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.**

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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.

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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.

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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.

Book Review: Pet Semetery by Stephen King.

Book Review: Pet Semetery by Stephen King.

Being a bit of a nerd, I tend to gravitate towards nerdy people with similar bookish and horror loves and my geeky friends didn’t disappoint when they suggested a Stephen King book club.  It started with Pet Semetery.  The new movie was to be released soon and my friend suggested we all read the book and watch the original movie before we all visit the theatre to see the new adaptation and we enjoyed it so much, we are now reading a new Stephen King book every month and watching its screen adaptation (and also eating a ridiculous amount of snacks while we do it).  So, expect regular instalments of the King of horror on my blog in the future.

petsemetaryPet Semetary follows the Creed family as they move to Ludlow, Maine for a new job and a new life.  Unbeknownst to them, their house backs onto a Pet Semetary, a harmless plot where the local children bury the many animals killed by the many, many six wheeler trucks driving through the towns main road.  But beyond there is a scared Native American burial ground, a dark place with supernatural powers and dark intentions.  When you bury your dead there, they come back to life, except the thing that returns isn’t them, it’s a shadow of who they were, a dark and twisted version of who they used to be.  When the youngest child of the Creed clan is killed on that same busy road, the toddler’s father Louis Creed decides to see what happens when a human is buried there.

I haven’t read a lot of King and it’s been years and years since I last did and this book has reignited my love and adoration of his writing.  It was in a word amazing and reminded me exactly why he is considered the King of horror.  The story is a slow burner, gradually building in tension and suspense until the violent conclusion.  It’s one of those stories when you can see exactly where it’s going, when you know it won’t end well but you still find yourself praying for a happy ending that will never come.

To be honest, I found it quite difficult to read at some points, which again is testament to King’s writing abilities.  I have a child not much older than Gage and to read the graphic details of his death, his funeral and his resurrection stirred emotions in me that cause so much anxiety and fear- what if something happened to my child?  What if she was killed?  Would I survive that?  It was tough going at times and at one point I even considered skipping those particular chapters, but I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t because it made the horror and brutality of the ending so much more visceral.  King perfectly depicts that utter and inconsolable anguish that is only felt by a parent who has lost a child, a feeling I pray I never have to experience.  The book feeds into that fear all parents have, that something could happen to their little ones.  They could choke, they could fall, they could get sick or hit by a car and I have had those thoughts.  I have been the parent worrying about their baby.  The need to protect them and keep them safe is the most prominent and forceful need I have ever experienced and I am aware it will continue now for the rest of my life.  In that way, this book, despite being supernatural, has a horror element that is real and identifiable for so many readers such as myself.  That fear is only enhanced and fed by the other more otherworldly elements and produces some real moments of anxiety and unease in the reader.  I found myself wondering what I would have done in Louis’ place.  Would I have taken my child to that dark and unnatural place despite the warnings?  I found myself unable to answer.  I love my daughter and part of me thinks a poor imitation of her would not be the same, plus if there is a place beyond this one, surely I wouldn’t want to take her from that or force her to suffer in some way to satisfy my own selfish grief?  But there is a small part of me that relates and understands Louis Creed’s pain and grief and wonders if a tiny piece of your child is better than them being absent completely?  I know that Louis didn’t really have a choice in his decisions, with the semetary manipulating and controlling him, so the debate is slightly moot, but it’s an interesting question to ask ourselves nonetheless.

I love the references King made to his other books, talking about Jerusalem’s lot and quoting the now infamous line from The Shining, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”  I love the idea that all of his stories are all contained within one universe and it will be fun to hunt those little Easter eggs in the book club’s upcoming reads.  I find myself wondering whether Louis’ daughter Ellie has The Shining, her psychic abilities an important part of the book.  I found all of the characters to be believable and relatable, even the ones that I found irritating – I’m looking at you Rachel.  I love the books overarching theme and message relating to death.  Fearing something so inevitable is a foolish and life wasting thing to do.  Death is natural, it’s coming for all of us and on some occasions it can even be a good thing, as is repeated several times throughout the book, there are worse things than death, “Sometimes dead is better.”

My club and I found ourselves debating various elements of the book afterwards, the true sign of a really great read and I would be so interested to hear your thoughts.  We wondered whether Pascow was the first victim of the Semetary.  Louis’ colleague Steve Masterton says that this death was the start of a dark and mournful period with several people dying in quick succession afterwards and Louis himself says that everything starts to go wrong after this tragic moment.  But if that’s the case, if he was a part of the Semetary’s nefarious plans, why did Pascow’s spirit try to warn him?  Why did he reach out to Louis and Ellie?  I personally believe Pascow’s death was unrelated and the fact that Louis had tried to help him and had been there as he passed on, prompted him to try and help Louis in return.  In death he could see what was coming and he wanted to stop more death, but as a mere unrelated death and a soul which has moved on from this world, he cannot influence, he can only advise, something mentioned by Ellie towards the end of the book- he cannot interfere, he can only warn.  I do believe however that the Semetary steered Church, the Creed family cat, towards the road just as it did Gage.  My friend had another interesting perspective on Gage- that the poor little boy was always destined to die young.  After all, the kid in his two short years has had more near death experiences than Doctor Who.  He was suspected of having encephalitis, he swallows a marble, he develops a terrible bout of pneumonia and Bronchitis.  Maybe this kid was destined to die and the Semetary merely took advantage of his impending death.  Interesting thought.

Another theory batted around was that Jud, the Creed’s elderly neighbour, was kept young by the semetary as a way to ensure a new set of victims.  The fact that Jud seems younger than his years is alluded to throughout the book and indeed, the comparison of his athletic and healthy body to his arthritic ridden, sickly wife just further emphasises his own good health.  The only times he does seem a little older, is in the moments when he talks about the semetary or when he is dealing with death and towards the end of the book, as he is no longer needed since Louis has taken the cemetery’s bate, he begins to seem so much more his own age, with aches and pains described after a little gardening.

The biggest question we debated was whether the semetary wants ANYONE it can get or whether it deliberately chooses specific people.  At the end of the novel, it tempts and draws Steve Masterton only to let him go as soon as Louis and his wife’s corpse are over the deadfall. This implies to me that Steve wasn’t who it wanted, it was just a way to distract Steve until it did get what it wanted- the Creeds.  After all, Louis and Rachel’s lives have both been heavily touched and influenced by death.  Louis was raised by his undertaker Uncle, working with him at his funeral home and then later became a doctor, a person whose entire job is to battle and prevent death.  Then there is Rachel, whose sister Zelda suffered from spinal meningitis and whose tortured and painful death she had to watch, alone as a young child, something which scarred her for life and caused a deep psychological fear of all things death related.  Then there is Jud and the other locals who had buried their animals there.  The semetary didn’t come for them the same way it came for the Creeds.  It’s an interesting theory and if true I would love to know what particular traits it yearns for in its victims.

What do you guys think of my theories?  Have you got some of your own?  I would love to hear them so comment with your thoughts.

Overall, this was a suspenseful, anxious inducing and emotive read and it’s one I thoroughly recommend to any horror fan.  It is a definite five out of five from me and a book I won’t forget in a hurry.

Next up, our club will be reading Needful things, and you are welcome to join us in our King book club for a read along and watch along.  Keep an eye on my Instagram (@bookishmarie) to keep up to date with the dates of both the book club and viewing of the Needful things film.  Also, keep an eye on my blog for my next King related post which will be coming soon, this time the movie review of both the original and new adaptation of Pet Semetary and a comparison between the two.  In fact, why not subscribe so you never miss a book review, article or piece of original writing?  You know you want to…after all, life is short!!

Alternative Beauty Collective Haul! Unboxing my witchy goodies!

Alternative Beauty Collective Haul! Unboxing my witchy goodies!

Happy Monday readers!  Apologies for being absent for a while, but I haven’t been feeling very well of late.  However, no amount of coughing and sneezing could keep me away from all of you lovely people for long.  Plus, I am super excited to be collaborating with the amazing Alternative Beauty Collective, a company dedicated to bringing you edgy and alternative beauty, jewellery and homeware.  Anyone who follows me on Instagram will know my style is a little gothic, a little witchy and a lot dark, something that’s not exactly on offer in all the usual high street stores.  As such, I am constantly on the look out for companies and shops for me to find those little edgy treasures I love, so I was very happy when I discovered ABC and positively ecstatic when they offered to gift me a little care package to give me the opportunity to try out some of their products.  So for this weeks blog post, I thought I would unbox my gorgeous alternative haul and introduce you to this badass company.

Altbeauty1The first thing I spotted when I opened the box was this fabulous Phrenology fragrance diffuser.  Again, anyone who follows my Instagram will notice I have a bit of an obsession with skulls and I’m building up quite the collection (culminating in an awkward encounter with my postman when I had to sign for a box with a sticker on the side reading “FRAGILE: Human Skull Replica”) so I was very happy to find this little beauty.  It smells gorgeous and I love that after it’s all used up, I can keep the skull bottle for photos.  I even love the box so I think I will cut it up and frame it- which incidentally is perfectly in line with ABC’s environmental ethos, more on that after the unboxing!

Next up, there was the perfect selection of witchy goodies.  I love that these items are altbeauty2practical and beautiful (and incidentally will make perfect photo props).  The little black candles on the right are opium scented and smell divine.  I think my personal favourite is that glass right in the centre there.  Next time I have a glass of wine I can show my inner witch! lol I have also been accused on multiple occasions of having a bit of a resting witch face.  The item to the right of the glass is white sage and it smells gorgeous.  Burning sage is often used for purifying your home or other surroundings and it’s something I’ve always wanted to try (I will maybe post a little video of the results!)

altbeauty3Last, but not least, there was this absolutely adorable glass skull bottle and these gorgeous earrings.  I have already expressed my undying love for skulls so this will be a welcome addition to my home and would look super cute with a coloured bubble bath inside in the bathroom.  I am also a lover of statement earrings and these beauties are the perfect bohemian statement.  I love the colour of those pink stones in the centre and I am immediately picturing them with a top knot and a flowing black dress.  I’m very excited to wear these bad boys because I am in love with them.  ABC does a lot of amazing alternative products but I think the earrings are my absolute favourite!

I also wanted to make a note about the packaging- I know, I know, I am always banging altbeauty4on about my appreciation of pretty packaging, but this time, I am mentioning it for different reasons.  The Alternative Beauty Collective prides itself on it’s environmentally friendly ethos and all of their packaging is recycled.  Not only that, but they encourage the customer to recycle too.  If you reuse your ABC packaging and post it on Instagram using #abcsave, they will give you £2.00 store credit!  Awesome right?  I already have an idea for how I am going to reuse mine, so keep an eye out for it on my Instagram along with images of all of these gorgeous goodies in the coming weeks.

Thank you so much to the Alternative Beauty Collective for sending me these gorgeous items- I am in love!  What do you think readers?  Let me know in the comments about your house style (are you alternative like myself?) and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date with all the latest unboxing, articles, book reviews and pieces of original writing.

 

 

He Comes for me: A Short Story & Ceramic Artist Collaboration.

He Comes for me: A Short Story & Ceramic Artist Collaboration.

Happy Sunday every one!  Apologies for being absent for a bit, I was on a rather messy and very sunny adventure to Spain with my gal pals last weekend and quite honestly, I think I am only just recovering lol.  For tonight’s blog post, I will be featuring another of my artist collaborations.  For those of you who are new to my blog, basically I write a story inspired by an artist and their body of work and the artist then in turn creates an image/piece based off that story, the idea being to be inspired and inspire in return.  On this occasion, I had the honour of collaborating with the fabulous Arianna Piazza, the creative force and one woman team behind the ceramics company Bottega Krua.  Arianna studied art and ceramics at high school and later got a masters degree with honours at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice.  She is a multi award winning artist, who has been selected in group and solo exhibitions around Italy and in 2013 she won an art residency for one year in Venice, at Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation…so basically, she’s amazing!  She is not only a truly talented artist but a very lovely person and I have really enjoyed getting to know her during this process.  To check out more of her work or make a purchase, you can head to her Instagram or website now!  For now, happy reading and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with my latest book reviews and pieces of original writing!

He Comes For Me

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He comes for me at 4 am every night. I have become so used to it now, just another part of my routine, a simple addition to my ‘to do’ list: Take medication upon waking, try to eat something, Hospital appointment at 1pm, visit from death at 4am. I wasn’t always this blasé about it. The first time it happened, I was filled with a terror I had not experienced since the day they gave me my diagnosis. I don’t know what had awoken me. There had been no noise, no words uttered or hand placed on my arm to bring me out of my slumber. I had simply opened my eyes expecting to see someone, knowing somehow, I was being watched. Perhaps it is some evolutionary throwback to the days when man was prey as much as predator, a way to stay alert even during rest. At first, I saw only my room, made unfamiliar by the hour, moonlight casting strange shadows across my furniture. But as my eyes scanned the darkness, slowly adjusting to their surroundings, they fell upon a figure in the doorway. I remember a sudden rush of fear and adrenaline, my body immediately tensing, preparing for fight or flight. “Who are you?” The figure just stood there, a mere shadow back lit by the large landing window, a man shaped void in its frame. “Who are you?” Again, nothing, just the silence permeated by my own staggered, panicked breathing. “What do you want?” Only then did he move, his arm slowly raised to point straight at me in answer to my question. I groped for my bedside lamp, never taking my eyes off him in case he came at me, but with one flick of the switch, he was gone, a shadow disappearing in the presence of light.

I struggled to get back to sleep that night despite the digital clock on my nightstand bottega4
glowing red in the night, reminding me that I should be unconscious. I checked the house of course, every room, inside every wardrobe, under every bed, but there was no one there. The doors were still locked, the windows still closed and latched and there was no indication that anyone had ever been in my home except for me. I chalked it up to my own morbid imagination, a combination of heavy medication and my new-found obsession with death. I had been told I was going to die, I was sick and there was nothing that could be done to prevent the inevitable. It was understandable that I would have bad dreams, that I would be afraid of what was to come. Two sleeping tablets and a large glass of wine later and I slept like a baby.

But, at 4am on the dot the following night, it happened again. Except this time when I awoke, I found he was inside my room. He was by the window, a gap in the curtains casting a strip of light across the floor, a dividing line between my side of the room and his. Once more, I felt that surge of adrenaline, the fear and anticipation of a threat, my body tensing and readying itself for an attack. My eyes darted to the empty wine glass on my nightstand, a makeshift weapon if required. But he just stood there as before, watching me, his features still obscured by the darkness. “Who are you?” This time, he answered me, not with words, but by moving slowly into the shaft of light until I could see his face, if that’s what you can call it. For where a face should have been, I saw a skull. Where there should have been flesh and skin, I saw only bone. Where eyes should have stared at me through the dark, I saw only an empty void, two black holes darker even than the night which surrounded us, never ending pits. I heard something smash, I hadn’t even realised I had grabbed the glass and I felt myself freeze, paralysed by fear. But as before he just stood there, watching me. “Please, what do you want?” Again, his arm raised slowly and a long, gloved finger pointed at me through the black. I reached for the lamp and as soon as light entered that terrible darkness, he was gone.

This happened night after night, always at the same time and always in the same way. bottega2The only thing that would change would be his location, sometimes he would be standing at the bottom of my bed, sometimes he would be sitting in the chair at my desk, but always he watched me without saying a word. I used these meetings to study his features, or lack thereof. The skull which formed his head was white and clean, like someone only recently decayed rather than the ancient, ivory coloured skulls I have seen in museums and books. When the nights were clear and cloudless and the moonlight could flood my room, I could see small patterns etched into the bone all over his face, like the Mexican day of the dead skulls I had seen on TV. There were thorny vines creeping around his features, reminding me of barbed wire, but amongst this there were also roses, some in bloom, some budded but all equally beautiful. I realised over time, he wore a black suit, like something one would wear to a funeral, but instead of a traditional neck tie, he had a bolo tie like the kind Americans wear, a single oval shaped black onyx in the centre, the plaited leather tipped at the ends with silver. I cannot tell if he is a skeleton, whether he is devoid of flesh entirely, or whether apart from his head, he simply has a body like any other man, like mine. His head is all I can see, the rest covered by the suit, black leather gloves on his hands and heavy black boots on his feet. I also cannot tell how he feels or what he is thinking. One does not realise how heavily we rely on the social cues presented by our faces until we are presented with the faceless, the body language shown from a raised eyebrow or a twitched mouth, the emotion expressed by the widening of the eyes or a furrowed brow. He could be smiling at me, I have no idea.

bottega3In the beginning, I was convinced I was hallucinating or dreaming. This being was simply a manifestation of my own fear of death. But eventually, I understood, that this being was death. I realised that he was not here to frighten me, quite the opposite, he was here to stop me from being afraid, to show me he is not my enemy, he is not the disease which eats at me, draining me of life, he is merely a guide, someone to help me find my way when the end comes. I almost look forward to his nightly visits now. I find comfort in his presence and in knowing I won’t have to do it alone. It’s almost 4am now…I wonder if tonight is the night.

*Are you an artist or musician and would like to collaborate?  Please get in touch!

Book Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

Book Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

Happy Sunday readers, I hope you had a wonderful weekend!  For tonight’s blog post, I will be reviewing Birdbox by Josh Malerman.  I think I might be the only person who hasn’t watched the Netflix original adaptation of this, but I really wanted to read the book first (plus I have a rather demanding Toddler so very limited TV time that doesn’t involve cartoon princesses and singalongs).  I will hopefully get watching it this week, but if it is even half as good as this book then I know I am in for a treat.

birdboxFor those of you unfamiliar with Birdbox (have you been living under a rock or something?) the premise is this: A phenomenon is sweeping across the globe where people are going crazy, killing themselves and sometimes others too.  No one knows what is causing this, just that the victims always saw something before it happened. The book moves between the very pregnant Malorie and a rag tag group of survivors in the past, to the present where her and her two children battle their way upriver in the hopes of finding safety from these unknown creatures, the wild animals which have now inherited the earth from man and worse, the crazed people driven homicidally mad by what they have seen.  Sounds awesome right?

I absolutely loved this book, I really did.  The premise is fantastic, the characters are all well developed and believable and the tension and horror is very real.  I love that we as the reader never really find out what’s going on.  Are these creatures from another world or dimension?  Do they mean to cause us harm or are they inadvertently causing this carnage?  There are a few theories shared within the book, my favourite being that these creatures are so unfathomably different from ourselves that our tiny human brains simply cannot comprehend it and promptly go nuts at the slightest glimpse.  Whatever is happening, the creatures are never described which means that whatever they are is left entirely to our own imagination (in mine, they are like a creature shaped void of nothingness, walking black holes in our world, but that’s just me).  But the creatures are by no means the scariest part of this book, as it’s the reaction of the humans to the phenomena that offers the books creepiest moments.  Remember, our characters are literally blind folded, so the mere crack of a tree branch is enough to cause total panic.  Then there are the characters who are driven a different kind of mad by the creatures and the situation at large.  They don’t flip out and immediately kill themselves like most, but slowly go insane, hurting their fellow survivors.  I don’t want to have any spoilers but when things go bad, they really go South fast and it is here we see this maniacal, creepy lunacy played out in full bloody horror.

I really enjoyed the movement from past to present, it kept me hooked, maintained the tension throughout and made me desperate to find out what happened.  I had one of those ‘just one more chapter’ moments resulting in me staying up way past my bed time and suffering for it the following day (it was totally worth it though).

I love Malorie.  As a mother, I recognise that need to keep your children safe at all costs, that guttural feeling inside that says above all else, to protect.  At it’s core, this book is about survival.  It is about the good side and the bad side of humanity when faced with unimaginable horror.  It is about a mother determined to protect her children.  It is about man kind clinging to a world that is no longer theirs, refusing to lie down and give up despite insurmountable odds.  It’s pretty inspiring actually and has had me thinking at length about what I would do if, God forbid, such a thing ever happened for real.  I can’t imagine I would last too long, but I know I would do whatever I could to protect my own daughter, just like our protagonist.

It’s a slow burner, dotted with enough moments of peril and action to pull you along at a good pace to that big and bloody finale.  It’s a tense read and one that I enjoyed thoroughly.  I have to give this one full marks with five stars out of five!

Unboxing: Books that Matter Book Box, the feminist book subscription box.

Unboxing: Books that Matter Book Box, the feminist book subscription box.

booksmatter1Happy Sunday everyone, I hope you had a wonderful weekend.  For this evening’s post, I have an unboxing which I am particularly excited about.  I had never heard of the ‘Books that Matter‘ books subscription box until the founder Molly contacted me and Kindly offered to gift me this month’s box.  After checking out their website and reading about their philosophy, I jumped at the chance! You see, this isn’t your average book subscription box, this is a box with a mission.  This is a woman ran book box who is determined to not only promote great female identifying writers and artists, but seriously marginalised ones such as women of colour, transgender authors, less able women and queer women.  Each box contains a book chosen in order to enlighten the reader on themes of gender, race, culture, class, ethnicity, ability, sexuality, politics, or history, alongside at least two gifts by independent female-identifying or non-binary artists. In short, this is the ultimate feminist book box!  I am so excited by this ethos.  In a world which seems to be filled with so much hate, bigotry, discrimination and marginalisation, it is wonderful to find a company which is determined to promote those voices which are heard less and writers and artists who are all too often overlooked.  I was practically giddy when my box arrived and I saw how wonderful it is, living up to my very lofty expectations.  In fact, I was so impressed, I asked Molly if I could interview her for a future blog post and collaborate again soon with a giveaway (HELL YEAH) and on guest blog posts, so keep an eye out!  But the best bit?  This book subscription box is the cheapest I have ever come across.  At only £13 for the box it is serious value for money and as if things couldn’t get any better, Molly is offering 10% off your first box with discount code MARIE10, so you have no excuse not to immediately buy one!

Whilst I could gush about this box all day, perhaps I should get around to the all booksmatter4important unboxing!  So what did my fabulous feminist box contain?  First up, the all important piece of literature.  This month’s book is Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys. Now anyone who follows me on Instagram will know that I am OBSESSED with penguin classics and that I have an ever growing and very beloved collection of the vintage beauties, so I was so very happy to find this stunner in my box.  So let’s take a look at that all important blurb to get a feel for this 1939 modernist classic:

In 1930s Paris, where one cheap hotel room is very like another, a young woman is teaching herself indifference. She has escaped personal tragedy and has come to France to find courage and seek independence. She tells herself to expect nothing, especially not kindness, least of all from men. Tomorrow, she resolves, she will dye her hair blonde. Jean Rhys was a talent before her time with an impressive ability to express the anguish of young, single women. In Good Morning, Midnight Rhys created the powerfully modern portrait of Sophia Jansen, whose emancipation is far more painful and complicated than she could expect, but whose confession is flecked with triumph and elation. One of the most honest and distinctive British novelists of the twentieth century, Jean Rhys wrote about women with perception and sensitivity in an innovative and often controversial way.

This novel sounds truly inspirational and as a lover of classic literature, I am very excited to read it.  I have read a little about the author and she found her fame with a book depicting an account of Jane Eyre‘s Bertha Rochester and since Jane Eyre is my favourite book, this has gone straight to the top of my wish list, so the box was a total success as far as I’m concerned- I discovered a new writer to get to know!

booksmatter3Along with the book, I got three gorgeous bookish items.  First up, is a sew on patch by Karen from ‘A Rose Cast.’  I am already familiar with this artist and I’m a big fan, because she is a Belfast Lass like me!  The quotation is an Emily Dickinson quote about searching for one’s true self amidst the darkness of life.  It reads, “I am out with lanterns looking for myself.”  I love Karen’s fonts and this black and gold patch is just lovely!  I just have to decide what to sew it onto now.  There was also a super cute bookmark which celebrates mental health awareness month and as someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, I appreciate that the ladies of the ‘Books that Matter’ box stand in solidarity with ladies such as myself who find themselves struggling sometimes.  It’s also an important reminder of self care- remember, if you find yourself struggling, don’t do so alone!  Speak to someone, seek help and remember, you are stronger than you know!

The second item is an enamel pin, which I was very impressed with given how expensivebooksmatter2 they can be!  The pin is by the ‘Books that Matter’ in house artist Kate, an obviously very talented woman, which says, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”  A simple but important message for us all, and something I often need to remind myself.

On a minor side note, I love the box itself, with the very cool illustrations of female bookworms on it- I felt very special receiving it in the post and it immediately brightened my day when it arrived.

So there you have it guys, a feminist book subscription box that promotes female identifying and marginalised writers that contains an awesome book and beautiful bookish goodies by independent artists and which is super good value for money to boot!! Perfection!  Don’t forget to use MARIE10 for 10% off at the checkout and keep an eye out for the interview with the fabulous Molly Masters, the box’s creator…in fact, why not subscribe to my blog so you never miss out on my unboxing, book reviews and pieces of original writing!  For now, have a wonderful day and happy reading!