My Booktube channel is now live!

My Booktube channel is now live!

Hello my dear followers, I hope this post finds you well! I wanted to announce the launch of my booktube channel: Marie McWilliams to you all formally and invite you to come and subscribe. I have primarily been using Instagram and this blog to get all my nerdy, book worm, horror loving, weird thoughts and original stories out into the world and I have loved every second of it. Both my Instagram and this blog have steadily grown and I am so proud of what I have accomplished that I wanted to keep pushing myself and trying new things. Youtube seemed like the next logical step. My channel will feature much of the same content as my other social media platforms. There will be book reviews, book box unboxings, my thoughts about book to movie adaptations, horror movie and book love, tips for writing, reading and creating content and all the other random things that pop into my brain. I would love if you guys could come on this next step with me. I am exceedingly nervous and I would love some familiar faces and old friends there as support along the way…plus spread the word, tell your friends, share my videos because I want to make new friends as well! I want to Thank my dear friend Ali who has been my guide to all things tech (I am about as technologically minded as a toadstool) and my editor. I also want to thank you guys and all my wonderful followers on my other platforms- your support, comments and kind words have meant the world to me at some of the lowest moments and I am so glad for this wonderfully nerdy community. I will post the link to my first video, a simple introduction, below and ask you to check it out, give it a little like and subscribe now! Thank you again for your continued support guys- you rock!

Marie xx

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCj6gAjgPxaZ5AGUlj4ALwzw

Original Short Story & Artist Collaboration: Sleepless Beauty.

Original Short Story & Artist Collaboration: Sleepless Beauty.

Hey gang! Hope you have been keeping well.  Apologies for the gap in blog posts, but I have been working on something super exciting…my very own Youtube channel! It will be much like my blog, lots of bookish fun and general nerdiness and I would love it if you coule drop by, check it out and subscribe.  It goes live Monday 21st October 2019 at 8pm- there will be a live countdown on my Instagram. I am so excited and nervous to be starting this next chapter of my life online and I would love if I had some old friends along for the journey. Anyway, back to tonight’s post. In my latest artist collaboration, I have collaborated with the incredibly talented Cat Mallard.  Cat creates beautiful magical illustrations which remind me of fairy tales and far off lands. Her folksy style evokes a sense of nostalgia and comfort and is perfect at bringing to life stories and characters so I was honoured when she agreed to collaborate with me. As I said, her style reminded me of fairy tales but just like me, Cat has a dark edge and loves all things spooky and macabre so when I sat down to write the story for the collaboration, I was inspired to create a dark twist on a well know and beloved story, that of sleeping beauty. The image she created is stunning and perfectly evokes the story. On a side note, each of those little dots were done one at a time by Cat, she is so dedicated to her work that I am in awe (I will show you some close ups so you can see what I mean). I hope you like it! Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and if you are an artist and would like to collaborate, please get in touch! For now, happy reading….

Sleepless Beauty

Fairy tales are stories told and retold again and again, passed down through generations, known throughout the world, universal and recognisable.  Stories of girls losing glass slippers and eating poisonous apples, of frog princes and magic kisses, of once upon a times and happily ever afters.  But what if the stories you know and love were in fact true, and what if, they were wrong.  Like Chinese whispers, with each telling, with every piece of information passed along, it morphed and changed, transforming into something more palatable to the audience, something more pleasant than the truth.

catmallard collabShe was a princess of exceptional beauty amongst a dark and thorny kingdom.  A diamond amongst stones.  She was kind, and good to her people and in turn, they adored her.  She was a beacon of hope in their difficult lives.  But sadly, unbeknownst to her, she was also cursed from birth, for her Father in his foolish youth, had begged the help of a local witch when crops failed and families starved.  She had granted his wish for a good harvest and the safety of his long-suffering people, but in exchange, she asked for his first-born child.  Desperate and out of options, he reluctantly agreed, and now, as Aria’s sixteenth birthday approached, and she blossomed into a woman, he knew the witch would come for her prize.

The witch was a collector of sorts.  She would encourage the brightest and most beautiful to grow and to thrive into happy souls, before striking them down in their prime, entombing them in a curse of her own creation.  Their suffering and sorrow, fed and enriched her.  That is how she stayed young after so many years on this earth.  Aria was the brightest and most beautiful of all the souls and would sustain her for decades to come.  So, it was with wetted lips and the tremble of anticipation that she approached the castle on the eve of the child’s sixteenth birthday.

The king begged of course.  He bribed, and blackmailed and threatened and finally broke into weeping, as the realisation of defeat sank in.  The witch remained stony faced and unflinching.  No earthly gold or shining trinket could ever be worth the price of such a rare and desirable soul.  When she had had her fill of his sobbing, she banged her staff against the marble floor, demanding silence.

“You made a deal King.  You got your food and your people prospered, but now it’s time to pay.  Nothing comes in this world for free.”

“Please, I beg of you…take me instead.”

She scoffed, an impatient smile sat on her thin lips.

“Your soul is worthless to me.  I want what’s owed.  The bond of contract cannot be close up cat 2broken King, this you well know.”

He knew it to be true, and so, with a heavy heart and overwhelming regret, he sent his daughter to the witch.  That evening, unable to live with what he had done, nor without his darling Aria, he threw himself from the battlements onto the stones below.  The people wept in waves that day, for they had lost their king and their beloved princess all at once.

Aria tried to be brave, but fear overwhelmed her, and silent tears fell as she walked through the woods to the witch’s cabin.  She did not hate her father.  She understood why he had done what he did so many years before her birth, and she knew that by doing it, he had saved the lives of countless people, and indeed the children they were then able to bring into the world, but still, she felt the loss of her life, her home, with the grief and sorrow one would expect.

For her punishment, the witch, with whispered words and the flick of her tongue, cursed Aria to a life without rest.  No matter how weary or desperate she would become, she could never sleep, never dream, never rest.  She would walk the earth for a thousand years, slowly going mad from her waking nightmare.  It was a punishment worse than any she had dealt before, and one which would cause enough suffering to feed and fatten her like a hog.  The witch was pleased.  Aria wept.

Prince Theor, a friend and cousin to Aria, heard of her plight and the death of her father.  He rode for three days and three nights to get to her side and slay the witch.  Theor was an expert swordsman and a champion fighter.  He feared no man or beast, but the witch was more powerful than ever now she fed from Aria’s weeping breast.  The fight was short, and Theor was slain with his own sword.  One cut, straight to his heart, and his eyes never closed again.  Aria stood by, helpless and watched his blood turn the forest floor red.

“You fool.  I cannot be killed as long as she lives.  Through her pure soul, I am invincible.  For one thousand years, she will sustain me, and I will rule this land as my own.  You will know suffering like never before, and your begging and pleading and desperate tears will only make me stronger.”

Aria thought of her people, and the terrible future which lay before them.  Life in this harsh wilderness was already difficult, with harsh, frozen winters and dry, drought filled summers, but the people worked hard and looked after each other.  They had little, but they were grateful and never wanted for more.  Her heart broke at the thought of their sorrow.

close up catSuddenly, she was struck by a thought.  The witch had called her soul pure, in fact, she had stated for all to hear, that the purity of her soul was the very thing which made her so strong.  Perhaps, if she was to carry out an act of cruelty, for no other reason than to be cruel, it would blacken her heart and tarnish her soul just enough for the witch to lose her strength, for a moment would be all she needed.

When a woods man entered the clearing the next day, lost by the ever-moving trees and the thick thorns which had begun to grow since the witch claimed power over her, she seized the opportunity.

“I’m sorry.”

As he knelt with hurried hands to free her from her shackles, she hit him with a rock, and cleaved his skull in two.  Instantly, he was dead, and as soon as he breathed his last breath, the witch cried out as if in panic.  Aria knew it was now or never.  She scrambled for the hunter’s knife and plunged it into her chest just as the witch appeared from her home, eyes wide with fear.

“As long as I live, you are invincible.  And so, I die, so you may die too.”

Without a tormented soul to sustain her, the decades of stolen life began to catch up with her.  Her face aged and sagged, before it fell away as she became dust and bones.  The three bodies lay close together in the now silent woods, as thorns withered and trees rooted themselves once more, and sun shone behind clouds.

Her sacrifice, and that of her Prince cousin and the poor woodsman, did not go unmarked.  The people of the kingdom remembered them through stories, but over time, those stories have changed into something unrecognisable.  It is understandable why people would choose the alternate version, with a sleeping princess awoken by a kiss, and a witch slain with his mighty sword.  But that is not what happened, that is not the truth, and sadly, the truth is not rides into the sunset and happy ever afters.  It is blood and death and bones.

But, perhaps you prefer the edited version to the reality, it is for you to decide.  Do you choose an unhappy truth, or a happy lie?

 

 

 

Book Review: I Will Make You Pay by Teressa Driscoll.

Book Review: I Will Make You Pay by Teressa Driscoll.

Hello readers! For this week’s post, I will be reviewing the crime thriller I Will Make You Pay by Teressa Driscoll, but before we leap straight into my thoughts on the book, let’s read that trusty blurb shall we?

I will make you payEvery Wednesday, like clockwork, the terror returns.

It seems like an ordinary Wednesday, until the phone rings. A mysterious caller with a chilling threat. Journalist Alice Henderson hangs up, ready to dismiss it as a hoax against the newspaper. But the next Wednesday, the stalker makes another move—and it becomes clear that this is all about Alice.

Someone wants her to suffer, but for what? Her articles have made her a popular local champion—could it be her past rather than her work that’s put her life in danger? Alice is determined not to give in to fear, but with the police investigation at a dead end, her boyfriend insists on hiring private investigator Matthew Hill.

With every passing Wednesday the warnings escalate, until it’s not only Alice but also her family in the stalker’s sights. As her tormentor closes in, can Alice uncover what she’s being punished for before the terrifying threats become an unthinkable reality?

I am a huge fan of crime fiction and I am always particularly intrigued with stalker stories.  Horror films and books scare us by often wandering into the realms of the unrealistic and surreal but a stalker is something very real.  Stalkers exist, they terrorise and they have even killed.  It is a threat grounded firmly in reality and therefore one which will incite and rouse a particularly deep fear within the reader.  Driscoll’s stalker is particularly cruel, often taunting the protagonist, for example having someone throw a freezing cold liquid in her face so she momentarily believes it is acid.  A simple, seemingly innocuous act, it is after all just water, but in the context of her harassment and her intensifying fear this moment causes her great distress and trauma.

The protagonist Alice is for the most part believable and empathetic.  We understand through her narration the sheer panic and paranoia that can come as a result of someone targeting a person in such a way.  Suddenly every site she visits is a place she could potentially be attacked, every face in the crowd is possibly her stalker, every phone call another taunt or jibe.  She is torn between protecting herself and withdrawing from the potential dangers of the world, and having a normal life, in short refusing to let the stalker win and in doing so she often puts herself in further danger.  There were moments were her refusal to be completely honest with Police and to take their advice irritated me slightly, but I can understand why she would not want the stalker to succeed at ruining her life.

The book has enough action interspersed throughout to keep it fast paced and interesting, and features several twists and turns and the all expected red herrings.  Although I guessed the bad guy successfully (no spoilers here), I could not grasp the motive until towards the very end despite the fact that Driscoll provided all the necessary information to the reader for them to work it out.  I really admire any author who can keep a reader scratching their end until the end.  The fact that I guessed the identity of the stalker is not necessarily a poor reflection on the author, as I read and watch so much crime fiction and indeed, even write it myself, that I am rarely surprised but that is why the concealment of the motivation of this man alluding me was particularly exciting.

Over-all, this is a great read and one I would recommend for any fans of crime fiction.  I would give it a firm 4 stars out of 5.

* Note: I was sent this book on behalf of the author and Amazon Publishing. My review is honest opinion of the book.

Book Review: Bearmouth by Liz Hyder.

Book Review: Bearmouth by Liz Hyder.

Hello readers and welcome to my latest blog post.  This time I will be reviewing Bearmouth, the debut novel from Liz Hyder.  But, before we dive in and see what I thought, let’s have a look at that dependable old friend the blurb to find out exactly what this dark young adult book is about:

Life in Bearmouth is one of hard labour, the sunlit world above the mine a distant memory. Reward will come in the next life with the benevolence of the Mayker. New accepts everything – that is, until the mysterious Devlin arrives. Suddenly, Newt starts to look at Bearmouth with a fresh perspective, questioning the system, and setting in motion a chain of events that could destroy their entire world.

BearmouthI am not usually the biggest fan of young adult fiction but I found the subject matter and dark tone of this book very appealing.  Unlike a lot of books aimed at a younger or middle grade audiences, this author pulls no punches and refuses to sugar coat the harsh, grim reality depicted in the book.  On the surface, it is a book about friendship, loyalty and freedom but at its core it deals with the heavy subjects of capitalism, corrupt governments and organised religion with this novel being scathing about all three.

First, let’s look at the topics of capitalism and corrupt governments.  The system described in the book is a more extreme version of today’s society.  The poor are kept poor through low wages and the accumulation of debt.  The miners who work in Bearmouth are paid pittance and everything costs money, including their own equipment and clothing necessary to perform their duties, as well as a lift to the surface, so no one can afford to get out.  Management encourages further debt by presenting temptation to spend their money in in the form of alcohol, a welcome escape from the brutality of the mines but a perfect way to keep the men pliable and hard working.  It reminds me very much of the slaves of Egypt being fed beer by their masters.  The manager even sets quotas on a black board, saying continuously that they must increase productivity, even offering rewards (free beer of course) to the teams which gather the most coal.  Have you heard anything more capitalist?  Ignorance of the poor is also encouraged and the protagonist Newt is even told she is in trouble for her knowledge of writing and reading after one of her letters home is intercepted.  That’s another thing that seems strangely and scarily familiar about Bearmouth, the residents are spied on by the masters and any sign of dissent crushed as those who dear to question the status quo are labelled ‘awkward men’ and their already difficult lives made even worse.  When one of the characters Thomas dares to ask for a raise, his own bunk mates are offered money to spy on him and his friends.  A more modern version would of course be the interception of electronic communications by our own governments who have overstepped their bounds on more than one ocassion.  Any gatherings or groups are forbidden so any opportunity for rebellion or organisation such as a union is impossible.  The poor get poorer, the rich get richer and the divide between the two gets wider and wider…sound familiar?

Then there is the topic of organised religion.  The workers of Bearmouth are encouraged, bearmouth2and I use that term Kindly because it is more like forced, to follow a religion similar to most organised religions.  A deity, in this case ‘The Mayker’ created the world and the humans which inhabit it.  As the human’s proved ungrateful, they were punished and continue to be until a ‘sine’ is given that they are forgiven and set free.  All the workers must attend church on Sundays, the only time they are permitted to gather in a group, where prayers are spoken, songs sung and everyone asks for forgiveness.  Anything that happens, no matter how horrible, is ‘the maker’s way’ and should never be questioned lest you suffer his wrath.  The miners work themselves to death (literally) as they are told they will be rewarded in the next life.  The ‘Master’, the owner or perhaps manager of the mine, has been directly chosen by the Mayker himself and should therefore also never be questioned or doubted.

All the workers through their blind, unquestioning faith and loyalty to both the system and their religion, are easily controlled and manipulated.  It is only with the arrival of someone who dares to ask a simple question, to say a simple word, that others begin to question things themselves: WHY?

Bearmouth is a dark and interesting read presenting complex topics in an interesting and easily understood way.  Although the way in which it is written, with deliberate spelling mistakes, can be a little strange to get used to at first, I found it added to the naivety and vulnerability of the protagonist and allowed the reader to first understand why she does not question things and then journey with her as she begins to ask why herself, thereby making her journey and character arc seem more believable and relatable.  It is the perfect read for lovers of Young Adult looking for something a little grittier and different and I enjoyed reading it.  I would give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

**I was gifted this book by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.**

Unboxing: The Victorian Horror Box from Wick Wish Candles.

Unboxing: The Victorian Horror Box from Wick Wish Candles.

Victoriana1Well, it’s official, you can call off the search and stop the debates because this box is officially the best subscription box I have ever received, EVER.  I may be slightly biased, because I am featured inside this one, well one of my original short stories is anyway, but  facts are facts and this box is basically perfection.  Every item is stunning, everything is packed and presented perfectly and when the spoiler card is essentially frame worthy, you know you’re on to a winner.  If you are a fan of horror, or all things Gothic or Victorian, then this box of wonders brought to you by The Wick Wish Candle Company is basically everything you’ve ever dreamed of.  So, since we have slid quietly into the autumn and as the nights grow darker and the air a little cooler, let’s sit back and peek inside this world of Gothic wonders but beware, as with all things worth having, it is not for the faint of heart…

Victoriana3So what is in this beautiful box?  First up, it being a candle box and all, there are of course the three featured candles.  Keeping in theme with all things Gothic, we have a candle named after the queen of Gothic literature herself, Mary Shelley.  Smelling of cinnamon, blood orange and teakwood, it basically smells like autumn in a candle.  Next up, the bad boy we all fell for in our early teens, it’s the delicious Lestat Di Lioncourt.  He smells of oak moss, incense and graveyard dirt, an earthy scent which entices the recipient to an early grave.  Last, but not least, we have a more recent edition to the Victorian genre with the fabulous Crimson Peak.  This one smells of tea leaves, firethorn berries and bergamot and quite honestly brings be back to the film.

Victoriana2Along with these stunning candles, there is also a Victor Frankenstein dark roast coffee by Mocking Byrd Coffee Company, which smells almost as delicious as the candles which accompany it.  It’s only fitting that Mary Shelley has her dark and twisted Doctor to keep her company.  To stir this delicious concoction, we have a black stainless steel Little Rose teaspoon, because coffee this good cannot be touched by any old ordinary spoon.  There is also two Annabel Lee inspired bath melts by The Witch’s Bath.  These smell positively delightful and I am looking forward to having a gothic style bath, candles lit, bath melts melting along with my stress and worries.

But the gothic goodies don’t stop there.  There are three original and exclusive tarot cards designed by incredible artists.  We have Death by Sheila Goicea, the curator of the wonderful Foals, Fiction and Filigree, The Devil by Allie Surges of Princess Gloom and finally The Lovers by Jackie Powers of Powers of Jac.  Every single one of these pieces is beyond stunning and will 100% be getting framed and hung on my office wall.  There is also a reproduction of All is Vanity by the artist Charles Allan Gilbert in 1892, a picture than genuinely hangs at this moment in my Victorian style bathroom.

Finally, the part I am most excited about…a penny dreadful containing an original and exclusive short story by yours truly entitled The Grave Digger, about, well you’ve guessed it, a Grave Digger in Victorian London.  The responses to the story have been really positive so far and I want to thank everyone for their kind words and support.

This entire box is presented perfectly.  Contained inside a matte black box with a simple sticker denoting its contents, each candle is individually wrapped in black tissue paper and individual stickers saying things like, ‘Ghosts are real’, ‘Gentleman Death’ and, ‘Beware; for I am fearless.’  The spoiler card is designed to look like a mourning card, encased in a translucent envelope and will also be displayed somewhere in my office in due course.  Even the shredded paper placed inside to protect each item is black!  But best of all for me is the wonderful presentation of my story.  It looks so authentic, so truly Victorian, even containing original Victorian product adverts on the back and I want to thank Rachel from the bottom of my heart for creating something so lovely to show off my story…you my friend, are an artist.

If you want to buy any of the incredible items from Wick Wish yourself, you can use my discount code BOOKISH10 to save 10% now.

Book Review: Spinning Hair into Gold by Caitlin Keely Gemmell.

Book Review: Spinning Hair into Gold by Caitlin Keely Gemmell.

caitlin 2When I began reading Spinning Hair into Gold by Caitlin Keely Gemmell, I was immediately reminded of a quote by Wallace Stevens: “The poet is the priest of the invisible.”  I love poems and stories which tell us what we should already know about the world and that is the fact that in reality we still know so little.  Stories which hint and tease at the worlds within our own, of places and people and legends hidden from view perhaps, but visible to those who can see and this is exactly what this collection does.  Each story and poem is based upon a character created by Caitlin for a novel yet to be written.  A character that haunted her despite, or perhaps in spite of, never being fully formed on paper.  They are the glimpses into this story which had to be written and combined into the collection, they give the reader just enough of a hint of what Oriana and her fantastical tale may be, in order to feel compelled to know more.

The collection features several poems and short stories, all about Oriana and her as yet caitlin 1unwritten biography.  Stand outs for me were, ‘Oriana/Weaver of Fate’ a poem reminiscent of Greek mythology and ‘Oriana’s Cottage’ a short story depicting a meeting between a mortal and Oriana, glimpsing into her world of magic before returning to the mortal realm.  Whilst I enjoyed all of the writing separately and as stand alone pieces, they fit together to form a partial image of this mysterious character which enchants and inspires and it is through this collection of individual pieces, through them flowing from one to the other, that the picture becomes clearer and more fully formed.  I for one would love to read Oriana’s story in all of it’s glory now that my appetite has been wetted.

I was honoured to receive an ARC copy of Spinning Hair into Gold by Caitlin Keely Gemmell in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Unboxing: Books That Matter September Book Box.

Unboxing: Books That Matter September Book Box.

Hello readers!  For today’s post, I will be unboxing this month’s Books That Matter book box and I am particularly excited for this one.  Not only is it the box’s First Birthday (Happy Birthday guys) but in order to celebrate, it has an extra special, magical theme and one which could not be more up my street.  This month, the theme is (drum roll please) ‘Myths, Goddesses and Legends’, celebrating the women of Greek mythology.  As a fan of mythology and legends, I could not wait to tear into the box.  Before we see what is inside, remember you can use MARIE10 to save on a box all your own.

greek boxFirst and foremost, this month’s featured book is critically acclaimed Circe by Madeline Miller.  This book was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year and I have heard nothing but positive things about it.  I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but it’s hard not to swoon over this beauty.  The cover is a stunning metallic, which I am always a sucker for, and perfectly captures it’s Greek, mythological inspiration.  So what’s it about?

Woman. Witch. Myth. Mortal. Outcast. Lover. Destroyer. Survivor. CIRCE.

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is a strange child – not powerful and terrible, like her father, nor gorgeous and mercenary like her mother. Scorned and rejected, Circe grows up in the shadows, at home in neither the world of gods or mortals. But Circe has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When her gift threatens the gods, she is banished to the island of Aiaia where she hones her occult craft, casting spells, gathering strange herbs and taming wild beasts. Yet a woman who stands alone will never be left in peace for long – and among her island’s guests is an unexpected visitor: the mortal Odysseus, for whom Circe will risk everything.

So Circe sets forth her tale, a vivid, mesmerizing epic of family rivalry, love and loss – the defiant, inextinguishable song of woman burning hot and bright through the darkness of a man’s world.

This one has been on my to be read list for a while and now I really have no excuses not to read it.  Have you read this one?  What did you think?  As an extra special treat, there is an exclusive Circe postcard, beautifully frame worthy should you wish to express your love of Greek mythology.

As always, along side this month’s read, there is an array of perfectly picked goodies and greek box 3in this box, that metallic theme continues with a stunning 22ct gold plated star charm bracelet by CaruSer.  This really is one of those rare and extra special finds in a subscription box.  It is beautiful and I have no doubt it will become one of my go to jewellery choices.  There are also two metallic, and made hair ties by Cabellobands.  I am a firm believer that a girl can NEVER have enough hair ties (where do they vanish to) and I love the luxurious look of these.  Finally, there are two appliqué stickers of the Goddess Aphrodite and the nymph Daphne, along with a book mark featuring Medussa and Calliope, designed by the brand Myths and Tits. I adore the style and vibrancy of these beautiful images and I am already seeking a place to stick the stickers.

As always, Books That Matter present a thoughtful and inspirational box that not only sparks the joy in any reader, but delivers a clear and impactful feminist message.  This box is about giving the females of Greek mythology their rightful place.  No longer are they merely plot devices but feminist icons, given their own well deserved narratives.  Thank you so much for gifting me the box guys and remember, if you love it as much as I do, you can use discount code MARIE10 to save 10% on your own!