Why I Read Ghost Stories At Christmas

Ghosts

Now it is no secret that I read scary things all year around but when it comes to Christmas I just want one thing: ghost stories. Now I know it is a bit odd, images of ghosts really don’t mesh with jolly old Saint Nick and Christmas trees, but is it really that strange? …..Historically no. In fact one of the most popular Christmas songs even references it. In the lyrics of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year it has the line:

There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories

And tales of the glories of the

Christmases long, long ago

Now this song originally came out in 1963 but painted the image of the perfect Victorian traditional Christmas. It probably isn’t a surprise that the Victorians had this Christmas tradition, it was the era of the ghost story, but why at Christmas? Well, that explanation for that is older than the Victorians.

Fact Alert: Christmas originally wasn’t Jesus’ birthday. I am sorry if that bugs some people but it is the historical truth. We don’t actually know when Jesus’ was born. They didn’t have birth certificates back then and they certainly didn’t have Facebook so we cant do a sneaky date check like you do every year when you want to make sure you didn’t forget your mum’s birthday. We just don’t know. The date for Christmas was set at this time to include the various non Christian religions (aka pagan) around at that time. Christians wanted to encourage them to convert so they set their holidays around the same time as theirs, and it isn’t just Christmas, the same goes for Easter and All Souls (aka Halloween). All of those festivals are older than when Jesus popped up.

So, what does this have to do with ghost stories? Well, it is to do with the Winter Solstice. Christmas is close to the darkest day of the year and that was a day when people thought the dead could come back more easily and pay us a visit. Doesn’t that sound a little like another Holiday we all love:

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Naturally this belief started the practice of telling ghost stories during the Christmas period.

Fast forward a few thousand years to the Victorians and their creation of the modern Christmas and you have ghosts worked into almost every Christmas story from that time. It wasn’t just to be creepy either. Christmas is the perfect time to think about dead loved ones and Christmases past, and to the death obsessed Victorians those thoughts led to the creation of more ghost stories.

People would even have parlour games where seances would be held or they would take turns at trying to think up a story and see who can scare their friends the most. This is how Frankenstein was created.

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Sadly the tradition of the Christmas ghost story died out in the modern era. People are only interested in the shiny happy side of Christmas rather than trying to balance it out with a side of scares. It makes me a little sad because on a cold dark night there is nothing better than a good ghost story. The nights in winter are even darker than they are on Halloween so it is a perfect time for it. So this is why I keep the tradition going.

What are your thoughts? Would you like to see this tradition come back? Also I am tempted to write more history based posts like this, what do you think?

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TBR Spotlight: Christmas Edition

It is only 10 days until Christmas! I finally have all of my Christmas shopping done so now I can enjoy the holiday season. Christmas is my second favourite holiday after Halloween. Who doesn’t like presents and an excuse to eat until you explode?

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I was originally going to do a Top 5 Holiday Reads but it has been a long time since I have done a TBR spotlight and I have added so many pretty Holiday reads to my list this week I thought I would share them with you. A lot of these books are either set during Christmas or have a beautiful wintery setting. Perfect for this time of year.

Links to the books are included in the cover images so you can add them to your own TBR list.

The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice

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Summary of The Wolf Gift:
“The place, the rugged coast of northern California. A bluff high above the Pacific. A grand mansion full of beauty and tantalizing history set against a towering redwood forest.

A young reporter on assignment from the San Francisco Observer. . . an older woman, welcoming him into her magnificent, historic family home that he has been sent to write about and that she must sell with some urgency . . . A chance encounter between two unlikely people . . . an idyllic night—shattered by horrific unimaginable violence. . .The young man inexplicably attacked—bitten—by a beast he cannot see in the rural darkness . . . A violent episode that sets in motion a terrifying yet seductive transformation as the young man, caught between ecstasy and horror, between embracing who he is evolving into and fearing who—what—he will become, soon experiences the thrill of the wolf gift.

As he resists the paradoxical pleasure and enthrallment of his wolfen savagery and delights in the power and (surprising) capacity for good, he is caught up in a strange and dangerous rescue and is desperately hunted as “the Man Wolf,” by authorities, the media and scientists (evidence of DNA threaten to reveal his dual existence). . . As a new and profound love enfolds him, questions emerge that propel him deeper into his mysterious new world: questions of why and how he has been given this gift; of its true nature and the curious but satisfying pull towards goodness; of the profound realization that there are others like him who may be watching—guardian creatures who have existed throughout time and may possess ancient secrets and alchemical knowledge and throughout it all, the search for salvation for a soul tormented by a new realm of temptations, and the fraught, exhilarating journey, still to come, of being and becoming, fully, both wolf and man.” 

This book is a sequel to Anne Rice’s werewolf series, The Wolf Gift Chronicles. I haven’t read the first one yet but I am a huge fan of her Vampire Chronicles series so I know I will probably enjoy it. It has been a very long time since I read anything with werewolves in it so I am pretty excited to get started on this series. This second book in the series, The Wolves of Midwinter, is set entirely during the Christmas period so I plan on getting stuck into the first and second books before Christmas rolls around.

Ghost Story by Peter Straub

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“For four aging men in the terror-stricken town of Milburn, New York, an act inadvertently carried out in their youth has come back to haunt them. Now they are about to learn what happens to those who believe they can bury the past — and get away with murder.”

A thriller novel with ghosts and set during winter? Sign me right up! Maybe it is just the cover but this book conjures the image of four men held up together during a snowstorm being tormented by their past.  Just the story of story you need to scare yourself with on a dark winter night.

Christmas Spirits by Charles Dickens419dEzSJhIL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

“This elegant edition gathers seven spirited Yuletide fables by Charles Dickens. The heartwarming tales tell of people rescued from their own folly by mysterious strangers — including goblins, ghosts, and other supernatural creatures.” 

Did you know that Charles Dickens wrote Christmas stories other than A Christmas Carol? Well he did, and just like A Christmas Carol they are just as odd and supernatural. I have a personal tradition of reading A Christmas Carol every year so I love the idea of adding more Dickens stories to my Christmas reading list.

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse6450212.jpg

“By the author of the “New York Times”-bestselling “Labyrinth,” a story of two lives touched by war and transformed by courage.

In the winter of 1928, still seeking some kind of resolution to the horrors of World War I, Freddie is traveling through the beautiful but forbidding French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. Dazed, he stumbles through the woods, emerging in a tiny village, where he finds an inn to wait out the blizzard. There he meets Fabrissa, a lovely young woman also mourning a lost generation. 

Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. By the time dawn breaks, Freddie will have unearthed a tragic, centuries-old mystery, and discovered his own role in the life of this remote town.”

I know very little about this book but I have heard it is brilliant, beautiful and a wonderful ghost story. I like a good winter ghost story so naturally it ended up straight on my to read list. I haven’t read any of Kate Mosse’s writing before but I have seen her first novel, Labyrinth everywhere.

Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom517ojcjfCwL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

“Acclaimed author and artist Brom raised eyebrows and pulse rates with The Child Thief, his grim, brilliantly audacious, gorgeously illustrated reimagining of the Peter Pan legend. So what does this innovative fantasist do for an encore? He tinkers darkly with the beloved mythology of Santa Claus. Set in Appalachia, Krampus the Yule Lord is a twisted fairytale about a failed West Virginia songwriter who gets ensnared on Christmas Eve in an eternal war between a not-so-saintly Saint Nick and his dark enemy Krampus, aka Black Peter, an ancient trickster demon. Krampus the Yule Lord is Gregory Maguire (Wicked) meets Susanna Clarke (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell) in the realm of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, as Clive Barker (Mr. B. Gone) works his dark sorcery from the shadows. Once again featuring Brom’s chillingly beautiful artwork throughout, Krampus the Yule Lord is a feast of wonder straight from the kitchen of Sweeney Todd.”

Krampus!! I need to read this book so badly. Brom is one of those authors I have been dying to read books from but I can never seem to find his work anywhere. It is a bit odd. I might treat myself after Christmas and order a copy of this book and The Child Thief from Book Depository.

If you don’t know already, Krampus is the anti Santa in folklore. He is a trickster who punishes bad children by either hitting them with sticks or kidnapping them to eat later. You should look into Christmas folklore, some of it is amazingly dark. Google Perchta if you don’t believe me.

Have you read any of the books mentioned above? If so let me know what you thought of them.

Waiting for Wednesday: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Book Synopsis:

“Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic meets the Salem Witch trials in this haunting story about three sisters on a quest for revenge—and how love may be the only thing powerful enough to stop them.

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.”

Why I need it:

The cover of this book was the first thing to catch my attention. It is gorgeous! I love the magical shade of blue and multi-toned images and font. As a designer it caught my eye. The second thing was the first sentence of the blurb, “Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic”, two films I love.

I haven’t read a book set during the Salem Witch Trials. I have read plenty of non fiction about the witch trials but I haven’t read a fiction book set during that time.

The witch trials were a bit of an interest of mine as a kid so I used to collect books on the subject. I have even visited a few witch burning locations in parts of Belgium. I was originally visiting battle fields and it somehow turned into a European witch trial tour at the same time.

Anyway, this sounds like a pretty cool book with a pretty cover, set during a dark and interesting period of history. I can’t wait for it to come out.

The Wicked Deep is scheduled for release on March 6th 2018

Waiting for Wednesday is a weekly meme started by Break the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases, and continued by Wishful Endings

Also don’t forget, I am still open to questions for my upcoming 300 Follower Q&A.

ReReading Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask

“Face to Face with a Nightmare…

How ugly is Carly Beth’s Halloween mask? It’s so ugly that it almost scared her little brother to death. So terrifying that even her friends are totally freaked out by it. It’s the best Halloween mask ever. It’s everything Carly Beth hoped it would be. And more. Maybe too much more. Because Halloween is almost over. And Carly Beth is still wearing that special mask…”

We are back on the Goosebumps nostalgia train with a story we probably should have covered at Halloween, The Haunted Mask.

I hate to admit it but I don’t remember reading this one as a kid. I remember the merchandise. Those voice changing creepy masks that were all over the place in the 90s. They were pretty cool, and unlike the real mask in the story, they came off.

The idea of a Halloween mask that refuses to come off is quite scary. Imagine how claustrophobic that would feel, especially if it is one of those full head covering rubber masks. It would get stuffy, warm and suffocating. If this was an adult novel you could probably play those points up very well, but this is a novel for primary school children so it isn’t scary at all. I don’t even think it would be scary for children, unless a child had a particular fear of things covering their face.

The idea of this book was fun but I can say this is probably the least enjoyable Goosebumps book I have read so far. The main character was a cowardly brat and everyone else in the story was a bit obnoxious. I actually felt sorry for the antagonist who sold her the mask because I would have given that brat a cursed mask to teach her a lesson. The main characters in Goosebumps books are supposed to be relatable so I guess this book was written for the brats of the world.

Even with a bratty main character this book would still be a fitting read for most young children. It is fairly short, an easy read and not scary in the slightest. It is just the right level of creepy to make it a typical Goosebumps novel. Also the whole story takes place on Halloween night so maybe put it away for a festive read next year.

So, do you remember reading The Haunted Mask when you were a kid? What Goosebumps book gave you nightmares as a kid?

The Blogger Recognition Award

I have been nominated by the brilliant Kiersten @ Once Upon a Spine. (Go check her out, you wont regret it) The Blogger Recognition Award is to highlight bloggers who put a lot of time and effort into their blogs, gives them a chance to share some tips and share their favourite blogs with their readers.

Once you are nominated, if you wish to accept your nomination, you must follow these rules:

  • Generate a post about the award.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you, and provide a link to their blog.
  • Write a brief story about how your blog began.
  • Provide two pieces of advice to newbie bloggers.
  • Select 15 blogs to nominate.
  • Comment on each nominee’s blog and provide a link to the post that you created about the award.

I am going to break the 15 tags rule. I will just tag people until I cant think of anyone else to tag.

How The Spines Cracked

Once upon a time there was an odd little girl who was on the hunt for a horror novel to read. She loved book blogging and followed all of the famous book youtubers but alas she could not find a single creepy book to read. What was she to do? No one read the books she liked. Sure she liked a lot of the popular books but when Halloween or the urge to read something scary rolled around there were no books to be found. And the last thing she wanted was to read a book about vampires kissing boring teenage girls with no personalities, because that is the sort of monster books the blogs and youtube videos were offering her. So, since no one else was doing it, she decided to start reviewing them herself. She did her homework, scrolling through hours of Goodreads recomendations until she found a pile of books to read and review. She would fill the hole in the blogging world, and maybe she would read a few fun books along the way too.

And she lived creepily ever after.

Tips for New Bloggers

Dont Blog to be Famous

I know we live in a world of professional youtubers and internet fame but don’t start a blog expecting the followers to roll in and for you to be walking the red carpet the following week. That doesn’t happen, and that sort of existence isn’t fun. It is stressful and you end up producing poor quality content. Enjoy blogging for the sake of blogging. You will make lots of friends and you will have a platform to share all of your interests and opinions.

Also people can tell when you are trying too hard. It is off putting and a little embarrassing.
Think Outside the Box

Don’t read the books everyone else is reading, don’t create the same content as everyone else and don’t post things just because they are popular. Be yourself. Sure that other stuff might have an audience but it already has an audience. Create your own thing. Sure it’s ok to like the popular things but don’t be frightened to show the weird stuff you like too.

Life is like Tetris, if you fit in you will disappear.

Be yourself, be weird, and write it down.

The Blogs I’m Nominating

Beware of the Reader

Introverted Book Nerd 

Confessions of a YA Reader

A Reader’s Journey

Bionic Book Worm

Birdie Bookworm

This Is My Truth Now

The Past Due Book Review

Reading 23 Books in a Month? (Update & Week 1 TBR)

So I have to read 23 books to meet my yearly GoodReads reading challenge goal of 100 books. This was originally 24 books but since my last post on this subject I finished another book. I am normally very good at reading constantly but this year I bought a house, adopted a cat and been very busy with work and socialising, so I haven’t been reading as much as I normally would. Apparently 2017 was the year I became stupidly popular. I am usually not that bothered about meeting reading challenge goals but my mum set me this target and I cant let her down.

So I have decided to write a To Read list every week this month to update you on my progress and how I plan to tackle such a high number of books in a month.

This week I will be reading:

The Lord of the Rings (All Three Books)

I hear you: “Spine Cracker, if you have 23 books to read why tackle something huge like Lord of the Rings?”

One word: Audiobooks. If I listen to books while I am working I can keep reading when I am not able to physically sit down and read. Realistically I should be able to listen to one of these a day…I hope. I managed the entirety of The Hobbit last week.

I have read these books before but I have been playing a lot of D&D lately and that has put me in a serious Tolkien mood. Right now I am at the start of the Fellowship of the Ring and they haven’t even left the Shire yet.

Graphic Novels:

Nightwing New 52 and Batman: No Man’s Land (volumes 3 & 4)

These are some graphic novels that I have been wanting to get to for a while, so much so that Nightwing appeared on the TBR for a challenge earlier in the year. Graphic novels are perfect for reading challenges because you can get through one in a single sitting. Both of these have been on my TBR shelf for a while so it will be great to see them finally read.

Also, who doesn’t love Batman?

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I read this book EVERY December without fail! It is also perfect for this challenge because it isn’t very long.

In my mind it isn’t Christmas until I have read a Christmas Carol. It is an odd tradition I came up with for myself years ago. I absolutely love this book and if you haven’t read it yet you have to. It is the holiday season after all.

So my plan is to read 7 books this week. Do you think I can do it?

It doesn’t seem that difficult. I might even throw another book in if I feel like I have the time. I will let you know how it goes next week. I will run out of short books eventually and that is when things will get trickier.

Reads of the Month: November

Can you believe it is December already??

I had a pretty good reading month in November. I read 6 books. Most of which are not relevant to this blog, but I will say this, if you haven’t read The Hobbit go do it.  I am having a bit of a Tolkien reread. Blame D&D.

So anyway, my top three picks for Dark Reads of the Month are…

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

The Orient Express is stranded in the snow and a man is found stabbed to death in a bath tub onboard. Detective Poirot has until the snow clears to solve the case.

This is the first Agatha Christie book I have ever read, and even though I solved the case myself only a few chapters in I still enjoyed it. It was darker than I expected, with backstories involving a child murder and of course the dead body in the bath tub.

This is a bit of a stereotypical murder mystery but those stereotypes have to come from somewhere, and Christie started most of them. I am not sure if I will read more of her books but as a fan of detective stories this was very enjoyable. If you like crime novels this would be a perfect quick and fun read.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Heathers meets The Exorcist. Abby has noticed that her best friend is acting a little strange. She smells, is suddenly cruel and looks very sickly. Could her friend be possessed?

I absolutely LOVED this book. Set in the 1980s, My Best Friend’s Exorcism reads like your typical 80s teen movie with a side of horror thrown in. Even the chapter titles are the names of 80s songs.

This book also isn’t very scary so if you are easily scared maybe check out this horror novel. I will warn you though, it can be pretty gross in parts due to the whole exorcism thing. If you have seen a film with possession in it you will know what I am talking about. It also has sexual moments, animal cruelty and general 80s attitudes to things.

You can read my full review here. 

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball by Laura Ellen Anderson

Amelia Fang is 10 years old and a vampire. She lives with her parents in monster town (basically diet Halloween Town) and has regular adventures with her friends who are also monsters like her. One day a spoiled prince visits her parents’ house and takes her pet pumpkin, Squashie, from her. Amelia has to come up with a plan to get Squashie back.

It has been a long time since I read a children’s novel but I bought this book around Halloween and it had bright orange pages so it magically ended up in my shopping basket.

This was a pretty cute read. It was very simple and clearly meant for child readers. It wasn’t like other children novels that throw in references or cleverness for adult readers. It was a simple kids’ story about a little vampire and her pumpkin. It even had a pretty decent anti-racism and “don’t judge people who are different” subplot to it. The art work is adorable too because it is fully illustrated.

I might not pick up more Amelia Fang books for myself in the future but if I had kids I would happily give them this to read. Perfect reading for tiny people who are discovering books with chapters.

You can read my full review here 

What was the best book you read this month?

Also don’t forget, I am still open to questions for my upcoming 300 Follower Q&A.