance to anyone other than the intended victim as each item is chosen specifically based on that individuals NEED.  Whether the item reminds them of precious memories, a time they dearly wish they could return to, or offers relief for excruciating pain, the items are irresistible to the intended customer and once you buy, there are no returns.  The entire book is a damning indictment on the materialistic, possession obsessed society we now live in.  Remember when you were a kid and you would beg your mum for that toy, telling her you had to have it because you NEEDED it and she would say no, you don’t NEED it, you just WANT it?  Well, your Mother was inadvertently teaching you how to avoid the trappings of Leland Gaunt and his magical wares.  Every one of us has something we need, or at least think we do and this is preyed upon on a daily basis by corporations and companies selling us rubbish every day. Creams that will make us younger, juices that will give us energy and vitality, clothes that will make us fashionable trend setters, this is the world we live in now, surrounded by adverts and bill boards bombarding us with all these Needful Things.  Mr Gaunt and his little shop of horrors is the ultimate personification of this and it works perfectly as both horror and wry social commentary.

What the book makes clear however, is that while Gaunt may control a person’s need, he cannot control their will.  He has a whole bag of tricks to bamboozle his customers, including putting them in trances, creating elaborate dreams which feel perfectly real to terrible nightmares and warnings which feel even realer, but the customer has to willingly take the item and they have to willingly accept the payment.  We, after all, walk our own paths in life and it is up to us how we choose to do so.  This book is all about temptation.  Just as Satan tempted so many in the bible, Gaunt tempts his customers to sin in order to fulfil those perceived needs.  Some of the sins seem minor, like throwing mud on clean sheets, while others are more serious, like slashing tyres or killing a beloved bed, but all the residents of Castle Rock seem more than willing to pay and in doing so sow the seeds of their own destructions.  I love that King made sure to show that none of us are immune to such temptation, with the most devout and holy rolling Christians of the town giving in as easily as the local drunk or disgraced politician.  Each character has their own flaws, their own personal defects which Gaunt readily exploits. For the lead character Sheriff Pangborn, it is the guilt and grief that he refuses to let go off as a result of the death of his wife and child a year before.  For Polly Chalmers, it is her pride.  It is the residents who acknowledge these flaws and work to overcome them, that survive intact.

needful3For the most part, I found myself feeling little sympathy for the residents of Castle Rock.  After all, they made the choices which led to their grizzly ends and some of them frankly got what they deserved, but there are exceptions.  The young Brian Rusk is just a child and he is the first to not only fall prey to Gaunt’s charm but also the first to realise who or what Gaunt truly is.  His only sin seems to be a childish attachment, a need for a baseball card he has always coveted but being young and naive is his biggest flaw.  He is easily exploited by Gaunt and when he tries to stop, Gaunt changes tactics and uses good old-fashioned fear to control him.  Whilst he made the choices he did and did the not very nice ‘pranks’ requested as payment willingly, all for a measly baseball card, I do feel like his youth and innocence make him incapable of truly understanding the ramifications of his actions until it is far too late.  Nettie Cobb, the local ‘nut’ suffers from severe mental health issues as a result of the trauma from a past abusive relationship.  Again, because of this she seemed an innocent to me and less capable of understanding her actions fully than the other residents.  There are also peripheral characters who never entered Gaunt’s shop, who are caught up in the carnage including several state Police officers.  Unlike the rest of the town’s residents, I genuinely felt bad when they met their grizzly ends.

There are a lot of characters involved in this book, a whole town’s worth, so it can be a little confusing at first trying to keep the names and storylines straight but it is definitely worth persevering.  King paints the perfect picture of small-town life, the kind of place where everyone makes a point of knowing each other’s business but where secrets still dwell.  The characters are fleshed out and often you will find yourself recognising the characters from your own home town. Whilst some of the characters are incredibly sympathetic and you find yourself genuinely attached to them and upset by their fates, the young Brian Rusk and Nettie being the two that broke my heart, for the most part I didn’t feel overly invested in the other characters and I think this is due to the sheer number of them being introduced.  Also, King seems to have a bit of an obsession with children and animals dying in horrible ways and several pets are executed in this particular tome.  You have been warned.  The book has a great pace, slowly and steadily building to that big, final crescendo. Some of the book club found it a little slow in parts, but I think that the fact that King takes his time with the reader at first, gradually increasing the pace and action, makes it a far more gripping read and resulted in me being unable to put it down for the last quarter of the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I thoroughly recommend it- definite five stars from me!

Now to the movie…If I am honest, I didn’t have very high expectations for this film.  I needful2have seen a lot of the earlier King adaptations and the movies tend to, well, suck (see my review of the original adaptation for Pet Semetary for a prime example).  I was especially wary of how the movie would edit such a massive novel into a viewable length whilst also maintaining the integrity of the story.  I was also concerned about how certain parts of the book would appear in film format, for example the spider like parasite which is inside Polly’s necklace is perfect horror written down, but on film it would probably come off as silly rather than scary.  Remember the Pennywise spider at the end of the original IT adaptation?  Exactly.  But the writer of the screenplay not only did a good job or whittling down such a heavy read, they were also smart enough to change certain aspects of the story to suit a movie’s format.  The ending of the book was my biggest concern.  In the novel, Sheriff Pangborn is an amateur magician, performing tricks, sleight of hand and shadow puppet shows throughout (it sounds weird if you haven’t read it, but it does make sense in the book).  He realises that Gaunt’s powers come from need and that he uses that need to create illusions and make the impossible real, like objects that transport their owners when touched.  He turns the tables by using Gaunt’s own techniques against him. Gaunt NEEDS his bag, which is now stuffed full of the resident’s souls, so Pangborn performs tricks and puppet shows which become real and alive, just like the forgeries sold by Gaunt.  On paper, this is a great ending.  It is wonderfully ironic and karmic that Gaunt is defeated using his own methods and it makes for a really interesting read. On film though, I don’t see how this could ever work.  Shadow puppets and fake spring snakes attacking the devil on screen would start to resemble some weird sketch show and it definitely wouldn’t be scary.  The film smartly changes the ending entirely, with the town’s residents becoming aware of what they are doing, of the ramifications of their actions and decisions and admitting they were wrong.  They atone and Gaunt is driven out of Castle Rock.  I also like that the fate of Brian Rusk is changed.  A young child killing himself on screen would likely turn a lot of viewers off and I personally prefer a version where he is changed, but alive.  Some changes don’t make a lot of sense to me however, like why the prim and well to do Wilma Jerzyck of the novel becomes a scruffy red neck turkey farmer in the film, but overall director Fraser Heston successfully translates the books core themes and story and I would definitely enjoy it even without reading the novel it’s based on.  Also, on a side note, I now have a huge crush on Ed Harris.

For our next instalment of the King Club we will be reading and watching The Shining.  Why not join us?  Keep an eye on my Instagram to see when we will be watching the film so you can watch along with us and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with all the latest posts!

 

 

 

Dark Deeds & Cameos: Short Story collaboration with embroidery artist Clare of ‘Crimson Pins.’

Dark Deeds & Cameos: Short Story collaboration with embroidery artist Clare of ‘Crimson Pins.’

Hello readers!  It is the beginning of a new week and time for another artist’s collaboration.  This time, I had the honour of collaborating with the incredibly talented embroidery artist Clare aka ‘Crimson Pins.’  I discovered Clare on Instagram and fell in love with her gothic style embroideries.  There is such amazing attention to detail and every piece is truly a work of art (of particular note are her stunning jewelled skeleton pieces which always sell out almost as soon as they are listed).  Clare lives in the South of England, stitching whenever she can.  She started stitching around 3 years ago, having tried her hand to many other crafts.  Whilst she would normally get bored and move on from a hobby, something about embroidery really held her interest. She has no formal training and learned everything from online tutorials and websites, along with simple trial and error.  She loves to create gothic, macabre pieces or pay tribute to her favourite TV shows, movies and games.  You can purchase her stunning embroideries here on her Etsy shop and if you love her work as much as I do, you will want to follow her Instagram to see all the shops updates and product releases.  I was really inspired by Clare’s dark and vintage style, so naturally I wrote a dark and vintage story.  So sit back, relax and enjoy this Victorian tale of murder and revenge and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with all my latest posts.  Happy Reading…

Dark Deeds and Cameos

cameodarkdeeds2Evelyn Hardcastle stared at her reflection hard, half expecting it to move independently of her. She barely recognised the face that stared back.  It was hardened and stoic.  There were none of the soft smiles or laughter lines anymore, none of the cheer and optimism.  Those things had died along with Albert.  Albert.  Instinctively, she clutched the cameo brooch on her lace collar, a gift from Albert on their one-year anniversary.  Once it was a reminder of life and love, but now it was her symbol of heart break. She had had it altered at the jewellers to include a locket on the rear of the cameo.  The world saw the delicate shell brooch, the features of the woman on it watching them back.  But behind this she stored a lock of Albert’s auburn hair, a little piece of him she carried everywhere.  A reminder of what she had lost as well as what she had to do.  She checked herself once more before leaving.  Despite everything, she still looked well enough. Her delicate features seemed almost emphasised and highlighted by the veil of sadness which now hung over them and her determination to carry out her plan made her walk with a tall and confident stance.

She had chosen a red velvet dress for this momentous occasion.  It cinched her small waist in and the bustle at the back exaggerated every curve of her body.  She had always thought red a very garish colour in the past, something worn by the type of women desperate for the gaze of men, but tonight, that’s exactly what she needed.  She had to make sure she stood out and caught the eye of Lord Walter Smith, the man who had murdered her husband.

It had been almost six months since that tragic day but the pain and sorrow had not dulled even a little. They say that the burden of grief diminishes with time, but Evelyn was not experiencing that.  If anything, she felt the pain of his loss more forcefully with each passing day and change of season.  And there was something else, something new…Rage.  A deep seeded, violent rage which bubbled and boiled just beneath her skin threatening to burst forth in swathes of blood red acid at the slightest touch.  Her husband had been a good man, a moral man.  When he saw that putrid little monster abuse and beat that poor maid to within an inch of her life, he had intervened.  He had threatened to tell the authorities, he didn’t care about the cad’s station or title.  But Lord Walter was not the type of man to allow someone to besmirch and tarnish his fine name, particularly a lowly writer such as Albert.  Within a week, Albert had been stabbed to death, his blood flowing between the cobbles of London’s streets.  The Police had said it was a robbery gone wrong, but Evelyn knew better.  Hell, the Police Sergeant had barely been able to look her in the eye as he spoke such blatant mistruths.  She had fallen, weeping and wailing, barely able to process what was happening.  It felt like she had been falling ever since.

She placed the black and red lace hat on her hair and for a finishing touch, painted her lips rouge to match her dress.  Now she really was a blossoming rose, a woman who would grab the attention of a man like Lord Walter.  The bar would be full of women, some hunting for a husband, others for a customer. She was hunting for something else entirely.

By the time the carriage set her outside the bar, the shot of whiskey she had drank in order to settle her nerves had kicked in.  A warmth and hazy confidence now filling her up.  She would no doubt need it in the hours to come.  The street smelled of beer and piss and she could hear a fiddle playing from inside, its giddy tune bidding customers to come and sit a while. Not the type of place you would expect to find a Lord, more a worker’s bar, but then Lord Walter liked his alcohol and women to flow free and loose and this place was near the few brothels that still accepted his coin, the classier joints having got sick of his violent tendencies putting the girls out of action with each black eye or broken tooth. He ended up costing more than he brought and so they had barred him, much to his chagrin.  But that was how Lord Walter lived.  He had the title, but his money was squandered and frittered away on horses, booze and girls.  He owed money to half the loan sharks in the city and if it wasn’t for his friends and family in high places, Evelyn had no doubt he would have had his own staged tragedy by now.  But when your brother is in Westminster and your daddy owns half the city, you literally can get away with murder.

She made her way towards the bar eyeing the room as she moved.  She could see that despite appearances, this bar had some very important patrons.  There was James Richardson, the current Chief of Police, a Weasley little man with ratty features and tobacco stained fingers.  There was Mark Edwards, the editor of the London Tribune, the city’s premier paper and his brother Doctor Peter Edwards, a well-respected teacher of anatomy who was currently getting a lesson of his own from a pretty young prostitute.  There were even a couple of low-level politicians and an actor she recognised from a play she had seen the previous year.  Albert had bought her the tickets for her birthday gift knowing she adored the theatre.  As if by fate, at the very moment she thought of that night, of her lost love, she spied her target in a dark corner playing cards with a handful of rather ruthless looking gentleman.  The second she laid eyes on him, she wanted to run towards him screaming, nails clawing, a broken bottle to the throat.  But that would only end with a short drop and a tight noose.  No, she would bide her time.

She sipped at her whiskey, watching him from across the room, trying to catch his eye. cameosdarkdeeds1 She hated this place.  She hated the lude and obnoxious men who filled it, she hated the women who fawned over them.  She hated the smell and the thick fog of pipe smoke that clawed at her throat and floated past her vision.  She hated the cheap whiskey and the dull, yellow lights.  But more than anything, she hated Lord Walter.  She hated him with every fibre of her being, within her very soul.  She imagined slashing at his throat, red pouring out like a tide and felt the weight of the dagger in her bag.  Soon, soon.

Just then, he clocked her, a passing glance which seemed to draw itself towards her and settle there. He looked at her the way a starving dog looked at a bone.  She felt bile rise in her stomach and for a moment she considered fleeing.  As he downed the last of his wine, rubbing the red slobbers from his fat chin with the unbuttoned sleeve of his shirt whilst never taking his eyes of hers.  He stumbled towards her, his glazed eyes holding hers, his swaying stomach overhanging his belt, his shirt untucked and stained.  As he moved closer, time seemed to slow, the world around her melting away so only they still remained.  She felt the hairs on her arms stand up and her stomach lurch, even her legs twitching, readying for flight.  She thought about running, about taking this insane plan and boxing it away, somewhere deep inside where she would never find it again.  She could get caught, arrested, hanged.  She could be killed or raped or tortured.  A dozen scenarios played inside her mind, none of them ending well and she almost abandoned the road on which she now stood in favour of something safer, something saner.  But she was never going to run, she knew that deep down.  The truth was, death was better than the half-life she lived now. No, she would finish what she started and damn the consequences, for her body and her soul.

He came up beside her, the stench of cheap wine filling her nostrils and causing the contents of her stomach to mix and churn.  She had to swallow hard to prevent herself from vomiting, even more so when he laid a clammy hand upon her own.  His dark eyes were glazed and foggy and could barely focus on her.  This will be easier than I thought. 

“A Beauty such as yourself shouldn’t be drinking alone.  Bar keep, two whiskeys.”

It took all of her strength not to simply draw the dagger from her purse and plunge it into his throat then and there.  She pictured the bar and its patrons painted in red, eyes wide with shock, the satisfaction of feeling flesh tear easily beneath a sharpened blade.  No, that’s too quick for him. 

She smiled at him, the way she knew he wanted her to smile.  A smile that said she was interested, a smile that offered him the seat next to her and the promise of more to come.

“What’s your name my dear?”

“Adrestia.”

She had always planned on using something simple, unmemorable such as Mary or Victoria, but in the moment the name suddenly appeared to her, long forgotten from her lessons in Greek mythology.  Adriesta the Goddess of vengeance and daughter of the God of war Ares.  It was perfect.

“How exotic.  I am Lord Walter Smith.”

He emphasised the word Lord, a way to let her know his station, his importance.  Whilst Evelyn understood than many women cared for such things, a man’s title or bank balance had never interested her.  She looked for a man’s character, something Lord Walter sorely lacked.

“My Lord.”

She gave him her hand to kiss, trying not to wretch as he slobbered on her lace gloves.  Yes, this will be easier than I thought.

Their conversation had not been a long one.  Lord Walter was not a patient man and neither was Evelyn, she had plans after all. Within the hour she found herself in his carriage, him pawing at her like some dumb animal, his stinking breath on her neck, his weight pushing on her, pinning her against the carriage seats. She was relieved when the carriage stopped outside his London address.  Barely managing to pry herself free, she stumbled outside and gave him a beckoning smile as she walked towards the front door, Lord Walter stumbling after her.  As she led him up the stairs with mere glances, the discarding of a glove, the bite of her lip, she was reminded of a story her Mother had read to her as a child about the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  Her body was her instrument and tonight, she was luring the biggest rat of all to his death.

They reached the bedroom, a large four post bed at the centre of a dark and dusty room.  It appeared the high and mighty Lord could no longer afford staff, something which definitely worked in Evelyn’s favour. For a moment, she hesitated.  This was her last opportunity to stop, to turn back before it was too late, but hate and grief has a way of lighting a fire within which burns at a heat hot enough to never be quenched by doubt or fear. And so, she led him to the bed. With one slight nudge, he fell backwards like a felled tree, the bed posts shaking as he did.  He looked like a dog desperate for his owner to give him a treat, and so she would.

darkdeedscameos3She pulled the pin from her hair, letting it fall around her shoulders and continued to smile that same smile, that coquettish, flirtatious smile which promised so many things to him. He has no idea.  He lay on his back, wheezing, sweating as she walked towards him slowly, savouring what was to come.  She raised her skirts and climbed on to the bed, straddling him.  She could see the excitement on his face, mounting and growing along with him.  Her bag already laid open, the dagger now within her garter belt and it was easy to slip it out without him noticing as she kissed his chest.  He moaned.

“Oh Adrestia…”

She rose up, looming over him, staring down at his red sweaty face still smiling that same smile.

“Call me a different name tonight.”

“Haha, how wonderful.  I love games. What would you like me to call you? Shall I choose a name?”

“No, I have one in mind. I think you should call me Evelyn. I think you should call me Mrs Evelyn Hardcastle.”

As she spoke her name aloud, the sweet and seductive smile began to twist and contort into a manic grimace.  There was a moment of realisation which fell over Lord Walter’s face, but it came a second too late as the dagger was plunged to the hilt in the cavity where a heart should be.  He sputtered and let out a pained groan, blood running free from the hole in his chest, his shirt going quickly from white to red.  He sputtered, spitting droplets of blood on her face and tried to say something.

“P..P…Pl…”

“Please? Ha.”

She thought of Albert, of him dying alone on some piss-soaked street corner.  She thought of him begging, pleading and she showed Lord Walter exactly the same amount of mercy he had shown her beloved husband. She leaned, twisting the dagger. It ground against bone and she could feel his ribs cracking under her weight.  The hole grew larger, a volcano of blood and death pouring forth.  The red velvet of her dress grew wet and darkened as blood painted her body the same crimson as it painted his.  There was a spasm, a twitch and shake beneath her and a wheeze before his body dropped and lay still.  She could see from his glassy eyes that he was gone from this world.  She imagined him somewhere filled with fire and pain and wondered if she would join him there some day, if this act, this bloodlust would stain her soul irreparably. She imagined Lady Macbeth, washing at the blood which was not there and understood for the first time that type of staining, that type of contamination.

She wasn’t sure how long she sat there in the dark, holding vigil over the bloody end of her plan. She felt a torrent of emotions. On one hand, she felt free.  There had been so many months of tears, of anger and outrage bubbling and churning within her.  She had hated, for the first time in her life, she had truly hated another human being and now, he was gone.  Albert had justice, she had justice.  But there was also a hollowness, a vast emptiness left by the void from that hate.  What would she do now?  She had no Albert nor did she have a Lord Walter.  She was alone and directionless, a boat cut loose and untethered, drifting aimlessly through a vast and open ocean.  What now?

Slowly, almost mechanically, she finished what she had started.  It was easy to start the fire, the house was like tinder, waiting for a flame. She used his vast amount of cheap alcohol, dousing the floor, the curtains and bedding as well as his bloated, lifeless corpse and left through the alleyways as the flames began to take hold. She was over a mile away when the sirens sang.  The dagger went into the Thames and her dress, her hat, her gloves went into the hearth, the ashes discarded as soon as they had cooled.  All that she saved from her Adrestia mask was the brooch, which she washed a dozen times for good measure.

For a while, the papers were dominated with the mystery of Lord Walter’s death.  The post mortem had revealed the large wound to his chest and ribs but there was a long list of suspects and no evidence to point at any in particular.  After weeks past, the papers began to report on other things and Lord Walter became but a distant memory to the people of London, to everyone that is, except Evelyn.

She thought often about what she had done, even visiting church for the first time since Albert’s funeral.  She asked for forgiveness but knew the request was a hollow one because after all, she did not regret what she had done, not really.  That emptiness however, never left.  Not until the museum benefit.  Since Albert, she had lost interest in most of her previous friends or amusements, but the museum had been very dear to Albert and it was a place she visited regularly in order to feel close to him once more.  The benefit was raising funds in order to expand the museum’s collection and so, on a cool and damp September evening she found herself amongst familiar faces.

Anna Windham had been someone she had considered a friend once, before grief tore her away from this world.  Seeing her wondering from painting to painting moved something within Evelyn, something she suddenly realised she deeply missed.  She realised just how lonely she was.

“Anna my dear, it’s so good to see you!”

Anna smiled and both embraced.  Briefly, it was like nothing had changed.  It was as if they had only seen each other for lunch the following day. But when Anna winced and flinched at Evelyn’s hug, tears filling her eyes, Evelyn suddenly realised that of course, both of them had changed.  Just as she had sleepwalking through her own life, Anna’s had moved forward as well and Evelyn had missed much.

“What is it dear?  Are you ok?”

“She’s fine.”

A man stepped forward and clasped his hand around Anna’s arm with an unnecessarily tight grip.  Anna flinched again.  It was such a small movement, so fleeting, that most would have missed it, but Evelyn saw.

“Evelyn, this is my husband Charles Montague.  Charles, this is Evelyn Hardcastle.  We used to be friends.”

It was Evelyn’s turn to flinch now.  Used to.  How could she have let herself become so cut off?  She had been so wrapped up in her own pain, she had simply forgotten those with whom she had cared so deeply in the past.  People she had laughed with, respected, perhaps even loved a little in the way that one loves their family.

“Charmed.”

Charles sneered at her as he said the word, making it perfectly obvious he was anything darkdeedscameo4but. He was a large man, with broad shoulders and a square jaw, which seemed to be constantly tense and clenched.  He gripped Anna a little tighter, lifting her slightly.  She winced again, but quickly put on a sad smile Evelyn had never seen her make before. She studied Anna then and for the first time noticed bruising under her shawl and scars which had not been there before.

 

“Anna dear, the Watson’s wanted to chat about luncheon next week.”

It was a demand, not a request.  Anna smiled and excused herself from Evelyn.  There was a brief promise to catch up before the brute practically dragged her away by the arm.  It was painfully obvious what kind of husband Charles Montague was and it was a painful realisation for her.  Guilt washed over her.  I haven’t been there for you.  I cut you off.  I pushed you away and now, you are as adrift as me.  And just like that, Evelyn Hardcastle found her purpose.  She had got her justice, but many women hadn’t got theirs.  This city was full of despicable, abusive men hiding behind their money, their titles and privilege as if these things gave them free reign to act as they pleased. Well she would become Adrestia again and once more she would do what needed to be done.  After all, blood begets blood…

 

Unboxing May’s Fantasy & Scifi Box From My Chronicle Book Box.

Unboxing May’s Fantasy & Scifi Box From My Chronicle Book Box.

Hello Readers!  I hope you have all had a wonderful weekend.  For this evening’s blog mychronbookboxpost, I will be unboxing this month’s My Chronicle Book box Science Fiction and Fantasy box and what a box this is!  As always, if you fancy grabbing a box of your own, use code MIRRORS10 for 10% off.

So, let’s start with the amazing books shall we?  As always, this box contains three amazing books (Yes, you read that right, THREE books) and all of them are signed…I know right?  What more could you ask for?

thingsinjarsBook number one is Things in Jars by Jess Kidd.  This is a hardback (I love a good hardback, don’t you?) and as I said, it is signed by the author herself.  So what’s it about? “London, 1863. Bridie Devine, the finest female detective of her age, is taking on her toughest case yet. Reeling from her last job and with her reputation in tatters, a remarkable puzzle has come her way. Christabel Berwick has been kidnapped. But Christabel is no ordinary child. She is not supposed to exist.  As Bridie fights to recover the stolen child she enters a world of fanatical anatomists, crooked surgeons and mercenary showmen. Anomalies are in fashion, curiosities are the thing, and fortunes are won and lost in the name of entertainment. The public love a spectacle and Christabel may well prove the most remarkable spectacle London has ever seen.  Things in Jars is an enchanting Victorian detective novel that explores what it is to be human in inhumane times.”  Frankly,  all I needed to hear was the phrase Victorian Detective Novel and I was in.

terratwoBook number 2, which is also a signed hardback, is Do you Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh: A century ago, scientists theorised that a habitable planet existed in a nearby solar system. Today, ten astronauts will leave a dying Earth to find it. Four are decorated veterans of the 20th century’s space-race. And six are teenagers, graduates of the exclusive Dalton Academy, who’ve been in training for this mission for most of their lives.
It will take the team twenty-three years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years spent in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong. And something always goes wrong. This one sounds genuinely exciting so I am looking forward to reading it.

witchs kindLast, but certainly not least, book number three is The Witch’s Kind by Louisa Morgan and again this one is signed (this time coming with a signed author plate): Barrie Anne Blythe and her Aunt Charlotte have always known that the other residents of their small coastal community find them peculiar – two women living alone on the outskirts of town. It is the price of concealing their strange and dangerous family secret.But two events threaten to upend their lives for ever. The first is the arrival of a mysterious abandoned baby with a hint of power like their own. The second is the sudden reappearance of Barrie Anne’s long-lost husband – who is not quite the man she thought she married.Together, Barrie Anne and Charlotte must decide how far they are willing to go to protect themselves – and the child they think of as their own – from suspicious neighbours, the government and even their own family .  Anyone who follows my Instagram will know I have a slight obsession with all things Witchy, so I am definitely looking forward to this one.

But there isn’t just books in this amazing box, there are also bookish goodies and what mychron2wonderful goodies they are!  Along with the THREE signed books, there is also an adorable print with an inspiring quote from the legendary Stephen Hawking, “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.” Wise words indeed!  There is also a very good sized fabric ‘Books are Magic’ pouch which would be perfect for cosmetics, toiletries or stationary.  Lastly, there is a set of three galaxy print Wasi tapes, in blue, purple and red.  These items are not only lovely on their own, but they perfectly compliment both the theme of the box and the books within it.

So what do you think of this box?  Have you read any of the books?  What did you think of them?  Leave me a comment and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with all my latest posts.  Finally, if you like the look of the My Chronicle Book Box (of which you can get a Crime and Mystery themed box or Fantasy and Science Fiction themed box) use the code MIRRORS10 for 10% off now.

The Best Book Shops in Belfast: A Bookish Tour of Northern Ireland’s capital city.

The Best Book Shops in Belfast: A Bookish Tour of Northern Ireland’s capital city.

Hello gang.  For this week’s post, I thought I would do something a little different and tell you about my home town of Belfast.  For those of you unfamiliar with Belfast, it is the capital city of Northern Ireland and we are most famous for building the Titanic (yes, it sank, but it was perfect when it left here and we were not the ones who drove it into an iceberg) and more recently because Northern Ireland is where Game of Thrones is filmed and the UK premiere of the newest and final season was recently right here in the city.  Both the Titanic and GOT have a myriad of tours, museums and exhibits dedicated to them, but what I have noticed is lacking out there is a definitive guide to all things bookish in this fair city.  So, because I am a total book nerd and because I spend a probably unhealthy amount of time scouring book shops, I thought I would put together a list of my favourite book shops in the city.  Maybe these shops are well known to you or perhaps they are somewhere new to discover, either way, sit back, grab a snack and happy reading…

Keats and Chapman – North Street.

keatsandchapmanYou know those book shops that literally have rows upon rows of higgledy piggledy books from floor to ceiling?  The kind of shop that send the bibliophile’s heart all a flutter and causes them to involuntarily squeal with glee the second you step inside?  Keats and Chapman is one such shop.  Situated on North Street, not far from the trendy Cathedral Quarter, this little gem of a store contains more books than any one person could ever possibly read in their lifetime (although I am willing to make a stab at it in the name of scientific research).  There is literally something for everyone here and a book to suit every taste.  Given the vast amount of books literally crammed into every nook and cranny, a book worm could literally lose hours of they life scouring the shelves here and truthfully over the years, I probably have done just that. keatsandchapman3 Whilst I would love the budget to sustain the many, many books I crave, I find myself having to limit my spending each month so I am a massive fan of second hand book shops in general.  They allow a book, well thumbed and once loved, to be picked up and loved once again as well as introducing those wonderful worlds and characters to buyers who may otherwise have been unable to afford it.  Also, anyone who is a fan of my Instagram will know I have a MAJOR obsession with vintage books and this store is positively stuffed with vintage gems.  If you find yourself wondering the city centre with some time on your hands, this Aladdin’s cave of bookish treasures is definitely worth a browse.

Visit immediately, you won’t regret it!  You can check out opening times and details on their Facebook page here.

No Alibis– Botanic Avenue.

noalibisThis book store is well known and well respected by local book worms and was even featured in a book by local writer Colin Bateman (if you haven’t read any of his work, do so immediately.  You WILL laugh out loud, guaranteed).  It may be known as Northern Ireland’s only independent crime fiction book shop but it features lots of other genres as well, including a rather wonderful and well stocked children’s section.  It regularly hosts amazing events and author signings and meet and greets and would draw in some incredible names in the world of literature (like one of my personal favourites, John Connolly).  Nestled on Botanic Avenue in the heart of the student area, a mere hop, skip and a jump from my old alma mada, Queens University, it is a truly wonderful shop which is definitely worth visiting should you get the chance.  Plus, it’s a great opportunity to support the sadly increasingly rare independent book store.  Botanic Avenue is literally stuffed with amazing restaurants and coffee shops (or near some great bars if you prefer to read with a pint than a coffee), so head on in, browse, inevitably buy and find a little nook somewhere to chill out and read- you know you want to!  You can find out about their opening hours and upcoming events on their website here.

Self Help Africa– Botanic Avenue.

Out of all the second hand book shops on my list, this one is my personal favourite. selfhelpafricaWhilst it may not be the biggest or the most well known, it holds a special place in my heart and I have found so many books for my ever growing vintage collection on its stuffed shelves.  This place is packed with books to suit every reader and more than that, it has heart.  The lovely ladies who volunteer there are always a delight to chat with and obviously enjoy volunteering their very much.  It genuinely brightens my day to visit them.  Not only are their books a complete steal, with prices being beyond reasonable, but every penny you spend goes to support the charities work to end hunger and poverty in rural Africa.  Win win right?  Of note are the little bargain boxes, where all of the books within are reduced to only 50p (I have found so many hidden gems in those).  Please, if you are in the area, drop in, say hi to the wonderful volunteers and buy yourself a book!  If you want to find out more about what Self Help Africa does or would like to donate, click here.

Oxfam Bookstore– Botanic Avenue.

oxfambooksNow, I know what you are thinking- Botanic Avenue really has a lot of book shops featuring on your list and you would be 100% right.  The fact is, Botanic Avenue has and always will hold a special place in my heart.  I went to Queens University to get my degree in Psychology and I spent so many hours here, visiting the many shops and cafes. It is chock full of second hand shops, vintage shops and thrift stores which are all my very favourite kinds of shops.  I could fill a book with the amount of amazing second hand gems I have found here over the years, but instead of boring you with the time I bought a stunning almost new pair of Topshop jeans from a charity shop for £2.50 and found a fiver in the pocket when I got home (that was a truly great day), I will stick with the book shops of this wonderful area (for now at least).  Every large city has an Oxfam book store, in fact there are at least two others in Belfast that I know of (and also regularly visit) but of those, this is my favourite for three main reasons.  Not only is it the largest, it is also the brightest and most well laid out.  But mostly, it is near the other bookstores already listed, so you can literally spend the day just strolling from book store to vintage store grabbing goodies as you go.  I always visit this store when I visit the others, it’s like a routine for me now, so I had to include it on my list.  Once again, not only are you grabbing yourself some bookish bargains, you are also helping a great cause in the process and it couldn’t get any better than that.  If you would like to learn more about Oxfam and what they do, or perhaps donate, click here.

Waterstones– Fountain Street.

Ok, every major city these days has a Waterstones.  You have all visited one, you have allwaterstones stared dreamily at the shelves and touched the many books contained therein to let them know you are thinking of them and will be back for them soon…No?  Just me?  Well regardless, there is no point in me telling you about the store because inevitably you have seen one.  I mostly buy second hand books or try to support smaller businesses where I can but I always find myself wondering into this gorgeous store every time I am near the city centre so it had to be included on the list.  If you want to find beautiful books and amazing bookish goodies, then this place will have something for you.  Personally, I tend to find myself buying more mugs and notebooks that I don’t need and have no space for but simply must have (you know the ones).  My recommendation is not to enter when your funds are low or you may find yourself weeping in front of the cloth bound vintage Penguin Classics collection…No?  Just me again?  Fair enough.

So that’s my list- what do you think?  Are there any shops not featured you think I need to visit?  Comment below.  And don’t forget to subscribe to stay up to date with all my latest posts.  For now, happy browsing fellow book lovers.

 

Riddle’s Tea Shoppe: The Marauders Tea Gang Unboxing.

Riddle’s Tea Shoppe: The Marauders Tea Gang Unboxing.

Anyone who follows me on Instagram will be aware that I have a bit of an obsession with Harry Potter.  I read the books growing up and I have an ever growing collection of Harry Potter merchandise.  You will also have noticed that I have a slight addiction to tea, because I prescribe to the philosophy of my fellow Northern Irish writer C.S.Lewis: “You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.”  There is no better combination than a great book and a steaming cuppa, so when someone combines the wizarding world of Harry Potter I adore so much with magical tea blends and I am literally in heaven.  Enter Riddle’s Tea Shoppe.  I have been a long time fan of these guys, following and drooling over their Instagram pictures since I joined a couple of years ago but given that postage to the UK can be quite expensive, I had never got myself any of the delicious teas I so yearned for.  Hadn’t until now that is.  I have spent the week sick in bed and frankly I deserved a treat, so I purchased the Marauders Tea Gang box, a box dedicated to and inspired by the original Hogwarts Marauder’s James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew aka Messers Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs.  So, after saying the magical words, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good” I have been able to enter this wonderful box and discover the treasures within.

marauder 2First up, the box contains four delicious teas.  Each one is named after and inspired by the Marauders themselves and they couldn’t be more perfect.  The Padfoot blend is a bold breakfast tea with a kick, the Prongs blend is sweet, spicy and somewhat dangerous, the Moony blend is earl grey and chocolate for moonlight sipping (of course) and last but definitely not least, the Wormtail blend ‘tastes like betrayal’ because it is decaf.  That last one genuinely made me laugh out loud.  The packaging is designed beautifully, I love that they are red and each flavour truly encapsulates the characters they represent.  I cannot wait to try them all, particularly Moony’s flavour as he is my favourite of the Marauders.

Alongside these delicious teas, there is a selection of tattoos depicting the same gorgeous marauder1character illustrations from the tea packets along with a few other magical images.  I love a good press on tattoo so expect to see those popping up in future Instagram photos.  There is also a Marauder’s Tea Gang vinyl sticker and enamel pin badge.  The badge is adorable, with a glittered background and my main man Moony on it.  I will definitely wear it with pride.  All the items are listed on the adorable card pictured above with that magical oath printed on it, which I may frame to be honest, because one can never have enough Harry Potter related pictures up in their office.  Honorary mention also goes to the box itself which is so sweet.  I really appreciate the details here and the clear effort and thought that went into every thing, even something as simple as the packaging.  Overall, this is a fabulous box and it has definitely encouraged me to make further purchases from Mr Riddle in the future.  Now, if you will excuse me, I have a date with some tea….

Book Review: ‘This & Nothing More’ a collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s work by Ethereal Vision Publishing & Illustrator Matt Hughes.

Book Review: ‘This & Nothing More’ a collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s work by Ethereal Vision Publishing & Illustrator Matt Hughes.

edgar1Hello Readers! For tonights blog post, I am reviewing This and Nothing More, an Edgar Allan Poe collection by Ethereal Visions Publishing.  Now, every horror fan, classics fan and Gothic gal out there has read some Edgar Allan Poe (if you haven’t then do so immediately, because you won’t regret it) so I won’t be reviewing his writing because everyone knows he was a massive talent and I don’t have anything bad to say about his writing (and I never will).  Instead, I am reviewing this edition of his collected works.  I discovered Ethereal Visions Publishing on Instagram and became immediately drawn to their Gothic edginess, the drama of their editions and the stunning Art Deco style of Matt Hughes’ illustrations, so when they offered to gift me their Edgar Allen Poe collection, I was over the moon.  So what is the book like?

This is one of those occasions when a book arrives which you anticipated would be beautiful but then when you actually get it in your hands, it exceeds all expectations.  Frankly, this edition is a work of art and is officially the most stunning book I own.  Let’s begin with the cover.  I am a sucker for Gothic drama and this book is dripping it with.  The beautiful cover illustration featuring that classic skull and raven combination and gorgeous gold embossed writing to match the shining gold page edges (which are so reflective, you can practically do your makeup in them).

Open that cover and it just keeps getting better and better.  Matt Hughes is a real talent edgar2and has created the most stunning and ethereal illustrations I have ever seen.  Every single image perfectly captures not only its accompanying piece of writing but also the atmospheric, haunting nature of Poe’s writing as a whole.  Every single drawing from the loving dedication to his wife on page one, right through to each section title page, is so perfectly drawn and inked.  I adore the muted colour palette of washed out pastels alongside the plain black images which look so lovingly sketched.  I am officially a massive Matt Hughes fan and must see more of his incredible work immediately.  I recommend you follow him and Ethereal Visions publishing on Instagram to see his work in progress and see every drawing coming to life.

The book is divided into three sections: Poems, stories and essays, ensuring the reader gets a wide variety and range of Poe’s work.  The selection itself is wonderful and includes some of my absolute favourites such as The Tell-Tale Heart, The Premature Burial, The Raven and Lenore.  I have never actually read any of Poe’s essays before so it was wonderful to read these, of particular note being A Few Words on Secret Writing.  I feel like this book is the perfect introduction to anyone new to the dark world of Edgar Allan Poe or a wonderful edition to an already overflowing Poe collection, a warm welcome home for his current fans.

edgar3This book is honestly just stunning- I literally have nothing negative to say about it.  If I could frame it and hang it on my wall, I would.  The same team is currently working on an ethereal edition of Frankenstein and I am sooooooo excited to see it.  Whether you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe and gothic literature, or you are a newcomer to the author and genre this is a must own book.  I am just going to leave you with the immortal words of Edgar Allan Poe: All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream, and this book is positively dreamy! (Sorry, not sorry).

Check out the cover on their edition of Frankenstein and tell me you aren’t gasping?  You edgar4can check out more images of the book or preorder your own copy here.  I know I definitely NEED a copy!

 

Drop me a comment below and don’t forget to follow my blog to keep up the date with my latest book reviews, articles and pieces of original writing.  For now, happy reading folks!!

Pet Semetary (1989) vs Pet Semetary (2019): Movie review showdown.

Pet Semetary (1989) vs Pet Semetary (2019): Movie review showdown.

**Needless to say there are spoilers in this article so steer clear until you’ve watched the new film.**

petsemetary1

As I mentioned in my last post, my book review of Pet Semetary by Stephen King, my friends and I decided to make a little Stephen King book club. Every month or so, we would read one of his books and watch the screen adaptations because, yes, we are massive nerds and yes, we love horror. So we started with this one because a brand new adaptation just hit the big screens and it felt like fate. So we read the book and every one of us loved it, read my previous post for the full review. So far so good. Now, we were going to watch the two adaptations. One from 1989 starring Dale Midkiff and Star Trek Next generation’s Denise Crosby, before venturing to the cinema to see the new release starring Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz and the beloved John Lithgow. They are both based on the same book so they won’t be that dissimilar, right? WRONG! The two films were worlds apart in both quality, performance and horror, so I thought I should write a review, comparing the two films to both the original book and each other. So here we have it, the ultimate showdown…who are you routing for?

Age before beauty, so let’s start with the 1989 adaptation. I had seen this once as a child, many, many moons ago (I won’t say how long because I don’t want to reveal just how old I am) but truthfully I barely remembered it. Not the best sign I suppose, but at least it meant I was going into it with no preconceptions. I can forgive 80s horror movies for their terrible special effects because they give me nostalgic vibes and sometimes, the way the directors and creators have got around issues with budget and technological constraints can sometimes produce what is often scarier and more tense than the all out CGI we have today. What I cannot forgive is terrible acting. Every single actor in this movie, with the exception of Brad Greenquist who played the ill fated Pascow, was beyond wooden. Honestly, it was like they weren’t even trying. The worst culprits were by far the main characters Louis Creed, played by Dale Midkiff and his wife Rachel, played by Denise Crosby. I’m not sure if they were just phoning it in for the pay cheque or they are honestly just terrible for the roles, but either way it was like watching shop mannequins fumble their way through.

Not a great start, right? But maybe, the script was good? Nope, not particularly. Look, I get that this is a big old book to squeeze into a ninety minute movie, so of course not everything will make it in there but what I have learned over the years is that you can practically throw the original book away as long as the movie captures the books vibe and atmosphere (see Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House for the perfect example of this) but unfortunately this adaptation captured neither. One of the biggest issues with this film may actually be that it stuck TOO CLOSELY to the original book, choosing to go down the same murderous, psycho toddler route. There are two major problems with this: 1) Anyone can overpower a toddler, even a supernatural one and 2) Toddler’s aren’t scary, they are in fact adorable and the one chosen to play Gage in this film, actor Miko Hughes, is particularly cute. No matter how much he attempts to scowl and growl, I find myself cooing and awing at every shot of his chubby cheeks and wide eyes. A scalpel has never been as sweet as when it is being held aloft by this child’s chubby hand. The lesson here is, what works in a book doesn’t necessarily translate well to screen. The movie’s exposition is also ridiculously rushed so it feels like a poor adaptation rather than a movie in its own right. Lesson number two, if you can’t fit it all in Lord of the Rings epic trilogy style, then learn to edit.

forest2

One of the other things that really bothered me was the set, specifically the forest beyond the deadfall. In the book, a dark, otherworldly, misty forest is described whereas this film gives us a very pleasant national park perfect for a Boy Scout’s nature trail. It just all felt rather half assed to be honest. But it did get a few things right. As mentioned, the actor playing Pascow, Brad Greenquist, puts on a great performance as the warning spirit and despite the bad guy being the cutest sweetie pie ever, the bit where he slices clean through Judd’s Achilles heel was painful to watch even with 1980s special effects. Overall though, this film fell flat and in my opinion is only really worth watching for nostalgia purposes.

So what of the new film? This film demonstrates in glorious HD how an adaptation should be done. First of all, the actors are great providing believable performances throughout. I’m a massive fan of Jason Clarke, particularly after his performance in the thoroughly recommended Winchester, and he does a great job of playing Louis perfectly depicting his grief. This movie was also smart enough to ditch the whole killer toddler thing instead having the Creed’s older child Ellie die and be brought back. Whilst toddlers are adorable and cannot possibly be considered scary (with the possible exception of my daughter when she is hangry) older children can make creepy little villains…think Samara in The Ring, Children of the Corn or The Omen. The actress playing Ellie, Jete Laurence makes a very convincing little psychopath and provides that much needed horror to the movie. Whilst it isn’t the scariest film I’ve ever seen, it’s pretty well done, with great sets, convincing special effects (without going overboard with CGI as so many modern films tend to do) and great actors.

I particularly loved this movie’s nods

to the previous adaptation, with the truck driver who kills Ellie being distracted by a text from Sheena (the original truck driver is singing along to Sheena is a punk rocker by The Ramones), with Gage running to the road just as he does in the book and the original adaption as a red herring for Ellie’s death and finally, with that Achilles heel moment mentioned above, except in this version Judd kicks the bed away with no psycho child to be found underneath only to be sliced and diced as he descends the stairs. This self referencing is something Stephen King does throughout his own books, with winks and nods to other stories and novels peppered throughout. This movie perfectly captured this on screen. In fact, at one point Ellie explains to Jud who Winston Churchill is and he exclaims he knows well who he is- the actor John Lithgow plays Churchill in Netflix’s The Crown. Again, that little wink to the audience is exactly the type of thing King himself would do.

forest1

This adaptation completely strays from the book in some ways, some good, others not so good. In this adaptation, Louis tries to offload the now psychotic family cat Church by driving him into the middle of nowhere and abandoning him. Of course, he finds his way home and when the very happy and relieved Ellie runs to him, being struck down in the process, it only goes to increase Louis’ feeling of guilt and fault at her death. If he hadn’t tried to get rid of Church, perhaps this wouldn’t have happened. I also love that, unlike the book, the cat is fully feral in the new adaptation. His issues as described in the book, his odd zombielike motions, his smell of earth and rot and the fact that he causes unease and general discomfort wherever he goes, is not necessarily easy to translate onto the big screen whereas a cat clawing and snarling works well. The ending is dramatically changed from the book and original movie and this is one I had a bit of a problem with. In this ending, Ellie kills Rachel and drags her to the semetary. She then returns and kills Louis, then proceeds to drag him to the semetary, before the entire now evil, regenerated family complete with psycho cat, now walk towards Gage after burning down Jud’s house. I assume Gage will be next on the hit list, or maybe they’ll wait until he is older, who knows. I wasn’t a fan of this ending. I much prefer the ending of the book, and subsequently the original adaption, with Louis killing his zombie child after he has killed Rachel, before taking Rachel to the semetary and bringing her back to life. It ends with her simply dragging her dirt covered feet inside and saying, “Darling” leaving it up to ourselves to decide what happens to Louis and his remaining child. I understand that the writer of this new adaptation wanted a new ending in order to surprise audiences who are well familiar with the original ones as well as satisfy those new to Stephen King’s work, but sadly it just didn’t pull it off for me. Personally, I would have had Louis kill Ellie, then flee with Gage only to have Rachel stumble out of the forest and stare after them, again leaving it up to the viewer to imagine what is coming next. But that’s just me.

Overall though, the new film is thoroughly entertaining and an enjoyable watch for any horror fan whether you like Stephen King or not. I would recommend it to any horror fan.

But these are just my opinions- what did you think of the old and new adaptations? How would you have ended the new film? Comment and let me know and don’t forget to subscribe so you can keep up to date with all my latest posts.