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.

 

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.

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.

 

 

Blood Bath Literary Magazine: A Review of Issue 1 & an Interview with the Editor.

Blood Bath Literary Magazine: A Review of Issue 1 & an Interview with the Editor.

There are some awesome literary magazines on the market out there.  They offer readers a chance to read pieces and styles they might not normally explore, from authors they are yet to discover and they are a great way for indie writers such as myself to get your writing out there.  I love a good literary magazine, so when I discovered that a new Horror based literary magazine was coming out of Edinburgh (one of my favourite places in the world) called Blood Bath, I was beyond excited.  And when I found out their first issue was based around the theme of Bodies and I saw that epic cover art by Jo Ruessmann, I knew I would have to buy a copy then and there.  Read to the end for my full review of the first issue (spoilers- I loved it!).  I was honoured to interview the Editor of the magazine about her love of Horror and why she decided the world needed a little more of it.

  1. Tell us a little about you, the person behind Blood Bath zine.
katy at bloodbathHi!! My name’s Katy, I’m editrix of Blood Bath! I live in Edinburgh, Scotland. I’m also a genre
fiction writer, mostly sci-fi, horror and weird fiction. I’ve been running BB since April
2018.
2. What Inspired you to start the magazine?
I wanted to start BB because I was struggling to find a local horror publication that I wanted to send my work to. I like sharing my work through local publishers, and I was constantly finding that most horror publications were American or Canadian. I thought with Edinburgh being Gothic, haunted and one of the weirdest cities in the world, it was strange that we didn’t really have a cool, genre specific, weird, spooky publisher. I also know loads of horror writers who are writing great stuff, but no-one wants to take it. So, I decided to make my own space for them.
I came into some money when my Dad passed away in January 2017, and he always encouraged my love of horror, so it seemed appropriate to use the money to start BB. When I was a teenager and just getting into weird stuff he would give me serial killer books, horror novels and movies and even (accidentally! He didn’t realise what it was, and neither did I until I got to a certain point!) a soft core porn novel about Elizabeth Báthory, the Bloody Countess who (legend has it) bathed in the blood of her victims. So the first issue is dedicated to him, and we’re also hosting the next issue’s launch party on his birthday! We’ll be announcing the date very soon.
3. Why Horror?  What about the genre fascinates you?
I think everyone is into horror! Even if you say you can’t watch horror movies, everyone secretly wants to look. It reflects so much of what is inside us, the things we don’t like thinking about, but we’re frequently forced into looking at. Life is horrifying and awful, and horror has always shown that, unflinchingly, and made it beautiful or poignant or just illicit an emotion in you, which I think is cool. Horror and sci fi and fantasy occupy such a special place because we can look at ourselves stretched to the extreme, or in a different world. It lets us attack, deconstruct or challenge the world around us. Also I just think horror stories are about better things. Genre fiction as a whole is just more fun and exciting to read than regular fiction, for me at least.
4. What do you look for in the pieces you include?
I always look for something I haven’t seen before. So much of horror is the same, people cover bloodbathre-hash ideas all the time, which is not a problem! You can do something that’s been done before, but just twist something essential about it. You can do a werewolf story, but go and read and watch all the werewolf stories you can. See what’s out there. Find out what perspective or message or theme is being overlooked, and do your own version of it, or subvert the pieces that are already there. Originality weighs in much more than a perfectly polished and edited story I’ve read a million times before.
I think when someone knows the purpose of their piece, when they know what they want you to do as a reader, that just lets you enjoy the world or the cool ideas they have to show you! So knowing your piece and what you want it to do also helps. As I’ve already mentioned, being socially aware and subversive is important for me in choosing a piece. But being in this gatekeeper position is very subjective, and I will pick pieces that appeal to me specifically. That’s why it’s important to keep trying until you find a home for your writing.
5. Do you have any tips or advice for new writers out there, keen to be published?
First, the guidelines are not loose guidelines they are rules! Follow them! The publisher has written them for a reason.
Just be nice!
Keep trying! Just because you don’t get into one publication, doesn’t mean your work wouldn’t be perfect for another.
There’s no need to put on a show in your cover email, your work should speak for itself. Just list your top 3 or 4 publications if you have any, some people send a full list of every publication they’ve ever had. It just doesn’t really add anything to your submission, and it’s a little annoying to scroll through to get to the end of your email. Keep it concise.
Write a lot and edit more! Editing is less fun than writing for me, but it always improves my work when I do a lot of careful, considered editing.
I haven’t given much writing advice, but I think it’s better to just develop your work in your own way, only you can figure out what kind of writer you are and what kind of work you want to create.
Lastly, look after yourself. It’s easy to be overcome by rejections or writing that’s not working. It’s a tough and highly emotional job, make sure you make time for self care, whatever that looks like.
6. How does someone submit their writing to you?
They can submit via email, bloodbathlitzine@hotmail.com. But read the guidelines on our website first!
7. What does the future hold for the magazine?
I’m not quite sure! And that’s exciting! I’m working with some people I really admire to create the second issue, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out! DEMONS will be launching in early May, with an incredible launch party in Edinburgh. I wish I could share more details with you, but it’s going to be a great night! It will definitely be demonic and debaucherous.
We’re going to a few more small press fairs and zine fests, as well as publishing conferences and literary events. I want BB to just keep growing, as there’s so much writing and art I want to share with the world. I do want to expand to publishing books, short story collections, and some weirder stuff. I’m very excited to see what the future holds!
My Review of Issue 1: Bodies.
bloodbathzineThe human body can bring about a mix of emotions, everything from lust to fear.  They fascinate and disgust us and they are discussed and picked over constantly, whether by our own harsh assessments of how our own body measures up to modern beauty standards, to the constant media attention they receive.  I have read countless horror novels and seen dozens of movies where human bodies are subverted and twisted into something which haunts us, hence why they make the perfect theme for the debut of Blood Bath.  The Magazine contains 13 pieces of writing, all with this common thread and all with a dark and macabre edge to them.
We start with Miss West’s Requisitions by Ever Dundas, a depiction of a truly disgruntled employee and perhaps, if we are honest with ourselves, a version of those horrible little dark thoughts we have in the back of our mind when someone irritates or upsets us at work.  It’s a great story, with a humorous side and a fab start to the magazine.  Petrified by Felicity Anderson-Nathan depicts someone’s hand, then arm, becoming petrified.  It’s short but impactful and leaves you feeling very sorry for its protagonist.  Feed Them by Mary Crosbie is one of my favourites featured in the magazine, depicting a woman who is willing to go to incredible lengths in order to stay thin.  It’s a chilling indictment of the pressures put on women to conform to modern beauty standards and to maintain a skinny, size zero body….is it weird that reading it made me hungry?  Probably says more about me than I would care to admit.  Next up, we have The Sea Witch by Angie Spoto, is a much darker version of that classic mermaid with a human lover trope.  It’s gory and gross, in a good way.  Family Pool by Scott Clark is my favourite of the contributions and tells the tale of a family and their very hungry, utterly terrifying swimming pool.  This one really stayed with me and even sent a little shudder up my spine.  Maleficae by Tiffany Morris is a vampiric poem, short but beautifully written.  Ghosted by Kristy Falconer describes one Hell of a bad break up.  I liked this story.  It was filled with melancholy and Falconer has a particularly beautiful way with words.  A Terrible Meat Eating God by Holly Lyn Walrath, a piece of flash fiction, is all about consumption and is again, beautifully written and very poetic.  The Unrecalled by Rita Hynes, depicts a teenage girl and her morbid fascination with the things happening to her body.  This one made me feel a little nauseous! If any story manages to have a physical affect on you, you know it’s a good one. The Eye that Offends you by Alys Earl is a dark and haunting twist on the traditional fairy tales we loved as a child.  I really loved this one, it was just perfect.  Cleaver by Jelle Cauwenberghs features a girl haunted by the ghosts of the past as well as a future threat she must be ready to face.  This is another of the stories with wonderful language and I loved the snippets of past memories dusted throughout.  Witch Ridden by Katie Bootland, is based on the tale of the blacksmith’s wife of Yarrowford and is short but beautiful. Finally, Enclosed in clothes by Laura Dehaan, the final contribution and the third of the poems is a wonderful end to the collection of tales.
Overall, I loved this magazine.  The stories and poems are all so unusual and well written and perfectly chosen for the issue’s theme.  I love the cover art so much and I look forward to issue 2: Demons, coming soon.  Definitely a 5 stars out of 5 from me!!
Katy is accepting submissions for the Demons issue until February 14th, head to their website to find out what she is looking for.  You can also buy prints of the fantastic cover art by Jo Ruessman on the Blood Bath website, but hurry because there is a limited amount and they’re selling fast.

Interview with the Night Worms.

Interview with the Night Worms.

There are plenty of book subscription boxes available these days.  You can get them to suit any age and any taste, featuring every genre from Fantasy to Young Adult, Crime to Horror.  But every now and then, a box comes along that genuinely causes a buzz and in this case, even starts a whole movement!  The Night Worms started off as a group of Horror enthusiasts, determined to promote and review horror, a social media based book club for true horror enthusiasts, before two of its members decided to kick things up a notch and create their own Horror subscription box.  But the Night Worms don’t do things like every one else.  Instead of seeing the other Horror Book subscription boxes available on the market as merely competition, they decided to corroborate with them and create the #promotehorror movement on Instagram and Twitter.  After two very successful boxes, with a third on the way, I chat with the lovely ladies behind the box to get some insight into its creation as well as what is to come…

1) Tell us about the people behind Night worms.

nightwormThe people behind Night Worms are two female horror lovers, Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann and Ashley Saywers. I review horror for Scream Magazine and Cemetery
Dance Online. I’ve been married for 22 years to my best friend and we have three children. Our whole family recently moved from Northern California to the Pacific North West.

Ashley also lives in Washington with her husband and their son. She loves horror too! Both of us repped for a horror subscription box company and several other bookish companies-developing a really close friendship and working relationship before we ever decided to go into business together.

We love that we live so close to each other and we can travel back and forth to each other’s houses.

2) What inspired you to create the box?

Ashley and I became friends on Instagram through our dedicated #bookstagram accounts. During the course of a few years, our taste in books became more closely aligned. We realized we were reading all the same books. We decided to combine our efforts to read, review and promote horror through a book club with five other horror loving friends of ours. Night Worms was born.

After about eight months or so, Ashley and I decided to expand our Night Worms brand to a book club subscription package so that more people could read, review and promote horror with us. We are different in that we put the primary emphasis on the books and less of a thrust on the promotional merchandise. We find that lots of the bookish merchandise is either extra filler/clutter or sometimes infringing on the author’s intellectual property. Everything we include beyond books is just to promote horror book collecting, a book collector’s lifestyle or an enhancement of their reading experience through a one-time use consumable–that way there’s nothing leftover that needs to be stuck in a drawer somewhere gathering dust. We collect books-not things.

3) What is it about horror that you love so much?  

We love that horror is so diverse and that it’s a niche community of people who are very passionate about it.

4) If readers are new or unsure about the genre, but looking for a book to start off their horror journey with, which one would you recommend? What would your horror book for beginners recommendation be?

A lot of horror authors can write in very different sub-genres so if a reader was unsurenightworms 2 because they didn’t want to be scared, horror author Robert McCammon has a few books that teeter on the edge of horror but never cross over like, BOY’S LIFE or THE LISTENER. Stephen King also transcends the horror genre and wrote books like, 11/22/63 which is not traditional horror but more like a time travel, thriller. I would also recommend his newest release, THE OUTSIDER which is like a crime thriller. Paul Tremblay has a book called, THE DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL’S ROCK which has horror undertones but definitely a bit lighter than his book, A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS which is pretty full-on

Grady Hendrix is also a great place to start with his clever, light and sometimes humorous stories in the horror genre. A book like MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM is a great place to start.

5) How do you pick the books and items you feature in your boxes?

Ashley and I hear about a lot of new releases through authors and publishers and sometimes we see a theme or a common thread between certain books so we build a theme around those releases

 

6) Tell us about the #promotehorror movement?  What inspired you to start it?

nightworms 3Basically, horror is a neglected genre in the grand scheme of things. It’s largely ignored for big literature awards due to the fact that people assume it has to be scary or gory to be good and many people aren’t interested in being scared. Many readers of horror actually do a disservice to horror sometimes by rating quality written books lower than they deserve just because they weren’t “scary”. We promote all aspect of the horror genre to help snuff out some of the stereotypes and misinformation out there about horror so that our favourite genre can continue to see an uptick in success.

7) What’s next for the Night Worms?

We have some BIG months coming up. Our February package sold out and it’s going to be a spectacular offering so we are very excited about the unpackagings to go out on social media. April is our Kealan Patrick Burke exclusive package which is generating a lot of buzz and then we have even more signed books and exciting themes coming up for the whole year!

8) How do readers become a part of the Night worm family?

Simply visit our website and click on the most recent, available listing. Add to cart as a one time purchase or click “full details” to subscribe. Join our horror movement on social media: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Thank you so much to Sadie and Ashley for taking the time to answer my questions and agreeing to be featured on my little old blog.  Whilst this box is currently unavailable outside of the US, the team are hoping to expand to an international audience down the line, so fingers crossed people, because I am DYING to get my hands on one!  Go on to their social media and check them out, particularly Instagram, so you can discover some new horror books and authors and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date with all the latest reviews, collaborations and articles.

 

A Guide to Instagram: My How to Guide on Taking Pictures & Building a Profile.

A Guide to Instagram: My How to Guide on Taking Pictures & Building a Profile.

Happy New Year! It’s my very first post of 2019 and I am really excited for the year ahead…so many books to read, stories to write and people to meet!  I decided to start the year with my personal ‘How To’ guide to Instagram.  I have been asked so many times what filters and applications I use for my images, how I have built my profile etc, so I thought the simplest and easiest thing to do would be to create this blog post with all the bits and pieces you need to know to get started, or to improve the profile you already have.  Let me caveat this by saying I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, nor am I the biggest account out there with millions of followers.  What I have done however, is organically grow my account to over 10,000 followers in less that two years.  I have created a profile which I am proud of (check it out here).  Every Instagrammer has their own techniques and tricks of the trade, and these are simply mine, imparted to you in the hopes that you may find them useful.  I would also like to say, that even after 20 months, I am still learning myself so feel free to comment with your own tips for the benefit of myself and my readers.

Let’s start with how to build your profile then at the end I will give you the specifics on how I create my own images including the apps I use etc.

  1. Find your Niche.

Instagram has something for everyone.  Whether you are a fitness freak or a book worm, how to 2a traveller or a fashionista, there is an account out there for you.  I, as a writer and avid reader, naturally gravitated towards the Bookstagram community.  The trick is to base your profile around something you are passionate about.  There are some accounts out there which have a little of everything too, but I have found the ones which cater to specific hobbies or interests are the most successful.  Create images and captions about the things your loves and interests, and your passion will shine through.  Finally, I would suggest choosing a profile name which clearly demonstrates what the account contains, so people can easily identify it as one containing their hobby or interest.  For example, my name is @bookishmarie, clearly identifying mine as a book based profile.

2. Find your style.

I learned early on how important it is to have your own style on Instagram and to stickhow to 5 to it.  However, I also learned very quickly just how hard that can be.  My moods and tastes change so often and my photos can often reflect that.  If you go to my profile and swipe through from the beginning to now, you will see my style has changed dramatically over 20 months.  It took me a good while and hundreds of pictures to discover my own personal style and even now, that continues to evolve.  It’s ok if you aren’t sure what you want your style to be, you can experiment until you get it right.  Again, just like picking your theme, this will involve looking at your loves, your hates and your interests.  I love all things vintage, so my profile was always going to have a retro vibe to it.  Perhaps you love all things vibrant and bright or maybe you are all about tasteful monochrome.  Start with what makes you happy and work from there.  The most successful profiles have clear styles.  You can identify a picture as belonging to them from one quick glance- that’s the aim!

Once you settle on a style you like, stick to it!  The more successful profiles not only have a distinct style but their style is also consistent.  An easy way to do this is to have a colour scheme, for example my page is mostly muted autumnal tones.  You will find your style will naturally lead to a colour scheme anyway.

3. Make the Effort with your images.

I work very hard on each and every one of my images, placing every item carefully, how to 3moving and shifting until it’s just so.  If I’m not 100% happy with an image, I won’t post it.  It’s clear to anyone swiping through the millions of images on Instagram when a photo has been half assed.  Why in that case would they bother to read the caption, like it or follow you?  Instagramming can be quite time consuming so it’s not for everyone, but if you really want to build a profile then you’ll have to work at it.  But as with everything, practice makes perfect.  Most importantly, have fun with it and create the type of images you want to see.

4. Interact with your fellow Instagrammers.

It sounds obvious, but a lot of Instagrammers simply post images without interacting with their fellow users.  The best way to organically grow a following and to get people to visit your page, is to find other users with similar tastes, interests and styles and to interact with them.  For clarification, when I say interact with them, I mean in a genuine way.  Don’t just copy and paste ‘nice photo’ under countless images.  If you see an outfit on a fashion page you really like, then tell them.  If you see a beautiful creature with perfectly applied makeup, let them know how great they look.  Ask questions, discuss common interests and most importantly be kind- no one will follow you if you are a critical jerk leaving snide comments under their pictures.  It’s a great way to make new friends and to in turn, have people check out your profile who maybe wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. I also find engaging under your own pictures is a great way to meet new people and grow your profile. Don’t just post an image and leave it at that, ask a question, start a discussion or present an idea. Give people a reason to comment and to continue coming back to your page

5. Hashtags.

Whilst only around 10% of visits to my images are from hashtags, they are still a great how to 4way to promote your post and to drive traffic to your page.  The best way to find the hashtags that will work for you, is to find accounts similar in theme and topic to yours and check out what hashtags they are using on their images.  Instagram will allow you to use up to 30 hashtags per image.  I advise taking note of the amount of images related to each hashtag and using a mixture of more popular hashtags and less used or newer hashtags.  For example, #bookworm has 13.1 million pictures using it as I type this blog post.  That is a lot of images and whilst that makes it popular for people to search by, it also means your image could easily become lost amongst the millions of others.  The hashtag #bookishgirl on the other hand only has 104,000 images at this stage, so it is more likely your image will be spotted and your page visited.  I also recommend participating in photo challenges, as they are not only a great source of inspiration for your images, but a great way for people, mainly the others participating in that challenge, to see your page.  There are also feature accounts on Instagrams.  These are literally accounts which feature the best of a particular theme or topic.  In order to get featured, you more often than not need to use a certain hashtag.  Some of these accounts have HUGE followings and it’s a great way to get noticed by users who otherwise wouldn’t have encountered your image.  Finally, searching relevant hashtags is also a great way to do research and to see what’s out there, what is working and what’s not.  Instagram gives you the option to follow certain hashtags and I recommend doing so in order to get regular inspiration.

6. Tag People.

how to 6I am not advocating tagging dozens of random people in every post you put up, but tagging relevant people can be a great way to get your account noticed.  Being a bookstagrammer, I most often tag authors, publishers and businesses which sell bookish merchandise.  This has lead to large businesses re-posting my image of their product, ensuring it’s seen by thousands of new potential followers.  Publishing houses, publicists and authors who I have tagged have approached me to review and feature their books.  It also helps spread the word and promote small businesses to a wider audience and provides them with lovely images for their own page or stories, so it’s win win for everyone.  Don’t get me wrong though, if you are going on Instagram just to get free stuff, you’re joining for the wrong reasons.  This is mostly about community spirit and mutual promotion and while free stuff is great, it shouldn’t be the driving force behind your account.  The beauty about Instagram is that it creates a way to connect with individuals and businesses you otherwise would never have discovered.

7. Be Patient.

how to 8This is the most important piece of advice I can give you.  Instagram can be a fickle place.  People will follow you just to unfollow you a day later.  I have had 10 new followers and been very pleased, just to check my phone a few hours later to find my follower count down by 15….one step forwards, two steps back.  It can be frustrating and confusing and on more than one occasion, I wanted to pack it in.  I didn’t explode overnight or go viral, gaining thousands of followers in a matter of weeks and whilst that is possible and I’m not saying it can’t happen to you (well done if it does), it’s more likely that you will gradually grow and build a following over time.  Like I said, it took me 20 months to gain 10,000 followers and I am so grateful for every last one!  You can of course buy followers but frankly I don’t understand why you would.  To me, that’s like ‘winning’ the marathon by taking a short cut…it’s a hollow victory.  Just persevere and keep doing what you do, and you will get there in the end.  Remember what Instagram is really about. It’s about community and friendship and discovery. The follower count doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. The most important thing to do is to have fun with it.  If you aren’t enjoying it, then why bother in the first place?

 

So How do I take my images?

Equipment: All of my pictures are just taken on my Samsung Galaxy phone.  On a sidehow to 1 note, one of the things I love about smart phones is that you can have a high quality camera everywhere you go now, so it’s easier than ever to take up photography.  Whilst specialist equipment isn’t needed, I do use a photo box for my flat lay images.  For those of you unfamiliar with these, they are basically like a small portable photo studio in a box, with bright lights on the inside and a black out fabric covering complete with little magnetic openings of various shapes and sizes at various points around the box to allow you to take a picture from various angles whilst maintaining consistent lighting.  They aren’t overly expensive (I think mine was around £80) and are available on Amazon.  But you don’t need to buy one of these to get consistent lighting.  You can buy small photographic lights now fairly cheap or you can simply the area in your house which gets the most light and work out what time of days is best to take your images so as to get maximum lighting.

Apart from my phone and photo box, my other essential items of equipment are my many and varied props.  My antique typewriter is one particular prop which features very frequently in my images, but I have a vast collection of random knick knacks and thingamabobs which I have gathered over the years.  I find the right prop can really bring a photograph to life and give it real depth and interest.  You don’t have to spend a fortune either.  The vast majority of mine came from charity shops and literally cost pennies.  Alternatively, you can use things you already have lying about the house or even find them in nature, for example another of my most frequently used props is my collection of dried autumn leaves and pine cones I collected from my local park.

Boostagram 2Applications and Filters: I personally don’t use the filters on Instagram.  I prefer to use the application Snapseed to do the basic editing of my images, such as cropping and rotating.  I like it because it’s super easy to use and features lots of great ways to tweak the image, like the ‘healing’ option allowing you to effectively erase small parts of the image and cover it over with a sort of ‘mirror’ of the surrounding area which I use regularly to fine tune my images.  I then use good old VSCO to add filters.  The best way to find the style you want to use is to play around and see what you like best.  If you change your mind, that’s ok.  Every now and then, I change the filters etc I use as do many of the largest accounts out there, so you can evolve and learn over time…practice makes perfect.

As I said in the beginning, I’m no expert but this is my attempt to impart a little experience with all of my lovely readers and I really hope you find it useful, even in some small way.  If you have any tips or advice of your own, I would love to hear them!  Just leave me a comment.  If you have Instagram but we have never had the good fortune to cross paths, or if you start a new account, please give me a little follow (@bookishmarie) so we can stay in touch!  Finally, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date with all my latest posts and book reviews.  Happy Instagramming!!

 

Christmas gift Inspiration for Book Lovers and Bibliophiles.

Christmas gift Inspiration for Book Lovers and Bibliophiles.

It is the first week of December and Christmas shopping mania is in full swing.  Just step into any shopping centre or High Street in the country and you’ll find yourself mobbed and stampeded by hundreds of frantic shoppers, desperately seeking the perfect gift for their friends and loved ones.  Christmas is of course, as the song says, the most wonderful time of the year.  But it can also be stressful.  I for one, love nothing better than finding the perfect gift for that special someone.  To see their face light up when they unwrap the paper fills me with all the Christmas joy and it was worth every second of panic buying induced stress.  But it can be tough going at times.  The streets can become franticly busy with shoppers and with so many shops and businesses literally at your fingertips online, how can you possibly find the time to properly peruse the sites and find that perfect pressy?

Well, since I love you guys so much, I thought I would put a little list together of some of the best gifts out there for book worms and bibliophiles (hey, they say write what you know, right?). There is something on here to suit every taste and every budget, so put your feet up and relax, because I got your back!

Book Boxes

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept (where have you been living, under a rock?) a subscription box is a box full of specialised goodies posted through your door each month.  You can get one to suit every taste and hobby, from Golf to whiskey, foodies to fashion, there is a box to suit everyone.  But, as this is a list for book worms, I will of course be focusing on the book variety.  I love the idea of a subscription for a present because it’s essentially a gift that keeps on giving long after the turkey has been eaten and the tinsel taken down.  Most boxes come in a single month, three month or six month subscription and there are a variety of boxes available to suit every readers taste. These are just a few of my personal favourite.

wdboxoctThe Wildest Dreams Book Box: This is a UK based Young Adult book box.  Each month’s box features a newly released YA book along with a bunch of other bookish goodies, such as bookish themed tea, beauty products and book marks.  At £18 per box or £50 for a 3 month subscription, these boxes are great value for money.  Plus, I have had the privilege of being their rep for the past 3 months and can personally vouch for how amazing these boxes are (check out previous blog posts for full unboxing and product details) and my rep code MARIE15 still works until the end of the month for 15% off!

My Chronicle Book BoxAnother UK based box, this time released every 3 months.  You chronicles 1have a choice between a regular ‘crime and mystery’ themed box and a ‘science fiction and fantasy’ themed box or one off boxes such as the ‘A Discovery of Witches’ box.  Each box contains THREE books, most of which are signed or contain signed book plates, along with a bunch of themed goodies.  Again, I have had the privilege of representing this box and I can personally vouch for how fantastic they truly are.  Again, have a look on my blog for full unboxings and even an interview with the box’s creator.  At £35 per regular box and £55 for specialist boxes, they are great value for money considering how much is in each one and you can use my rep code MIRRORS10 for 10% off

GoscribblerGoScribbler box: This subscription box is designed for us aspiring writers and authors and is curated by actual best selling authors.  Not only do the boxes contain beautiful items but they are also a great resource to help writers with everything from writers block to publishing tips.  I have literally spent hours drooling on Instagram over their boxes and hope to find one under my tree this year (take the hint Santa).  Each box features curated Writerly Gifts, a new Release Fiction Novel, an Inside Look at the Publishing Process, an Exclusive Invitation to Chat with a Publishing Professional and a Collectible ‘Writing Passport’ from a Bestselling Author Teaching You How to Master a Writing Topic.  Boxes retail at $29.99 for an individual box, with 3 month, 6 month and one year subscriptions available.  Photo by @mybookishbones.

Now as I stated, there are plenty of boxes to cover specific genres out there such as Fantasy and Romance, but I am going to explore some boxes in my favourite genre…HORROR!  Fans of the macabre and spooky such as myself, love nothing better than a horror themed gift under the tree!

night wormFirst up, Night Worms book box:  This is a fairly new, US based subscription service created by the hugely talented horror Bookstagrammers Sadie Hartmann (aka @Motherhorror) and Ashley Saywers (aka @Bookishmommy).  This is not a book box in the traditional sense.  Instead of random merchandise you may never use, each month the subscriber will receive at least 2 Horror books, original artwork and exclusive content such as discounts and swag direct from the publishers.  Having been long term fans of these badass ladies on Instagram, I am genuinely excited for their company and the energy and philosophy behind it.  They genuinely care about promoting Horror fiction and have even collaborated with rival horror boxes (including the one featured below) to support and promote one another rather than getting caught up in all the petty rivalry! Like I said, Badass!  Boxes retail at $27.99.

Next up, we have the UK based Abominable Book Club: Another box fairly new to the abominablemarket and another member of the #promotehorror club mentioned above, these monthly boxes feature 2 horror reads.  There is their featured book release and also a randomly selected, gently used book sourced and supplied by the box’s mysterious Brother Usef, Head Curator of the Accursed Library.  As well as these lovingly chosen book, you will receive a delicious snack and hot drink to enjoy while reading.  Perfect!

Bookish Candles

I LOVE candles and I have several in every room in my house.  They smell good, they create a warm and cosy atmosphere and there’s something heartwarming about reading a literary classic by candlelight.  These are some of my absolute favourites:

GunndeanGunn Dean Candle Company: I cannot express in words how stunning these candles are! Each one is handmade in the US, using all natural soy wax and Phthalate Free fragrance oils.  Most importantly for me, they are guaranteed to be vegan and cruelty free.  Everything about this candle company gets me excited…their delicious scents, their bookish themes and their stunning packaging!  The best part?  They even have their own epic subscription boxes featuring their candles, exclusive prints and other bookish goodies (also known as heaven in a box).  Candles retail at $14.00 for a 4oz jar or $19.00 fr an 8oz jar and the subscription box is $39.00….SANTA!! You know what I want!  Photo by @novelscript.

Alchemy and Ink: These stunning candles are all about luxury and beautiful aesthetic. alchemy The alluring scents are blended by hand and poured into recycled glass jars featuring drool worthy labels.  The love and care taken over these candles really shines through with every package including a handwritten note, a lovely bag of tea and hand stamped packaging.  This company also creates some of the most drool worthy bookmarks and enamel pins I have ever seen so definitely a great stop for Christmas shopping!  Candles retail at $18.00 for a 10 oz jar.  Photo by @paperbackbones.

MCBB Nov 6Bookworm Candles: Bookworm candles and crafts is a UK based one stop shop for hand poured bookish candles and all sorts of awesome bookish accessories, ranging from bookmarks to enamel pins.  Featuring adorable packaging and delicious scents, these candles are wonderful and at prices starting at only £6.50 for a 5oz jar, they are a great bargain and make a perfect stocking filler or little extra for your book obsessed chum!

 

Book Sleeves

Every book worm considers their books to be precious cargo when out and about, and a dog eared page or a wrinkled cover can be a disaster to someone (like me) who likes to keep their books in good order.  Thus, a book sleeve is a bibliophile’s best friend!  To those unfamiliar with the concept, they are essentially little sleeping bags for your books, to keep them cosy and safe in your bag and as these shops show, they can be beautiful as well as practical.

Cosy Sleeves: These stunning hand knit book sleeves really live up to their name. cosy sleeves Made in Norway and available in an array of wonderful colours, all the sleeves are little chunky knit jumpers for your books, truly keeping them safe and cosy!  I love the artisanal style of these sleeves especially this time of year when they give me all the winter feels.  Best news?Occasionally hats are also available in the same style so that you and your favourite book can match! Heaven! Sleeves cost £26.75 and are available on Etsy.

booosbreatheBooks Breathe Magic: This Irish shop creates stunning handmade book sleeves in an array of designs to suit all reading tastes and preferences.  Featuring sleeves celebrating every fandom from Harry Potter to Raven Boys, as well as as some featuring stunning patterned fabrics, everyone is catered for.  My personal favourite features skeletons on a black fabric background.  Also, this year there is even a Books Breathe Magic calendar, perfect for under the tree!

sweetsequelsSweet Sequels: This shop features hand painted, drool worthy original art on everything from t-shirts and blankets to book sleeves and stockings.  Featuring every fandom from Harry Potter to Narnia, Tolkien to Shakespeare, there is literally something for everyone here and trust me when I say, you will fall in love when you see what’s on offer.  There is something to suit every taste and every budget.

My Dream?  To one day own one of those epic bookish blankets…one day!

Bookmarks

The obvious gift for a book worm and the perfect size to slip inside a stocking, a book mark is a bibliophile’s best friend!

My Book Mark: These quirky, fun book marks are all hand made and are guaranteed tomybookmark put a smile on anyone’s face.  Their most famous, are the ones with little legs sticking out of your book but there are so many designs and styles available as well as lots of fandoms and themes.  Is your bookish buddy a fan of Harry Potter?  Why not get them the book mark featuring quidditch boots in their team colours.  Are they obsessed with the world of Tolkien?  Get the bookmark featuring hairy little hobbit feet.  But since it’s Christmas, why not grab a Santa or Ginger bread man?  These stunning book marks retail at $25.00 and are a guaranteed gift hit! Photo by @melinwonderland.

strangerA Stranger Dream: This is a one stop book mark shop for all fans of horror and macabre.  Each bookmark features an original design, lovingly printed and cut just for you.  My personal favourite are the ‘doll’ bookmarks.  Featuring everything from Stephen King to Scream, these bookmarks really will make the day of any horror fanatic.  Check out her awesome Christmas themed ones, like this spooky ginger bread man!  Bookmarks retail for less than a fiver so they are a real bargain and the perfect stocking filler.  If you live outside the US, you can DM her for cheaper postage too (that’s what I do).

Bookish Art

I have discovered that Instagram is an unending source of incredibly talented people, including an array of fantastic artists.  There is something to suit every style and taste, so have a look out there, but I have selected two of my absolute favourites…well, let’s face it, I chose them because I want these under my tree!

Caitlin McArthy art: Caitlin is an incredibly talented artist from the US, whose hauntinglycaitlin beautiful images immediately appealed to me.  In fact, I loved her work so much, I will be collaborating with her on an upcoming short story.  Her work is utterly divine and I hope some day to have more than one piece hanging on my walls.  For book worms, her image, ‘Bury me in books’ is the embodiment of our love of reading.  Head to Etsy to check her out, where you can purchase prints for as little as £12 or original pieces of art from £80 to £130 if you feel like splashing out!

wornkeyWornkey Emporium: This shop is a must for all Potterheads out there.  Remember that scene from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone, with all the flying keys?  Well, this shop produces unique, handmade flying keys all of which look beyond magical.  The keys come in all sizes, colours and shapes so vary in price depending on which one you go for.  It’s blatantly obvious to anyone who see them, just how much love and work goes into every single one and again, I hope some day to have a little key of my own…or a bunch of them!

 

And finally…

I have two honourable mentions which do not fall into a main categories above.  These are shops I personally own products from and who I continue to visit and purchase from over and over again….

Lit Emporium:  With a vast array of bookish goodies including t-shirts, jewellery, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnotebooks, prints, bookmarks, enamel badges and everything in between, this is literally your one stop shop for all things bookish.  I am a huge fan of this shop and use it regularly.  This shop has all the presents and stocking fillers any book lover could ever possibly want.  And the best bit?  It’s great value for money as well!  My personal favourites are the Gothic Literature and classic penguin enamel pin badges (£7.00 each), this Jane Eyre sweatshirt (£26.00), the magic book notebooks (a bargain at £4.00 each) and the Frankenstein heart necklace (£15.00).  Check them out now…you know you want to!

adagioAdagio Tea: This is a tea company close to my heart as I currently rep for them on Instagram.  They have a huge range of tea flavours to suit every taste as well as stunning brewing essentials like teapots and cups.  But that’s not why I am featuring them here.  No, I’m featuring them on this list because of their epic fandom ranges.  They have teas inspired by every fandom you can think of, from Sherlock to Harry Potter, Tolkien to Austen and Game of Thrones as well as non literary fandoms like Supernatural, Star Wars and Doctor Who.  My favourite are the fandom sampler tins.  They look great and it’s an amazing way to try all of the flavours available in that fandom.  Sampler tin sets are £19 for 6 tins.  For the full range of fandoms, I recommend using the US version of the site.

So that’s it folks, I hope you find it useful!  I basically made a blog post out of my own Christmas list and I sincerely hope that Santa reads it.  What about you bibliophiles?  What are you hoping Santa brings you?  What are your favourite bookish shops?  Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog!