(this is my not-so-subtle way of saying I reckon the libraries I work in are ***HAUNTED***)
Tales of a Haunted Comment Section – A Spooktacular Short Story!
Hope you all in enjoy my silly little Halloween story…
“Hello peeps! I’m logging on bright and early today!” I write- then cross out that line, because it seems far chirpier than I truly feel in my pyjamas and under-caffeinated state. I sigh. My eyes flick over the screen of my wordpress cooking blog, The Hungry Dragon. It’s all grown a bit… stale. The ideas just aren’t coming like they used to. I wanted to share a whole load of seasonal baking recipes and fun posts for this October… but it just hasn’t happened. I guess I’ve lost my touch.
Still, I’m grateful to see the orange notifications sign ping for the first time in a while. Clicking, I see an avatar I don’t recognise.
Huh. Well, that’s an odd introduction, but it’s always good to make new friends!
I buzz back a reply: thanks, how so?
My fingers hesitate on the keyboard. Before I can reply, there is another line:
Okay, that’s too far. And not particularly funny. A little part of me wants to slam down on the keys and tell whoever this dolt is to piss off… though truthfully I know there would be little point. They could just create another profile and harass me that way. Swallowing my irritation, I log off and go to work. I’ve no time to deal with stupid internet trolls.
Slouching into my chair at 17:32, I’m not exactly in the mood for… wait what is that? “Activity seems high on your blog today”. No shit sherlock- there seems to be a new comment on every post… and all from the same (clearly hyperactive) troll.
My fingers twitch; my face heats. This has gone beyond a joke now. I wish I was genuinely a fire-breathing dragon, cos I’d take some serious pleasure in barbecuing this sod. Instead, I have to resort to my least-favourite blogging tool: the block button. I hit it with a teeth-grinding thud, hoping the jerk on the other side of the screen feels the force of it.
A new notification pops up almost immediately.
The gravatar’s grin seems to grow, laughing at me.
“This isn’t funny,” I splutter to myself.
“What do you want?!” I scream at the screen- even if it is not as if it can hear me.
I slam down my laptop lid. The pings keep coming. And coming. I want to swipe the thing to the floor, yet instead I curl in a ball and wait for the darkness to take over the room. The pings keep coming. Surely it cannot go on all night? I hug my knees into my chest and wait.
Darkness creeps around the room. A sullen silence has settled around my desk. I think it’s finally stopped- though I do not have the courage to go and check.
This is ridiculous, I chide myself. How can I be scared of my own computer? There has to be an explanation- and I’m not going to find it cowering in my room, afraid of my own LED screen. I will not go quietly. I am a dragon after all… well, in a manner of speaking.
I whip open my screen and click on write post before I can chicken out.
I hit post and open a new tab to google how exactly I can get this loser taken down. A new ping chimes in, as if on cue.
I finally breathe again.
My heart stutters; the screen flickers. Shadows appear in the reflected light. Squeezing my eyes shut, I try to block out the way my blog chimes with activity. The way the computer crackles with life. I just want to log off and shut down. Because this isn’t happening. This isn’t.
All the cables in my head have been fried, hearing rustles where there shouldn’t be and a subtle scythe-like slashing coming from… behind me. Shit.
I take one last gasping breath as the screen goes black. The pings- mercifully- have stopped. But then, so does everything else.
A Bloody Good Time
The sunlight offends me. Squinting at the windows, indecently trying to get in. I hiss at the flickering blinds. The impertinence of it! The breeze and a slight buzzing have broken my slumber- yet I shall not be roused…
Only I’m so thirsty. So hungry. A gnawing ache twists and turns. A tremble fills the void. I cannot remember the last time I had serious sustenance. Groaning, I creak from my abode.
Creeping across the landing, desperate not to wake the others, I shield my eyes as I pass the hall mirror. I dare not look; I will not like what I see. I ought to smash the damn thing- it is a constant reminder of what I am now. Of what creature I have become.
Instead, my eyes snag on the insect suspiciously resting by the window pane… and I make a run for it. Bolting for cover. Sprinting down the stairs, I make it, gracelessly, to what we used to call the living area (it has other uses now, we don’t talk about it).
Eyes closed to the endless equipment we’ve been “gifted” by our gracious overlords, I make it through. Careless of the noise now, because I’ve not seen a soul in days and it’s pretty hard to wake the undead.
Into the pantry I go. Open a cupboard and… We’re completely out of supplies. Completely. I curse myself for I am an accursed fool. Foolish not to brave the streets yesterday- before we ran out. Before the news broke.
Not just the food is gone- but the cleaning products, the hand sanitiser and the toilet rolls. And now the killer bees are at the door too…
Oh well, looks like it’s just another day in 2020!
Great Books I Don’t Talk About Often – Slightly Spooky Selection!
Hello all! As promised, I’ve decided to return to the topic of my *terrifyingly* long list of great reads I don’t talk about often. And this time, there’s a spicy twist for the pumpkin-filled season (that’s my long-winded way of saying there may be some s-c-a-r-y books ahead… so tread carefully!) Off we go!
Wilder Girls– I can’t believe I’ve been so wilfully neglecting this one! I read it about a year ago now and it’s still haunting me- which is the sign of a great book! With its cutting prose and Lord of the Flies feel, this is a YA has more than a hint of horror. A must-read for Halloween… if you can stomach some of the more graphic elements!
The Book of Hidden Things– this is another one that may not be for everyone- and yet it held an indefinable allure for me. With a hint of magical realism, on the surface, it tells of friends reuniting in the atmospherically rendered town of Casalfranco. Don’t be fooled by that simple synopsis though- there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye!
Horrorstor– not everyone loves this Ikea-inspired spooky story- however, for me, it’s a reminder of what a hellish experience retail can be! (especially furniture stores 😉) For me the setting is the best reason to get stuck in, but there’s so many other great touches- from the pictures to the products- which definitely “Kranjk” things up a notch!
Coldest Girl in Cold Town– I can’t believe how rarely talk about this- it’s such a cool YA! And I don’t even usually like vampire books. As with a lot of her works, Black’s take felt very fresh. So, whether you’re a fan of paranormal or not, you should give this a go- you can *fang* me later! 😉
Metamorphosis– speaking of different, there’s nothing like Kafka for *unusual*. To put the premise as simply as possible: imagine waking up with the body of a bug! Suffice to say, that’s my worst nightmare!
Coraline– in my mind, Gaiman has a real knack for fulfilling creepilicious cravings and Coraline is no exception… except that it’s an exceptionally unsettling children’s book. Perhaps I have a very low tolerance for scary (okay that is one hundred percent the case!) but I read this as an adult and found it beyond freaky!
Monstress– I’ve got to be frank, the main selling point of this series for me is the artwork. Its devilish beauty explodes off the page. The story and world building evolve gradually- but it’s the graphics of this one that have stayed with me the most.
Through the Woods– this is another treat for the visual senses. Perfect for the spooky season, this chilling collection of fairy tale retellings will knock your socks off!
Replica– for something a little bit less full on, you may be in the mood for a more casual sci fi. That said, even if the story isn’t tremendously unusual, this far more entertainingly structured than your average book! Set up with parallel stories, you can read each one in turn, or flip between the two- taking the idea that no two people read the same book the same way to another level! On this rare occasion, I will have to recommend the physical copy, as you can’t replicate that experience!
Artemis– just because I can’t shut up about Weir’s the Martian, doesn’t mean I think you should neglect his other work. And if you enjoyed the banter, the drama and the tone of its predecessor, then no doubt you’ll take to this too! With a fun heroine and a space heist, you’d be a lunatic not to try to this out 😉
And that’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them? And have you got any great books you’ve neglected to talk about? Let me know in the comments!
The Witching Hour is Nigh!
Some of you may be getting dressed up around about now, some of you might be stuffing your face pre-emptively with sweets and some of you are getting cosy and planning to watch Hocus Pocus (I know I am 😉). Wherever you are, I think we can all agree that we need some spooctacular book recommendations! And what better topic than talking about *witches*? Yup- I’m giving you a list of some of my favourite witchy books! (NB I had to resist the urge to not just tell you to reread Harry Potter, cos obviously that’s an option… but I guess I kinda just did that… ah well 😉) Without further ado, pick up your broomsticks and let’s get this kicked off!
Wicked Deep– one of my favourite spooky reads last year, this spellbinding, atmospheric read with a historical edge definitely cast its spell over me!
Winter of the Witch– such a captivating series set in medieval Rus! Though I could’ve picked any of the books in this series, but this is where Vasya has fully come into her powers, journeys through Midnight and shines in her greatest glory. This is how to tell a witchy tale!
The Witch’s Daughter– this fantastical take on historical fiction was fun and brimming with entertainment!
The Crucible– if you’re on the hunt for something about the Salem witch trials, then look no further! Well, I say that, but this isn’t really about that at all 😉 It’s very intense and will transport you in time though!
Circe– there’s something utterly bewitching about this book- it’s the perfect retelling of Odysseus, the characters shine and the writing is exquisite. Most importantly for this list, it has one of the most unique takes on witches I have ever seen.
Northern Lights– speaking of unique takes, everything about Lyra’s Oxford (and extended world) is different and interesting. So, it’s no surprise that his take on witches is *brilliant*.
Doomspell– I always vividly remember this book as well for its *stand out* witches. Although, be prepared for things to get a little creepier… And on that note…
The Witches– yes, this list wouldn’t be complete without Dahl’s Witches. Terrifying to adults and children alike, these are the kinds of witches to keep you up at night!
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe– another absolute *classic* book starring a witch! In this case, the White Witch is the epitome of evil, enticing you in with Turkish Delight… only to try and turn you to stone if she gets the chance!
Good Omens– of course, however, if you (like me) prefer your spooky reads not-so-spooky, then look no further. This quirky and hilarious book has everything spooky from witches to the devil to the four horseman of the apocalypse… and yet miraculously manages to be a good time!
Equal Rites– sticking with the fun vibes, this was one of the first Discworld books I ever read and it completely charmed me! The humour and the characters were top notch- and this is definitely a great starting point for people looking for some girl power! And just so you know, the series gets better and better! (Maskerade is probably my favourite!) Pratchett always draws brilliantly on classics as well, which brings me to…
Macbeth– hubble bubble toil and trouble… this is the quintessential play with witches! Whether you’ve seen it/read it/heard about it vaguely- you can’t go wrong with this ambitious drama!
The Worst Witch– and finally, I thought the best way to end out this list would be to talk about a fun family friendly witch… who happens to not be very good at it. Though she may not fail in the Shakespearean sense, it’s rather comforting (and hella entertaining) to read about a heroine who struggles to *shine* and whose finest quality is her big heart.
And that’s all I’ve got for tonight! Have you read any of these? Do you have any other witchy reads to add? Let me know in the comments! And Happy Halloween!
Classic Spooky Reads that *Gave Me the Shivers*
Hello all! Just a quick post today to celebrate spooktober! In the last year (and beyond), I’ve been reading quite a few classic spooky read and some of them really hit the spot (and by hit the spot, I mean made my blood run cold, freaked me out and made me duck under my duvet for cover!) Here’s some books you may have heard of that really live up to the hype:
We Have Always Lived in a Castle– oh man, Shirley Jackson reallllly nailed the creepy vibes with this one. The mystery builds and builds and you don’t get total closure… which is exactly how it should be in the best scary stories! Speaking of which…
Turn of the Screw– this is one of the *best* gothic tales I’ve ever read and there are multiple ways to read it. Ambiguous, brilliantly written and so terrifying I had to turn on my big lights so I could finish it!
The Woman in Black– ooh this one was freaky! This ghost story will definitely keep you up at night. An unsettling mist descends from the moment I turned the first page and doesn’t let up until long after you’ve turned the last. I’m just hoping she never makes an appearance in my life…
Rebecca– on the note of enigmatic women, the titular character is too dead to make an appearance in this book, yet that doesn’t stop her making her presence felt 😉 This book has a hint of the gothic and is a wonderfully atmospheric read!
Haunting of Hill House– this was another solid book from Shirley Jackson and perfect if you’re too chicken to check out the Netflix version (like me 😉)
Wieland– this is a weird book… and yet isn’t that perfect for this time of year? A strangely captivating gothic tale, I was taken aback the first time I read it and it still haunts me to this day.
Confessions of a Justified Sinner– this mad little Scottish classic is a hidden gothic gem and guaranteed to take you to a dark place… which of course meant I had to include it 😉
Frankenstein– in many ways, this isn’t as scary as the other stories on this list. While it does venture into the subject of monsters, it’s more about humanity and hubris and the terrible things we’re capable of… so in many ways it’s the scariest book on this list by far.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde– coming back to London, this classic tale is pure entertainment and a sign that sometimes the darkest creatures can be closer to home than we think…
And on that note, I’ll be bringing this list to an end… *MWHAHAHAHA*! Don’t know if that’s the most appropriate place for a “MWHAHAHAHA”… Moving swiftly on! Have you read any of these? Do you love any classic scary stories? Let me know in the comments!
Halloween Creatures Book Tag!
Yes, that’s right! Halloween is upon us and it’s time for some spooky fun!! Even though it’s been ages since I’ve done a tag, I can never resist doing a creepy, themed one for All Hallows Eve! So buckle up, cos it’s gonna get freaky 😉 (or, you know, not, cos I don’t really do scary 😉 )
Thank you so much to the lovely Dany @Perspective of a Writer, the wonderful Mel @Meltotheany, the fantastic Raven @Dreamy Addictions and the great Samantha @Modern Witch’s Bookshelf for tagging me! You guys are the greatest! (and seriously- check out their blogs, cos they’re all amazing!!)
- Answer all prompts.
• Answer honestly.
• Tag 1-13 people.
• Link back to this post.
• Remember to credit the creator. (Anthony @ Keep Reading Forward)
• Have fun!
Witch: A magical character or book
Gonna start off with something fun here and go with Witches Abroad! In my totally biased opinion, the Discworld is one of the most magical and unique universes out there!
Werewolf: The perfect book to read at night
Bear and the Nightingale– cos I like to be cosy (and not spooked out!) I also think fairy tales and retellings are such a great thing to read before bed! (yes I am aware I’m sounding like an absolute kid right now!)
Frankenstein: A book that truly shocked you
Titus Andronicus– Even though I knew a huge amount of what happens going in, it still managed to knock me for six!
The Devil: A dark or evil character
Jacob Black- yeah, I’m going there- however much I dislike Sparkles the Creepy Vampire Stalker, it’s always crazy to me that there was ever a Team Jacob. The guy *literally* sexually assaults a girl that rejected him and refuses to take no for an answer. And if that wasn’t enough, he then develops a paedophilic obsession with her daughter. Yeahhh Jacob’s going straight to bookish hell.
Grim Reaper: A character that never should have died
You know who I mean. It just felt like such a waste- a heart-wrenching, devastating waste.
Zombie: A book that made you hungry for more
WHERE IS WINDS OF WINTER?!?! (and my dragons)
Gargoyle: A character that you would protect at all cost
Always gonna be Baz 😉 (not that he needs my help!) Only, this book makes me go gaga for him!
Vampire: A book that sucked the life out of you
It was sooooo dull. I could barely gather the energy to pick it up, so I eventually DNF’d it. But it still managed to throw me into the longest slump I’ve ever had- which is the bookworm equivalent of being undead.
Ghost: A book that still haunts you
THIS BOOK BROKE ME!
Demon: A book that really scared you
I know I scare easily, but this book FREAKED ME OUT!
Skeleton: A character you have a bone to pick with
I only finished this recently and really none of the characters made much sense to me- but I was especially flummoxed by *all* the main character’s decisions. I have so many questions for her that go something like: whyyywhatwho were you doing this all for?!
Mummy: A book you would preserve throughout time
I’d love to go store this somewhere, I dunno, like a cemetery of forgotten books- it seems appropriate somehow 😉
Creepy Doll: A cover too scary to look at
Gotta be one of the Miss Peregrine books- but to be super original I’m gonna go with the Hollow City one- kinda makes me want to *run away*!!
The Monster Mash- It’s fun to be with friends on Halloween! Tag your friends!
Kat, Way Too Fantasy, Zezee, Raistlin, J. W. Martin, Kelly and Lit Lemon Books
That was fun! What do you think? And which book has haunted you the longest? Let me know in the comments!
Unreliable Narrators – Differences in Style #6
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts (literally 4 months guys!) so some of you might have forgotten what they’re about or maybe they’re completely new to you. Basically, I love to chat about different writing styles and encourage people to view alternative styles as something that may appeal to different tastes (instead of seeing them as inherently “good” or “bad”). If you’d like to see more of my posts in this series, feel free to check these out:
Pared down vs Purple prose – Differences in Style #1
The art of Intertextuality vs Innovation – Differences in Style #2
*ALL the Viewpoints – Differences in Style #3
Coherence Vs Incoherence – Differences in Style #4
Telling Vs Showing – Differences in Style #5
All that said, today’s post is going to be a little different. Because, given how prominent this technique is in certain genres, I thought that this was a perfect opportunity to get in some good recs for Halloween. So for a change, this post is going to (mostly) focus on creepy characters and unsettling reads. Tis the season for some spookiness, after all 😉
Unreliable Narrators Defined
Unreliable narrators are those that can’t (or won’t) tell story objectively. The term is a relatively new one, as it was coined by Booth in 1961, however the use of such a character actually extends back to the dawn of Western literature. The lord of lies himself, Odysseus, is a great example of a character whose overinflated ego causes him to exaggerate and expand upon his exploits. Little character flaws can be used to manipulate the narrative and distance the reader from the truth of the tale.
Since the evolution of the term, much work has been done in the literary criticism world to explore this technique. This is why unreliable narration works so well. Types of unreliable narrators have been classified by the likes of William Riggan ie in his work: Pícaros, madmen, naïfs, and clowns (Picaros = boasters, naifs = immature narratures). One way I like to divide it up is into the fault of the narrator and the narrator merely being a victim of circumstance. If we look at a book like Gone Girl, we have two unreliable narrators creating a toxic environment for themselves and consequently causing the drama in their lives (which becomes the plot). On the other end of the spectrum, there are narrators like Pi in The Life of Pi, who, through no fault of their own, experience a severely traumatic event and slant the narrative through that perspective.
Now, for the most part, this centres on first person narration- though there are rare occasions when it could be used for second or third person. The best example of a second person narration where the story is told through an unreliable lens is Stolen, where the narrator addresses her kidnapper and it’s increasingly clear has some form of Stockholm syndrome. Otherwise, unreliable narrators can incorporate some second person to break the fourth wall, such as in Notes from the Underground. Unreliable third person narration is a little trickier to pull off- because the author really has to pull a fast one on their readership. This would be something like a twist akin to a Sixth Sense where spoiler alert Bruce Willis’ character is a ghost all along. I rarely see this sort of thing in books, but one example I’ve seen lately was in Safe Haven where, again spoiler alert, her friend was a ghost all along. This part of the book didn’t actually work so well for me, because frankly it felt like too much of a curveball. Yet arguably books like A Monster Calls, though more ambiguous in whether they’re unreliable or not, could be a more positive example of how third person unreliable narration in action.
Like I said, there’s been a lot of research into this area, so there’s more I could say on this definitions-wise, yet I think some of those subject fit more into the…
(and what you’re here for- the examples! No spoilers except to say that there are unreliable narrators present)
Most obviously, unreliable narration is perfect for creating bold plot twists. There’s a reason why it’s very popular in thrillers, for example. A favourite of mine will always be Engleby (a book that’s seriously underrated nowadays) where the clever characterisation of the main character drives the story forward.
Of course, one of the best things about unreliable narration is its power to create amazing characters. And not just the psychos of storyville, like Humbert Humbert. As previously mentioned, boasters also make up a huge number of unreliable narrators. Perfect for this time of year, I’d suggest the very atmospheric Name of the Wind. Kvothe, in my opinion, seems to warp some of the narrative to appear larger than life. Strong characterisation, in turn, is a powerful way to create voice.
It can also be used to create another dimension to the story. This is exemplified in Woman in the Window, where it’s evident from the start that the main character has secrets and is slowly revealed through her backstory. We then come to see how parts of the narration were unreliable.
Structurally, this also creates other sides to the story. Books with unreliable narration can often incorporate flashbacks for instance. Or unreliable clues might be given through suspicious characters in the story- such as Mrs Danvers in Rebecca. This can create a fantastic Russian Doll effect of hiding clues within the story. Which leads me onto my main pro…
It turns the reader into a detective. It can be brilliant fun trying to figure out where the truth lies and piecing together that oh, hang on a minute, this narrator has been taking me for a ride. Dodgy actions (it dawning on the reader that a character that commits murder isn’t to be trusted), unclear accounts (what’s not included can be a massive hint that something’s up) and the reactions of other characters can all help us figure this out (critic Nunning also explores the signs of unreliable narration in more depth). We can also find ourselves to be victims of a savagely dishonest narrator- which lends to a scary feel- such as in Confessions of a Justified Sinner or even Yellow Wallpaper. Yet, what’s great about both of those, is that we can’t be sure that in either of those everything we’ve been told was untrue. Which brings me to the fact that…
Unreliable narrators can create a sense of ambiguity. A lot of the time, we may be left wondering if they were reliable at all, and if they were, how unreliable were they? This can lead to a great deal of uncertainty- which lends to an uncanny feel and can be an excellent way to create mood. The Turn of the Screw is one of the best examples of this technique in action- we never get an answer to whether the book is supernatural or not. Being on uneven ground can be one of the most potent devices for scary stories. Nonetheless, there are some drawbacks to this.
On the flipside, placing the reader on unsure footing can put some readers off. Some people might want clear answers and be dissatisfied if the story is left open-ended. And while it can make some standout characters, it can also make for some truly detestable mcs, like Briony in Atonement. Naturally, unreliable narrators don’t belong in every story or genre- readers might dislike being taken advantage of by a peculiar twist. In fact, if it does feel out of place, it can feel cheap.
Accounting for Different Tastes
As you might be able to tell, I struggled with the cons section. Obviously, this technique isn’t great if misused and I know some people aren’t keen on some specific books that use this technique- but I find it hard to see why anyone would be wholly against it. Personally, I see it as a way of showing how complex people are. It doesn’t help that I’m often overly suspicious and *always* suspect first person narrators of something- after all, didn’t House teach us:
That’s why I can be dissatisfied with books where I expect there to be an unreliable narrator and they aren’t (which may or may not be a teaser for my next review 😉 ). So while I understand that people don’t necessarily like reading from the perspective of shitty people or might be scared off the genres they’re in, I’m curious to hear why some people might not like this at all and would love to hear some reasons why people hate it.
So I’ll pass the question off to you- do you like or dislike unreliable narrators? And if you’re a fan, who are some of your favourite unreliable narrators? Let me know in the comments!