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:

tumblr_oy1jxxjmrm1wzypxlo1_500

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.

15589

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?

Advertisements

The Alternative Girl Tag

Not book related but I saw this tag floating around Youtube and the blogging world and I thought it looked fun. I am not going to tag anyone in this so if anyone wants to give it a go feel free.

1. Describe your style

Trad goth with a hint of Victorian. 80% of my wardrobe is black and everything else is either deep red, purple or that one tweed coat I own. I wear a lot fishnet, band shirts, ripped jeans and long flowing skirts. I am also a big fan of layered jewellery.

 


2. How did you start wearing different clothes, hair, piercings, etc…

10-11. I started very young. I began wearing all black at the end of primary school and when I was given my first cd player around that time I also received a pile of The Cure cds. I was an odd kid. My hair has been dyed black since I was 11. And I used to do all of my clothes shopping in the Tammy Girl Halloween range.

Does anyone else remember Tammy Girl?

3. Do your parents accept your style

I have goth parents so they would be a bit hypocritical if they hated my style, wouldn’t they?

I did butt heads with my dad over clothes a bit when I was a teenager. It wasn’t because I was goth, it was because I was wearing hardly any clothes. Life tip: Dont buy clothes from sex shops when you are 16.

4. Have you ever suffered bullying for being different?

Nope! I was bullied for everything but that funnily enough. Mostly homophobic bullying.

5. What was the most outrageous look you’ve ever had?

My most outrageous look would probably be the one I currently wear to clubs. I go to a lot of goth, alternative and 80s nights so I dress for the occasion. Lots of backcombed hair, ripped clothes, eye makeup and my trusty patch jacket.

6. Do you have or had any tattoos or piercings?

I have 7 ear piercings and I am getting a tattoo sleeve done next year for my 30th birthday. I am also planning on getting a David Bowie tattoo on my chest before 2017 is over, so that will be very soon.

7. What would you say to people who are suffering or being judged for the way they look right now?

Alright, baby bats, sit down and I will give you a few pointers. These are things I have picked up from my 20 years on the scene:

1.Listen to your parents. It might suck and they can be dumb but listen to them. Talk to them to find out exactly what it is they don’t like. If they don’t like satanic symbols, don’t wear them. If they are worried about you falling into the wrong crowd, let them meet your friends and do well in school. Find out exactly what they have an issue with and work on it together.

2. School ends. You might get bullied now for being a bit odd but school will end. You will grow up and never see those people again. Just focus on being successful.

3. Sometimes life happens. It might seem cool to dress weird all the time but sometimes that just isn’t possible. You will have to tone down your look for work or job interviews but that doesn’t make you any less who you are. It just makes you a more wealthy version of you who can afford awesome clothes to wear on the weekends.

4. Have a sense of humour and don’t take yourself too seriously. If someone says you look like a vampire laugh because guess what, you are dressed like a vampire. Not call comments are mean. Make friends with people who are not alternative and learn to take a joke. I come from a family of alternative people and they still make jokes about how I look dead. Lighten up.

bannerMe

Do you like when I write about this stuff? I have been tempted to do the occasional post on music or fashion. If you have any questions or any requests please let me know.

Also I am still gathering questions for my 300 Follower Q&A

5 Reasons Why I Love Horror Novels

This post was inspired by a comment from Beware of the Reader   on my 5 Reasons Why I Blog post last week. She isn’t a fan of horror but was interested in why I found it, not only enjoyable, but enjoyable enough to spend my time reading and reviewing horror novels. Yes, I also review thriller and generally dark novels but horror seems to be the marmite of book genres and the one I get asked about the most. People either love it or hate it, but I don’t think it is possible to hate an entire genre, there is always something for everyone.

So let me try to convince you by explaining why I love the horror genre.

1. Human Monsters

In my experience the best horror novels do not have an entirely supernatural villain. A human villain or a villain with human motives makes the novel relateable. It makes it scary. Human villains are the worst because they could actually exist, or in the case of many “based on a true story” novels like The Girl Next Door, they did actually exist. Ghosts, ghouls and all things creepy are brilliant but there is nothing scarier than a human monster.

2. The Atmosphere

Have you ever spent a cold, dark night with a storm rattling around outside reading a creepy book? No? Then you are missing out. I think as a reader you haven’t truly lived until you have read Frankenstein, Dracula, Poe or some other classic horror novel during a thunderstorm. It is even better if you do it by candle light.

So next time the weather is awful gather your blankets, pick up a classic horror novel, get a cup of tea, curl up and get reading. Also open the window a little so you can hear the storm better. It is one of the best reading experiences.

3. Something For Everyone

People tend to think of horror as a one track pony but that isn’t true at all.

Don’t like ghosts and supernatural things? Ok, find a horror novel based around regular people. Not comfortable with gore? Fine! Research your novel a bit to see if you can handle it or read a psychological horror. Easily scared? Easy! Read a YA horror or find a book about something that doesn’t scare you.

There are so many different ways to frighten someone so naturally the horror genre has a large variety of fears to choose from. I think a perfect example of this is the short story collection Dark Water. The entire collection is based around the theme of water and covers every possible fear with just water being featured somewhere in the story.

I plan to write guide someday to help people find the right horror novel with recommendations of course.

4. The Backstories

My favourite part of anything horror related is the backstory. What made all of the events happen? What horrible thing is the driving source behind the characters and the story? The explanation is always my favourite. There is usually a brilliant flashback or a plot twist thrown in. I love it and it keeps me hooked.

Also what I don’t understand is that I have seen so many people write “why I love YA/Fantasy/dystopian” lists and have a point on their list about loving the dark moments, and then on another post saying they hate horror. Clearly you don’t hate horror. You are just turning down an entire genre of that thing you just said you love. Maybe you just haven’t found the right book.

5. Morbid Curiosity

Have you ever read a story in the news that is tragic and terrible but find yourself wondering what exactly happened? Sure you will get the jist of it in the news but you just want the gory details. This is what drew me to the world of horror in the first place.

My introduction to the horror genre was when I watched the 1931 Frankenstein film as a small child. My grandfather made horror film props so the only thing to watch in his house was Hammer and Universal horror films. I don’t know how many of you have seen it but there is a scene in Frankenstein were the monster meets a little girl and they spend time throwing flowers into water and watching them float. They run out of flowers and the monster picks up the little girl and throws her into the water to see if she would float like the flowers. She drowns. This scene filled 5 year old me with so much curiosity, so much so that it stuck in my head forever. I learned two things: A little girl like me can die (something which had never occurred to me before) and the monster that did it wouldn’t understand what it did. The monster was innocent. I loved it so much that the following Halloween I dressed up as the Bride of Frankenstein.

I think when it comes to scary stories, especially those with characters similar to ourselves, we can relate so much we end up hooked. It makes us address our own mortality or our own humanity if we relate to the villain.

So these are my reasons for loving the horror genre. Tell me your favourite genre below or, if you are a fan of horror, tell me why you love it. Or heck, tell why you don’t like horror novels. I would love to read your reasons.

Life Updates: Cats and Discount Skulls

I had a big list of book related post ideas but then I realised that I haven’t just spoken to you guys in a while. So…Hi! Hows it going? Good? Good.

So what have I been up to? Well I have some new skulls!

Over  the last month or so I have been doing some skull buying experiments. You might recognise the human skull from photos that appear on this blog and my Instagram (@Belle_and_books), so he isn’t new, but the two next to him are my two skull buying experiments.

The human skull is called Fred by the way. It is also the name of the skull who is littered all over this blog.

I was inspired by the Youtube series Gothic Homemaking and their episodes on skulls and taxidermy to do some of my own shopping around. Which would look better, a fake resin skull or a real taxidermy skull? So I set out to find one of each. The bird skull I found in an oddities market and was being sold by a vegan taxidermist who sources all of her dead animals ethically. She was someone I went to school with so she cut me a deal since the bird’s beak was a little damaged. (You can follow the taxidermist and all of her morbid works on Instagram at @FeralWitchJewellery tell her I said hello) The cat skull isn’t as interesting. I bought it from Amazon for £5. It is entirely fake. I cant decide which I like better but the cat skull is a little more sturdy because you know…bird bones are small.

In bigger and more exciting news: This Sunday, as in two days from now, I AM GETTING A CAT!

A little black kitten is rolling into my life on the first of October. She is a 9 week old rescue cat who I have affectionately named Mort. And before you ask, yes that is a Terry Pratchett reference. I pity any mice that wander into my house in the future because I have a cat who is somewhat called death.

I have been wanting a cat for years and now I am properly settled into my new home my partner and I decided that it was finally time to get the cat that I have always wanted. We went to a shelter last weekend where we were shown their newest arrivals; a cage of black kittens who had recently been in foster care. They had been left at the shelter in a box with no mother when they were very tiny so they had to be raised by a foster. This means that Mort will forever be a house cat because she had no mummy to teach her cat stuff.

I think the people at the shelter were a little biased because they had other new kittens who were different colours but she took one look at me and steered us toward the black cats. Aw well, I wanted a black one anyway. We picked her over her siblings because while I was talking to the shelter staff she reached out of her cage and kept grabbed my long black cardigan. I think she adopted me a little bit.

Maybe I will write another update post about the day I go to collect her. Lately I have been busy stocking up on kitten toys and supplies.

Now I am off to take a shower while I waiting on a pizza to arriving at my house. Have a good evening and if you have a cat give me some cat parenting tips, I will need them.

Also if you want to know what I am up to when I am not blogging about books or you want to follow my library unpacking process follow me on Instagram @Belle_and_books because I kinda live there, or check out my GoodReads to see what I am currently reading.

Oh and if you are in a morbid, possibly Halloweeny mood, I recommend checking out Ask a Mortician on Youtube. I have been watching her videos all day.

On New Hair and Being Busy

I have sucked at two things this month: Reading and Blogging. The problem with running a book blog is that it gets a little difficult to blog when you havent really had time to read anything. So I thought I would make some time to sit and update you all on things while I enjoy a pasta salad. (Well, somewhat enjoy because it is making me feel rather sick) I think it is important to just chat with you guys sometimes rather than spending all my time throwing books at your heads.

The main reason for not blogging and reading lately is that I have simply been busy. Over the last three weeks I have had a convention to go to, (which takes up a whole weekend, involves preparing cosplays and generally leaves you very exhausted after), an event at work,(I work in digital marketing so you can see why I would be busy when a company plans an event) and I had a concert to attend yesterday. I went to see Green Day live and it was brilliant. ….Even though I had a full grown man dropped on my head at one point and my hearing is a bit messed up today.

Another reason for not blogging or reading is that I just haven’t felt like it. Being so busy is tiring so I just don’t feel like spending my free time reading. What free time I have I spend it fighting the urge to lay face down on the floor and simply not move. I also fear that I have read myself into a reading slump. I dont know about you but sometimes I have brilliant reading highs where I finish multiple books in a week and spend all of my time book shopping, but then I end up crashing into a reading slump. I will get over it. I always do. I haven’t stopped reading entirely but I have mostly been reading graphic novels.

On a vain and completely irrelevant note, I have had another big change lately. I shaved half of my head!

Don’t worry, I didn’t do it myself. I went to a professional stylist who specialises in alternative hair. It is a big deal for me because I never change my hair style. I have worn it loose and long for probably 10 years now. I barely wear it up. People usually try to deter me from cutting my hair so this time I didn’t tell anyone I was getting it done. I just did it. My hair is naturally black and silky so people hate it being cut and since shaving half of it off I have had to listen to a lot of “Oh no all of that lovely dark hair is gone” in various forms. They like the style, just not the idea of my hair being shaved off. Aw well, hair grows back. The important part is that I love it. The short side feels like a puppy when I stroke it.

So how have you been? Tell me something exciting that has happened to you this month. I would love to hear it.

Book Haul: Come Book Shopping with Me (+OOTD, MOTD and Book Porn)

This is a blog idea I have been dwelling on for a while. What if I combined my love of books, fashion, makeup and taking general pretty pictures into one big post? It would be like taking you all with me in a way. So, lets go book shopping.

Every month I go book shopping after I get paid. It is a heavy duty operation with lots of planning. I set a budget, decide on what secondhand bookshops I will be visiting and write out a list of every book I am looking for, usually I print two copies so if anyone comes with me they can help. A lot of work goes into one book shopping trip.

The Haul


I only bought 6 books on this months book hunt. I usually shop in second hand bookshops so I usually get larger book hauls for my budget.

I bought:

Soulless and Heartless by Gail Carriger

This is a steampunk, Victorian paranormal series. It kept popping up on my recommended lists online so I bought the first two books in the series.

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

I have been searching for this book for years. My dad has been harassing me to read it, so I am glad to finally own a copy so I can shut him up.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

All I know about this book is that it contains Dracula and people keep telling me it is good, so naturally I snatched it up when I saw it on a shelf.

The Call by Peadar O’Guilin

An Irish horror written by an Irish person about Irish fairies, sign me the hell up! I have seen books with similar ideas written by Americans and they always miss the mark when it comes to Irish folklore. So as a Irish person this book has me excited. Fairies have proper horror potential.

Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis

This is a slight sequel to American Psycho. This was recommended to me by a friend and she has awesome book taste so I am excited to finally own a copy of this.
bannerMe

Makeup of the Day and Outfit of the Day

My everyday style is usually described as alternative or “goth”. I wear black 90% of the time and listen to goth bands like The Cure and Souixse and the Banshees, so maybe there is something behind what people label me. I dunno. Anyway, lets talk makeup.

It was a hot day on Saturday so I toned down my usual makeup look. Normally I am a fan of dark lips, contouring and lots of eyeshadow, but on a hot day most of that stuff will run down my face, especially if I am walking around a lot. NYX has only became available in Belfast so I am a little addicted at the moment and a lot of my makeup is from there.

The makeup I wear:

NYX eyeshadow in “Raven”.
NYX eyeshadow in “Diamond Dust”
Collection 2000 liquid eyeliner
Max Factor 3-in-1 foundation in the palest shade possible. (I dont try to look pale, this just matches my corpse coloured skin tone)
Collection 2000 pressed powder in “porcelain”
NXY liquid cream matte lipstick in “Rome”.

The clothes:

Since it was a hot day I went for my current favourite dress which is my new plain black maxi dress. Outside of this blog I write about affording alternative clothing on a budget, so since I planned to snap a photo for those posts I wore an outfit I bought almost entirely from Primark.
Black Maxi dress: Primark
Corset Belt: Primark
Black Lace Shawl: Primark
Boots: New Look.

My entire outfit cost almost £20 since I managed to get my boots for FREE a few months ago.

On Saturday I visited two of my favourite secondhand bookshops: Oxfam Books and Keats and Chapman. The latter I have written a few blog posts about on here. I love both of the shops in their own way. Keats and Chapman is beautiful and a perfect place to go if you want to hunt through lots of books for a long time. Oxfam Books is better at organising their books so things are easier to find and they have recently reduced all of their book prices.

I snapped a few pretty pictures for you while I was out so enjoy some book porn.





So, do you like this type of blog post and would like to see more in the future? This might be a book blog but I don’t see why I can’t include the occasional other interest, especially if it is some way book related. Also let me know if you have read any of the book I bought.

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 childhood reads

Two things made up my childhood: Animals and books. There were dozens of other things but those two are the most consistent and defined. I started learning to read when I was three years old. My mother was a stay at home parent who grew bored and decided to make teaching her toddler to read a pet project. We couldn’t afford books so we would walk to the library once a week to pick out things we wanted to read. It was a grand Victorian building that still stands to this day, though now it has been rebuilt since parts of it were blown up during my childhood. Good old, Northern Irish Troubles, not even libraries were immune on bad days. The library was split in two, adults to the left and the children’s section to the right, so when my mother and I walked through the doors we would part ways. I would find her again when I found the three books I wanted to borrow, because 3 year old me had her own library card. I was like Matilda, except I had a mother who loved me. Maybe I will revisit that library and write about it some day. I have always wanted to.

Starting school brought along more books and bigger words. Due to my head start in reading my teachers had to bring in books from the classrooms of older students to keep me entertained. Nothing in the classroom library was challenging enough so my mother complained to the school and that started the importing in of books from the years above to keep me happy. I didn’t have many friends in primary school, and the few I had were dyslexic and spent their lunch times in special extra lessons. So I spent my lunch time play times sitting on a wall with my back against a cherry blossom tree reading while the rest of my small school played around me. I was never lonely or bored, I had fictional characters for company.

So these are my top 5 childhood reads.

All Dr Suess Books

The beginning is always a good place to start. My mother taught me to read using Dr Seuss. I still remember walking into the children’s section of the library and seeing the shelf with every Dr Suess book lined up on it. They had a magnificent collection. I would always lift one and gradually I read my way through the entire series by the time I was five. Of course I dont remember the first book I ever read, but according to my mother it was Fox in Socks. Green Eggs and Ham is always one of my favourites though, and I quote it quite often.

 

Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl

This was one of the first two novels I ever read, and the reason why I picked out this one over the first novel is that I enjoyed this book more. I read Fantastic Mr Fox DOZENS of times. I read it so often that I could fly through it in a single bedtime sitting. I adored the main character and his cleverness, how disgusting the villains were and the morbidness of Mr Fox getting his tail shot off. This book made my childhood and it was one of the few books I actually owned. I used to keep it under my pillow for regular nightly rereads, at least until my parents bought me Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to give me something new to read.

Tailypo by Joanna Galdone

I lost a month’s worth of sleep because this book. A source of nightmares isn’t something you expect from someones Top Childhood Books, but this book marked my childhood so much that I just had to put it on this list. This book was so scary that children in my school were daring each other to read it. You might remember me mentioning a similar thing about Welcome to Dead House but I actually read this one at the time. I have reread this picture book since and I didn’t loose any sleep over it but it still creeped me out, though that could be my inner child telling me to burn the bloody thing and throw the ashes into the sea. For a month I just kept picturing the Tailypo monster sitting at the foot of my bed waiting to rip my insides out.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My first Sherlock Holmes novel. I first read this book when I was 9. I found a battered old copy of it in a charity shop and begged my mother to buy it for me. Before I got my hands on the book I was OBSESSED with Basil of Baker Street and the Granada series of Sherlock Holmes. (Look up Jeremy Brett if you want a brilliant adaptation to watch) Do you know how small children make their parents watch the Little Mermaid or Frozen over and over until everyone hates it? Well, for little me that was Basil of Baker Street. I was odd. Screw princesses I wanted to be a Sherlockian mouse. It started a lifetime Sherlock Holmes addiction and naturally once I was old enough to read at that level I picked up The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I still have my original copy of this book and it is even more battered than it was when I first bought it due to its many trips in my school bag. It even has childish scribbles inside where I ticked off the stories I had read as I progressed through the book multiple times. This is one of those books you can look back on and say formed who you are as a person.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban by JK Rowling

I think Harry Potter is going to be on most people’s lists.

I read this book after all of the books listed above. The Prisoner of Askaban was the first Harry Potter book I read. The series wasn’t popular yet and I didn’t know that the other books existed, or that I had to read them in order. I still remember the day it was bought for me. My grandmother decided I had earned a treat and told me to go into a nearby bookshop and pick out anything I wanted. I stood in children’s novel section reading the backs of various books. This one had wizards and murderers in it and a big scary dog on the back, I was sold. I flew through it multiple times before finally getting my hands on the first and second books. The fourth didn’t exist yet and I had to wait a year or two before it did.

I dont think I can say that Harry Potter was my childhood like some people claim because I already had other books that did that job before Harry showed up in my life. I can say that it has formed my social life though because all of my friends now and my partner are Harry Potter fans. We all know our Hogwarts houses, wizarding careers (since we are all too old for Hogwarts), buy each other wands as gifts and even travelled to America together to visit Harry Potter Universal Studios. It has given me so many memories and lifetime experiences.

And to answer any house and career questions: I am a Slytherin, and I work for the Mystery of Magic dealing with abused and illegally traded magical creatures.

This was a bit of a rambling post but I hope you enjoyed it. What were your favourite childhood reads? Or even better, what would your Harry Potter wizarding career be?

Top 5 Tuesdays are hosted by Bionic Book Worm