#SixforSunday – Scary Stories / Characters

Happy Sunday Bibliofriends,

With Halloween just around the corner, we’re continuing the ‘Pumpkin Spice Goodness’ theme for October’s Six For Sunday by thinking of scary stories and characters. Most of my list this week is focused on the classics as I don’t tend to read many contemporary horror novels – however I did read a brilliant article by Silvia Moreno-Garcia on Buzzfeed Books called 10 Creepy Horror Books From Around The World which has me itching to click that ‘Want To Read’ button on Goodreads.

For those who don’t already know, Six for Sunday is weekly meme hosted by Steph over at A Little But A Lot.

Scary Stories

Dracula by Bram Stoker

One of the most well-known vampire tales, I’m definitely counting Dracula in the ‘scary story’ camp.

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Again, another one of the original Halloween monsters, Frankenstein is both scary character and scary story for me!

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

This is one of those truly classic gothic horror stories. The whole seance thing I find incredibly intriguing yet really scary. My Nan did a Ouija board once and was adamant that it told her she was going to marry me Grandad – and obviously, she did!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Amazing Amy definitely showed her darker side towards the end of this gripping novel. When my friend saw Rosamund Pike’s portrayal in the cinema he said it was enough to put him off women for life! 😂

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sherlock Holmes

I have to admit, the whole idea of big hounds across the moors glowing with phosphorous kind of creeps me out. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to be running into those characters.

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

I have heard so many good things about this story that the more I hear, the more I want to read it – hopefully I’ll get around to adding it to my TBR at some point.

Which scary books or characters have you trembling beneath the bed?
As always, leave your links below or drop me a comment to chat!

T xx

Biblioshelf Musings – The Once and Future Witches

Hello Bibliofriends!

If you’re on the hunt for the perfect witchy read this Halloween, then look no further than The Once and Future Witches! An amazingly ethereal read, Alix E. Harrow’s new novel combines compellingly powerful female characters with a spine-tingling recreation of patriarchal New Salem and a plot that will unite witches everywhere! I loved it! Huge thanks to NetGalley, Orbit and Alix E. Harrow for providing me with a complimentary e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Book: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fantasy
Publication Date: October 15th 2020
Publisher: Orbit / Little, Brown UK
Pages: 528
Rating: 📚📚📚📚📚

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

My Musings

Right from the very first page, The Once and Future Witches had such a distinctive, atmospheric tone that I actually felt as if I had stepped into a vortex and travelled back in time to 1890s New Salem. The way the opening captures and introduces each Eastwood sister… it’s one of the best openings to a story I’ve read in a long time, it hooked me right in. Harrow’s storytelling was so sharp and effervescent; every single word and sentence meticulously crafted to transport the reader right into the hearts and minds of the Eastwood sisters – I loved it! Language and writing style are so important to me as a reader and the way Harrow told her story is by far my absolute, favourite thing about this novel. 

The story is told through the three perspectives of the Eastwood sisters and each one has their own different style linking to their personalities. James Juniper is wild, feisty and headstrong, Agnes Amaranth has a strong moral compass and an iron will to protect her own and Beatrice Belladonna calls out to every book-loving nerdigan out there. I found there was something to relate to in all of them and I was interested in reading every narrative equally rather than favouring one character over another. 

What’s more, these characters are on a mission! The way the rights of women is merged with the rights of witches – all of that anger and vengeance from oppression and the patriarchy is turned into determined action which keeps driving the storyline forwards like an ongoing march without making the storyline come across as aggressive. A slow-burn Sapphic relationship also sprinkled a little romance into the mix allowing one of the main characters to really come into her own.

The subversion of famous historical male figures was like little Easter Eggs which I loved looking out for. Iterations to the heritage of witches with the presence of the Crone, the Mother, the Maiden and Familiars sang out to my inner history geek whilst the featuring of Avalon and a quest to revive the witching ways by hiding it underneath everyday women’s work appealed to my love of treasure hunting and puzzles.

All in all, The Once and Future Witches was exactly the novel I needed to get me right in the mood for spooky season. It is also one of my favourite representations of witches I’ve read for a long time. A beautifully-written, action-packed piece of witch-lore with characters I will be championing long into the future.

Favourite Quotes:

A new witch-tale, for a new world.

Behind every witch, is a woman wronged.

That’s all magic is really: the space between what you have and what you need.

If you want to blame someone for a fire, look for the men holding matches.

You can tell the wickedness of a witch by the wickedness of her ways.

Why Should I Read This?

For a writing style and atmosphere so brilliantly crafted it will suck you into the pages and back in time.
For the incredible narratives and characters of three very different yet sassy and fierce Eastwood sisters.
For a brilliant blend of contemporary female values intertwined with the heritage of witching and the suffragists.

Find out more about this book here:

Amazon | Little, Brown Book Group | Author’s Instagram | Waterstones | NetGalley | Author’s Twitter | Author’s Website

Connect with me here:

Twitter | Goodreads | Book Sloth: @thebiblioshelf |Email: thebiblioshelf@gmail.com

Biblioshelf Musings – Hag: Forgotten Folktales Retold

Happy Wednesday Bibliofriends,

Hag is a wonderfully relevant and apt anthology of British and Irish folktale retellings, perfect for the upcoming Halloween season. Filled with feisty female characters, atmospheric settings and morals aplenty, the fairytale lover within me thoroughly enjoyed rediscovering some of these bygone traditional tales.

Originally a podcast series, Professor Carolyne Larrington conjured up a writing experiment which tasked 8-10 inspiring British and Irish women authors to write a contemporary retelling of a forgotten folktale with a modern, feminist twist. This collection reminds me of a fresh uplift on the gothic horror genre – think Angela Carter meets Henry James’ Turn of the Screw. With particularly eerie and dark stories, the tales within are guaranteed to get you in the mood for Halloween and those darker nights by the fire.

Book: Hag by Various Authors
Genre: Short Stories / Fantasy
Publication Date: October 8th 2020
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group UK (Virago)
Pages: 288
Rating: 📚📚📚📚

Synopsis (from Goodreads)


Here are sisters fighting for the love of the same woman, a pregnant archaeologist unearthing impossible bones and lost children following you home. A panther runs through the forests of England and pixies prey upon violent men.

From the islands of Scotland to the coast of Cornwall, the mountains of Galway to the depths of the Fens, these forgotten folktales howl, cackle and sing their way into the 21st century, wildly reimagined by some of the most exciting women writing in Britain and Ireland today.

My Musings

As someone who has spent a fair bit of time reading folk/fairytales (I even did my dissertation on them) I was pleased to see a few of the more familiar and popular creatures making an appearance here such as selkies, boggarts, fairies and mermaids. That being said, the stories they were contained within felt fresh and new, I didn’t feel like I’d read any of them before – whilst the concepts may have been familiar, the stories themselves had me gripped to finding out what was going to happen, so they felt like more than just your average retellings.

What I particularly liked in Hag, was the focus on different regions from the UK rather than just a generalisation of British and Irish tales. It really did emphasise the nature of how transient traditional stories are and how they have shaped places across our entire nation. Also, the settings of each story became more relevant and heightened; you could visualise the area you live in and the places you’ve visited. Kudos too goes to the authors who managed to incorporate some the regional accents and dialects into the speech of their stories to make them all sound incredibly authentic.

The breakdown at the end recaps for the reader the ‘original’ tales as they may have been told in anthologies from the 19thand early 20thcenturies. These short snapshots not only refresh your memory of all the stories you’ve just read, but it also helps to see just how these tales have been revamped and updated for our 21st century world – they now have a modern diversity which wasn’t necessarily present in their earlier versions.

It is highly evident to see how much effort and hard work each author has put into their own retelling. Shamefully, I wasn’t aware when first diving into these stories just how well known some of these amazing writers are and it’s made me want to add more of their own voices and writings to my ever expanding TBR pile – there is some serious writing talent within this book and it shines off each and every page in the tone of the retellings and the way the stories have been brought to life within the pages.

Complete List of Tales

Below is a complete list of the authors, their revamped retelling, the location it is heralded from and a few examples of the author’s own works. (My personal favourites are starred)

Suffolk: A Retelling (Based on the Green Children of Woolpit) by Daisy Johnson [Fen; Everything Under; Sisters]

Yorkshire: Sour Hall (Based on Ay, We’re Flittin’) by Naomi Booth [The Lost Art of Sinking; Sealed]

Norfolk: Rosheen (Based on The Dauntless Girl) by Irenosen Okijie [Butterfly Fish; Strange Gigantular]

⭐️Orkney: Between Sea and Sky (Based on The Great Silkie of Sule Skerrie) by Kirsty Logan [Gracekeepers; Things We Say in the Dark]

⭐️Stafford: The Panther’s Tale (Based on Chillington House) by Mahsuda Snaith [Thing We Never Thought We Knew]

⭐️County Galway: The Tale of Kathleen by Eimear McBride [A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing; The Lesser Bohemians]

London: The Sisters (Based on Tavistock Square) by Liv Little [Editor-in-Chief of gal-dem Magazine]

Wales: The Dampness is Spreading (Based on The Fairy Midwife) by Emma Glass [Peach; Rest and Be Thankful]

⭐️Cornwall: The Droll of the Mermaid (Based on The Mermaid and the Man of Cury) by Natasha Carthew [All Rivers Run Free; Only The Ocean; The Light That Gets Lost]

Somerset: The Holloway (Based on Old Farmer Mole) by Imogen Hermes Gowar [The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock]

Favourite Quotes:

Sad, isn’t it, how many beautiful things we have destroyed to find out truths.
– Between Sea and Sky by Kirsty Logan

The trees surround her like giants from the folktales her mother recited: dark, looming, with crooked arms.
– The Panther’s Tale by Mahsuda Snaith

And if tales of her spirit seen dancing there surfaced, it should be remembered such stories are common enough. They are almost to be expected and should be looked sceptically upon – depending, of course, on how much of the rest of this story you believed anyway.
– The Tale of Kathleen by Eimear McBride

Song for the forgotten, a few words turned towards the ocean waves the place where the legend began where for some of them it would certainly end.
– The Droll of the Mermaid by Natasha Carthew

Why Should I Read This?

For the ominous, autumnal vibes.
For the rediscovery of traditional tales from the heritage of our nation.
For the exceptional storytelling prowess of some seriously powerful female authors.

If you love your folktales / retellings / contemporary female voices or you just want something to give you spooky and caliginous chills this October then Hag may be the perfect collection for you!

Find out more about this book here:

Amazon | NetGalley| Virago | Waterstones

Connect with me here:

Twitter | Goodreads | Book Sloth: @thebiblioshelf |Email: thebiblioshelf@gmail.com