Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland.

Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland written by Karen Ward and illustrated by Paula McGloin. 

A literary review by Kate O’Brien. 

Published by Beehive Books, Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland introduces readers to legendary figures from Irish mythology. This book is filled with fascinating tales. 

This book is a delightful read, and Ward’s stories are brought to life by McGloin’s striking artwork. 

This book introduces readers to nine Goddesses. Danu, Gráinne, The Cailleach, Brigid, Áine, Aisling, Boann, The Morrigan, and Ériu. Each of these mythical Goddesses are unique and powerful in their own way. Each and every one of these figures is a force of nature. 

Danu, The Mother Goddess, is the first of all the Irish deities. Danu is the symbol of nature and fertility. Gráinne, The Maiden Goddess, is a determined girl who knows her own mind. The Cailleach, The Crone Goddess, is a protective and powerful force. The Crone Goddess brings the winter, but she also protects those in her care. Brigid, Goddess Of Spring, is the patron saint of Ireland. Brigid is the bringer of spring. Áine, Sun Goddess Of Love is celebrated at the summer solstice. She is a force that brings the harvest, and her sunlight ensures ripe crops. 

Aisling, Goddess Of Vision, she inspires all who see her. Aisling’s presence is a sign of hope, and it was believed that if she appeared before you, it was to bring an important message. 

Boann is the River Goddess who wouldn’t be refused wisdom, instead her power grew and grew. The Morrigan is the Goddess Of Death and Prophecy. The Morrigan is a seer of death, she predicts the future, and she encourages heroics. Last but not least is Ériu, the Sovereignty Goddess Of Ireland. She symbolises Ireland as a land of abundance. 

This book brings these Goddesses to life, and celebrates a variety of abilities and strengths. 

This book talks about life and death, about nature and the seasons, about love and revenge, and about the different stages of a woman’s life. The book also contains a lovely introduction, one that welcomes readers into the rich history of Ireland. Ancient Ireland was a place filled with magic and I must say that Ward and McGloin captured this sense of wonder on every page. 

Also included in this book is a glossary that younger readers may find helpful if they’re coming across some new words, (Older readers may find this helpful too. We are never too old to learn something new!), and there’s a beautiful map of ancient Ireland too, making this text truly something to treasure. 

Ward flawlessly writes about Ireland’s history as well as capturing the fiery, passionate, intelligent, powerful spirits of these figures and McGloin’s artwork is striking. The colours are rich and vivid, and her illustrations have brought the vastness of these figures to the forefront of every page. The illustrations capture the person, and their strength, as well as incorporating beautiful aspects of Ireland’s nature. I read this book from cover to cover several times over, but I also spent ages just flicking through the pages, looking at all of the pictures. There’s one or two that I would love to have framed on my wall! The stories are fascinating, and the artwork is eye-catching. That’s a brilliant combination if you ask me. 

If you’re a fan of Irish mythology then this book belongs in your collection, and if you’re looking for an introduction to Irish mythology and wonder, look no further! 

I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book, and I think it would make a beautiful present, remember Christmas is right around the corner. 

Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland is a richly magical read and a stunningly visual treat. 

I would recommend this book for anyone ages 8+. 

I would like to thank the Beehive Books team for sending me a copy of this book to review. 

Important Note – This is not an ad.

This is not sponsored.

This is not a paid review. 

All thoughts and opinions shared are entirely my own.

You can order your very own copy of Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland written by Karen Ward and illustrated by Paula McGloin on

Social Links: @katelovesliterature  @drkarenwardtherapist @paulamcgloin 

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing another book published by Beehive Books,  The Song of Brigid’s Cloak, written by Catherine Ann Cullen and illustrated by Katya Swan. 

You can read my review by clicking this link  


More Social Links: @catherineanncullen @katya_swan_illustrations

November by Elizabeth Stoddard: A Poem for the Season.

November by Elizabeth Stoddard. 

A poetry discussion by Kate O’Brien. 

Over the past few days, I’ve been reading different poems that have all been inspired in some way by the month of November. 

I’ve said before that I find autumn to be a very inspiring and evocative time of year. 

It is a time of year that seems to inspire descriptions so naturally. Colours seem more vivid and there seems to be a heightened awareness about our surroundings as autumn and winter bring so many physical changes. The nights grow longer, leaves turn gold and red before they fall, leaving the trees completely bare. Writers approach autumn in many different ways. 

Some describe it as a melancholy time, some focus on all of the changes that are happening in nature. Some writers reflect on the cycle of the seasons and comment on how we must lose the leaves in autumn so that everything can bloom again in spring. Some writers love autumn and they write about the beauty that can be found in crisp skies and golden leaves. 

A poem that I came across recently is November by Elizabeth Stoddard. 

It is a short poem, only four stanzas long, and the poem seems to capture everything that I’ve mentioned above. In the poem, Stoddard highlights her fondness for the season, she states that “autumn charms my melancholy mind.” (Stoddard, November, Line 4.)

The second stanza references the changes in scenery, the cycle that nature must follow. 

“The year must perish; all the flowers are dead.” (Stoddard, Line 6.) 

The third stanza discusses the excitement in the air that autumn brings because autumn leads us into the festive season, which is why many people like it. She writes “Still, autumn ushers in the Christmas cheer, The holly-berries and the ivy-tree.” (Stoddard, Lines 9-10.)

The final stanza is what stood out to me. It caught my attention because I found it to be very poignant. Stoddard talks about the stillness of autumn, the quietness of it. It can be a reflective time after all, when one is staring out at grey skies. 

Stoddard’s closing line says “The naked, silent trees have taught me this, —

The loss of beauty is not always loss!” (Stoddard, Lines 15-16.) 

This line is what stayed with me. I find that there is something very lovely about it. 

This is a very straightforward poem in my opinion. Stoddard uses everyday, easy language. 

Nothing is overcomplicated or hard to follow. The poem is short, simple, and yet there is something very charming about it. I think Stoddard captures the emptiness that autumn can bring, but this emptiness does not have to be a bad thing. 

I find that there is something beautiful about grey skies. I find looking out at bare trees and grey skies very peaceful. The emptiness is beautiful in its own way. I always look forward to a new year, there is something very exciting about it. I think I feel this way because I like looking at the new year as an opportunity for fresh starts and new chapters, but this feeling cannot exist without autumn. I like taking time to reflect, to appreciate all that I have and all that I have done. 

The leaves falling almost symbolise the end of one chapter, we say goodbye to the old, to the year that has nearly gone by, before embracing the new. 

The naked, silent trees are peaceful. They are beautiful, and soon they will have new leaves again. That is autumn. It is a time of change. It is no wonder that so many writers enjoy focusing on the season in their works. 

If you have not read November by Elizabeth Stoddard, I would recommend it. 

It is short and sweet, but rather poignant as the poem captures something that is hard to explain, although I feel that I have made a very good attempt at explaining it. 

If you’re not really a poetry lover, but you’re trying to read poetry more often, this is a poem that I would recommend because it is so short. It is an easy read, and this kind of poem does not require readers to have an in-depth understanding of poetic, literary devices. It is simply a charming read. 

I read this poem on

“November by Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard.” By Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard – Famous Poems, Famous Poets. – All Poetry,

Have you ever read this poem? Do you have any autumn inspired poems that you love?

The Heart and the Bottle: Grief and Hope in Children’s Literature.

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers. 

A review by Kate O’Brien.

The beginning of November is a time when many of us think about those who we have lost. 

It feels as though I am stating the obvious when I say that grieving can be a very difficult experience. Grief is a very complex feeling as many people grieve differently, and it is almost impossible to know how you will handle grief until something happens that makes you grieve.

Grief is a prominent theme in many, many works of literature as grief can be expressed in many different ways. When looking at children’s literature, the question of how does one approach the subject of grief with children is a difficult one. 

Unfortunately, children are not immune to bad experiences and loss, so to pretend that children are not impacted by grief would be unfair and unrealistic, however, grief is a complex feeling and so it is a complex topic to talk about in children’s fiction. 

I think it is important that children do see grief in stories, especially because children who are grieving themselves can see something that they relate to, and a story can have the power to be comforting. I also think that it is important that the topic is handled carefully, because while it is important to acknowledge that children do suffer loss and they do grieve too, it is also important that the information is given to children in a sensitive and age appropriate way, so that the story does provide comfort rather than cause more upset. 

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers is a really beautiful story about grief. 

I love this book. I cried the first time I read it because I feel that it depicts grief in a very realistic way, without being too gloomy. The story does not diminish the impact of grief, it does show how much grief can impact one’s life, but there is hope and I think having that hope is very important. 

The story is about a little girl who is filled with wonder and curiosity. Her father fuels this curiosity by reading her lots of stories and answering all of her questions and encouraging her to explore the world and all of its wonders. The girl and her father are very close, so you can imagine how upset the girl was when one day she came downstairs only to find her father’s chair empty. 

That empty chair says everything. 

The little girl’s heart is heavy with grief, and she never wants anything to hurt her heart ever again so she puts it in a glass bottle to keep it safe. This works for a while, the girl feels nothing, but as she gets older, she learns that wrapping away your heart means that while you block out the grief, you’re also blocking out joys. When the girl decides it is time to take her heart back, she finds that it is not so easy to take it back out of the bottle. 

I love this story. I love how true it is. When you build a wall around your heart, it is extremely hard to knock it down again. It is hard to be vulnerable, it is hard to put yourself out there. It is hard to risk another heartbreak, but putting ourselves out there, caring about things, caring about others, loving others, that is where we find joy, but allowing our hearts to love and find joy, means that we risk grief. The risk is worth it though. 

When the little girl locked her heart away, she locked away all of her questions, her curiosity, her wonder, and she no longer took any notice of anything. Instead of locking away her grief, she became consumed by it because locking away your heart means that you are closing yourself off from life. The girl grows up and when she is a grown woman, she sees another little girl who is full of wonder, and this girl reminds the woman of all she has lost, prompting her to want to take her heart back. 

Despite the story highlighting how what started off as a coping mechanism slowly became something that was hurting the girl even more, demonstrating how much grief can consume a person, overall I found it to be a very hopeful tale. One that is about finding happiness again after a loss, and how even though it is difficult, it is worth it. 

Happiness can be found again, it does not mean that we are forgetting about those whom we miss. The little girl’s father always encouraged her wonder, and he would not want her to go through life without experiencing any joys. He would not want her to lose her curiosity. 

The first time I read this story, it made me very emotional and it still does. I still tear up a little when the girl takes her heart back. 

Taking your heart back does not mean that grief ends automatically, and it does not mean that you no longer think about those you miss, but taking your heart back means that you are allowing yourself to live fully again. You’re allowing yourself to experience joy and wonder again, and that is a very hopeful thing. 

If you haven’t read The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers, I would highly recommend it. It is a very poignant read. If you have dealt with grief, I think this book is very relatable and very comforting, and if you have not experienced grief, then this book shines a light on how much grief can impact someone, so it is important to be kind and considerate as you never know how someone can be struggling, even if they pretend that everything is fine. 

Jeffers handles grief in a poignant and beautiful way, and I am very glad that I came across this story.

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.

October isn’t over yet and I’ve decided that Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven is a brilliant poem to read in the lead up to Halloween.

If you’re not a fan of Poe or you are unfamiliar with his work, I would recommend The Raven, because it is one of Poe’s most well-known poems. I would suggest that this poem is Poe’s most famous work, simply because of how often the poem gets parodied.

I recently watched a Halloween episode of The Simpsons. It was one of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes, season 2, episode 3. The third section of this particular episode is an adaptation of Poe’s The Raven. It was fantastic. If you want to be introduced to this piece in a very fun way, then I would absolutely recommend this episode. The “Treehouse of Horror” episodes of The Simpsons are always great fun. I am a casual watcher, so I had never seen this particular episode before, so I was happily surprised to see that The Raven was featured. Hearing the poem again in this episode reminded me of just how much I enjoy the work of Edgar Allan Poe.

The Raven was published in 1845 and it is made up of eighteen stanzas.

I really love this poem because I think it is a piece that really demonstrates Poe’s writing style. It is no secret that I am a fan of gothic literature. I enjoy the way gothic literature subverts expectations and builds suspense. Gothic stories often take place in very vivid settings. To sum up; I love gothic literature because of how evocative it can be.

It has been said that Edgar Allan Poe is a brilliant example of a gothic writer. I would have to say that I agree with this statement because Poe’s writing often explores themes of death and despair, while also being on the verge of terrifying. Poe also uses repetition to build up a sense of urgency in his pieces, alongside utilizing descriptions to create very vivid pictures with his words.

The Raven is a poem that encapsulates all of the above mentioned characteristics. The poem is about a man who is desperately lonely and heartbroken after the death of the love of his life. On a cold winter night, a raven taps on the window and on the door. He opens the window, letting the bird in, but he slowly becomes driven mad by this raven.

The raven seems to be talking back to the man, although all the bird can croak out is the word “nevermore”. Now one can ask if the bird is actually croaking out that word? One interpretation could be that the man is imagining the bird is responding to him, or one could imagine that perhaps this bird is somehow communicating with this man.

I would say that this poem is about a man who is descending deeper and deeper into sadness and despair after the death of his wife. He thinks about how the bird will soon leave the room, leaving him, just as his loved ones have left him. The man goes on to question if he will someday be reunited with his love Lenore, but all the bird says is “nevermore”.

The man becomes more and more distraught by the raven’s response. His sadness turns to anger as he gets angry at the bird constantly saying “nevermore”. The man is driven mad by the raven, and he decides the raven is a thing of evil.

In all of my readings about The Raven, something that I have come across many times is that apparently Poe himself stated that the raven was a symbol of grief, and he felt that a raven suited the dark theme of the poem.

One could also say that this poem is a gothic romance, as it is about a man who is utterly devastated by the loss of his love, clearly showing that his love for Lenore remained just as strong after she died. He hopes to be reunited with her someday. His grief drives him so mad that he asks a raven questions that the bird cannot possibly answer.

The Raven is a beautiful, musical poem despite being so very sad. This poem is a lovely one to read aloud, and I would say that this is due to Poe’s frequent use of alliteration and repetition.

Theory Time.

Poe has used trochaic octameter in The Raven.

What does this mean?

This means that each poetic meter has eight trochaic feet in each line, and each foot contains a stressed syllable that is followed by an unstressed syllable. This is a meter that is not used often, however I would say that the rhythm it creates, paired with Poe’s alliteration and repetition is why this poem became so famous. It is musical. It flows off the tongue beautifully, and you can’t help but become passionate when you say it aloud, because you become urgent, just like the man does.

I think that the poem is very evocative because there is a lot of onomatopoeia used by Poe.

Onomatopoeia is when a word sounds like what it describes  – “buzz,” “whoosh,” “splat.” These are words that are great examples of onomatopoeia.

I would argue that Poe uses quite straightforward language. The poem is easy to follow, however the repetition of very similar words can leave the reader slightly tongue twisted on the first attempt.  

The Raven is an evocative, gothic poem that makes for a very eerie, moving read. It is an especially brilliant poem to turn to when one is studying poetry as this poem allows readers to analyse several different poetic literary devices such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, repetition, imagery, etc. as mentioned above. It is one thing to talk about literary devices, but it is really helpful when you can see how a writer has used these techniques to create something very beautiful and very musical.

If you’ve never read The Raven then I would highly recommend that you do. It is a brilliant October read.

Do you have a favourite poem? Let me know.

Kate xo.

Irish Book Week: Irish Books & Irish Authors.

It is #IrishBookWeek! 

Ireland not only has a rich, literary history, but Ireland is also home to some extremely talented & creative writers. 

This week is Irish Book Week and if you follow me on instagram @katelovesliterature, then you will already know that everyday this week I have been recommending a book that is written by an Irish author or written in Irish. 

If you don’t follow me Instagram – you should, there’s lots of fun posts happening on my page all the time – but if you don’t follow me there that’s okay because I am going to list my recommendations right here on


The Dog Who Lost His Bark. 

Written by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by PJ Lynch, & published by Walker Books, this book is a heartwarming tale about a boy & his dog. These two need each other & they get each other through hard times. I would recommend this book for anyone aged 9+. It is important to be aware that there are some mentions of animal mistreatment that more sensitive readers may struggle to read. Overall, this story is warm & up-lifting.

I’d highly recommend it. 


Irish Fairy Tales. 

Written by James Stephens, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, & published by Macmillan & Co., this book is a stunning collection of legendary tales, all set in medieval Ireland. If you’re a fan of Irish mythology, this is a fantastic read. This book is a rich addition to any bookshelf. 


Beag Bídeach 

Written by Sadhbh Devlin, illustrated by Róisin Hahessy, & published by Futa Fata, this charming story is about a little girl who sometimes wishes she could actually go inside her doll’s house to play with them instead of her little brother. I’m sure this is an idea that many children, and let’s be honest, many adults will be able to relate to. This story is a great way to introduce children to the Irish language & encourage them to read in Irish outside of the classroom. 


An Slipéar Gloine 

Written by Fearghas Mac Lochlainn, illustrated by Paddy Donnelly, & published by Futa Fata, this story is an Irish language picture book that tells the timeless story of Cinderella through delightful rhymes that are accompanied by magical illustrations. 

This enchanting picture book recently won the Gradam Réics Carló 2022! 

The story of Cinderella has always been my favourite fairytale. It holds a special place in my heart & I’m delighted to have a beautiful Irish version on my bookshelf. I’d highly recommend it. Is breá liom é!

There are so many more Irish authors that I could write about & I hope to keep expanding my collection of books that are written in Irish. One week dedicated to Irish books is just not enough. Sometimes I’m convinced that I could talk about books for eternity. 

I really enjoy recommending books. I also enjoy the challenge of trying to describe a book in just a few words, while attempting to do it justice. All of the books I’ve mentioned above are such charming reads. I will be publishing more recommendations going forward, & I will continue to speak about Irish authors & Irish books even after #IrishBookWeek ends. 

My biggest goal is to continually broaden my horizons & always add to my bookshelf. I want to read books from all writers, from all places, from all backgrounds, so I will not only be talking about Irish authors, but as many authors as possible. 

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Follow me on Instagram & TikTok if you don’t already. It’s lots of fun. My handle is always @katelovesliterature

I love hearing opinions, comments, & feedback so don’t be shy, let me hear your thoughts. 

Let’s talk about literature!

The Tell-Tale Heart.

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. 

Edgar Allan Poe’s short story was originally published in 1843. 

Poe’s short story is written in the first person point of view, and an unnamed narrator takes us through how they decided to kill an old man. The unnamed narrator describes how they committed the murder, and the guilt they felt after the murder, all while they attempt to assure readers of their sanity. 

Poe’s story is unsettling as it is full of contradictions. The narrator has no reason to kill the old man, but does so because they are driven mad by his eye. Poe is purposely very vague. We do not know who the old man is in relation to the narrator, which leaves the story open to many interpretations. 

Is the narrator the old man’s son? Is the narrator related to the old man at all? Is the narrator a man or a woman? Is the narrator a caretaker? A servant? We don’t know. We don’t know anything about the narrator other than the fact that the narrator is driven mad by the old man’s glass eye. The narrator describes the eye as being like a “vulture’s eye” and the narrator is so tormented by this eye that they decide to act on their murderous thoughts. 

I’ve always interpreted this short story to be about how one can be haunted by their conscience. I would suggest that the story’s main theme is the idea of one being driven mad by guilt. 

The narrator kills the old man and disposes of his body by dismembering him and hiding him in the floorboards. The narrator cannot get away with murder because they are haunted by a thumping sound, a beating sound. The narrator is driven mad and prompted to confess by the sound of what they believe to be the old man’s beating heart, just as the narrator was once driven mad by the old man’s eye. 

The narrator is consumed by guilt, consumed by the idea that others can hear the heart too, and so ultimately, the narrator confesses their crime to the police, hence the title the tell-tale heart. 

Poe’s writing style is very intriguing, very gothic. He uses repetition and choppy sentences to pull readers in. The story is an enticing mix of matter of fact yet bizarre. The narrator is many things. The narrator is cold, calculated, and unflinching as they commit murder, but the narrator was driven to commit murder by an obsession with the old man’s glass eye. One must ask, why did the glass eye bother the narrator so much? Why would a glass eye bother someone so intently that they commit murder? One can ask if the eye represented something? Something that us readers are not privy to.

Poe’s short story begins in media res. This means that when the story begins, the plot is already in motion, so readers are immediately taken in by the narrator’s voice. “I loved the old man,” the narrator says, adding, “He had never wronged me.” (Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart, 1843.)

 The narrator is already speaking when the story begins, so immediately readers are tasked with attempting to understand the narrator. 

The story is written in the first person which means that we don’t learn anything about the old man beyond what the narrator tells us. The narrator states that they loved the old man, and that they really had no reason to dislike him or hurt him, but readers have no idea if this is true. The narrator also informs readers that they are sensitive and terribly nervous, and prone to hallucinations, so already we can say that this narrator is an unreliable one. 

If the narrator is of a very nervous disposition, then there is no way to know if one can trust that events happened the way that the narrator says they did. 

Sanity is brought up a lot in this short story. The narrator constantly wants to reassure readers that they are sane, but this talk of sanity is directly clashed against the narrator’s description of a cold and calculated murder. It’s very strange, because the narrator being driven to murder by a glass eye is irrational, but they carry out their plan to murder the old man without wavering. The narrator dismembers the body and hides it without flinching. These are not the actions of an extremely nervous person. 

The narrator’s nervous disposition is obvious again only after the murder has been committed. The body is hidden, and now the narrator is tormented by the sound of the old man’s beating heart. The heart, arguably, represents a guilty conscience. I think it is fair to say that the heart is not actually still beating, but the narrator is feeling so guilty about their actions that they believe they can hear the heartbeat. Seeing as it is October, one could interpret this short story as a ghost story and say that perhaps the heart is still beating and the old man is purposely haunting the narrator so that the narrator will confess. 

One could also examine the idea of power that exists in this story. While we don’t know who the characters are, one can assume that the old man is in a higher position than the narrator. The “vulture’s eye” is always watching, so the narrator wants to close the eye forever. 

The idea that the old man’s glass eye is always watching could lead one to believe that the old man was always critiquing the narrator, always making the narrator anxious about their actions, but we cannot know this for sure because the story begins when the old man is already dead. The fact that the old man’s heartbeat haunts the narrator and forces a confession demonstrates that the old man had power over the narrator even in death – that is of course if we are looking at this like a ghost story. 

If one does not look at this as a ghost story, but rather as a story about how a guilty conscience can be all consuming, it is not the old man who has power over the narrator in death after all. It is the narrator’s guilt that has the power, because that guilt gnawed away at the narrator so much that they believed they could hear the old man’s heart. The narrator’s guilt is their undoing. The narrator confesses to escape the sound of the heartbeat. One could ask if the narrator didn’t confess, would they have gotten away with it? One can imagine that the police cannot hear the heart, but the narrator’s guilt and paranoia makes them believe that they can, proving that the sound of the heartbeat is all in the narrator’s mind. 

One can ask, did the heartbeat drive the narrator mad? Or were they struggling with madness all along? Would a different point of view reveal more details? Of course, but I think the reason this story is so intriguing is because there is so much we don’t know, it is extremely vague, so it forces interest. 

I think that the narrator was driven mad by their own guilt, and had they not confessed, they may have gotten away with murder. I don’t think it is a ghost story, I don’t think that the heart is actually still beating, but I do think it is interesting to imagine it this way.

Have you read The Tell-Tale Heart? How do you interpret this story? 

Kate xo.

The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak.

The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak. 

A review by Kate O’Brien.

A charming retelling of a story that most of us already know, set to a tune that will have us humming as we go. 

Published by Beehive Books, Catherine Ann Cullen’s The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak is a delightful story. What better way to introduce young readers to the story of Brigid’s cloak than by sharing a tale that can also be told through song? 

Catherine Ann Cullen is a talented poet who has a knack for writing charming verses that linger in the ears for a long time. Catherine’s take on the story of Brigid’s cloak started out as a song. 

You can see Catherine Ann Cullen singing “The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak” at Catherine adapted a traditional tune to fit her bouncy, funny take on the story of Brigid’s cloak, a story that many of us would have learned in school, but likely not in such an entertaining way. 

If you have not heard the tale, the book is about the Irish legend of St. Brigid. Brigid was never without her “wee small cloak.” Brigid is determined to build a church for the people, but the miserly King refuses to share one inch of his vast lands. Brigid is not deterred and she asks the King for as much land as her cloak will cover. The King took one look at Brigid’s “wee small cloak”, and laughed and laughed and agreed to her deal at once. Imagine the miserly King’s shocked face when he saw Brigid’s cloak growing, growing, and growing some more. It was the clever and determined Brigid who had the last laugh. 

When I first heard Catherine Ann Cullen’s take on the tale, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia because the last time I had heard the story of Brigid’s cloak, I was in primary school. 

I didn’t expect to be filled with such fondness for the tale, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself humming the song for the rest of the day. Catherine Ann Cullen has created a delightful earworm that is sure to have younger readers singing in their seats. 

Illustrated by Katya Swan, The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak plays out on beautiful pages. Katya has brought the story to life with rich colours that burst with life on the pages and catch the reader’s eye. Perfect for when we are trying to grab a younger reader’s attention. Katya’s artwork and Catherine Ann’s form go hand in hand because both are simple, and easy to follow, while still being beautiful, bright, and lots of fun. 

The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak is a charming read and it is a gorgeous addition to any bookshelf. As an adult, it was lovely to return to an old story that has been retold in a fresh, musical way. A book like this, a book that combines rhythm and song with easy verses and bright illustrations is a perfect way to introduce younger readers to a well-known, well-loved tale. It encourages role play, it encourages song, it is a fantastic book that allows young readers to explore a tale in various fun and engaging ways. 

The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak is available now at and other bookshops. 

You can find follow Catherine Ann Cullen on Instagram @catherineanncullen. 

Katya Swan @katya_swan_illustrations & Beehive Books 

Important Note: 

All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own. This is not an ad. This is not a paid promotion. 

Image taken by myself, with permission, at the book launch of The Song Of Brigid’s Cloak.

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery: Horrifically Significant.

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.

I would suggest that one will always remember the first time they read Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. The first time I read this text I was in secondary school, in English class and I remember getting to the end and feeling a pit in my stomach. I was intrigued, I wanted to know more, and I was shocked. That is something that stands out to me when I think about stories that I’ve read throughout the years. I was also a drama student, so I have come across so many scripts, short stories, excerpts etc., throughout the years so the fact that I still remember to this day how shocked I felt when I read The Lottery really demonstrates just how impactful this text is. 

Clearly I was not the only person that this text had an impact upon. The Lottery was first published in The New Yorker in 1948 and it is safe to say that this story caused ripples in the water. The New Yorker received letter after letter after letter from members of the public, demanding explanations about the story and what it meant. 

The Lottery has been called one of the most famous American short stories in literary history. 

Fair warning – There will be spoilers in this review.

The Lottery is a short story about a seemingly idyllic town. Set in June, on a warm and sunny day, the townspeople are gathering for the annual event – the lottery. Adults and children gather and play and chat happily before the event begins. When it is time for the lottery to take place, everyone in town separates from the merriment to stand with their family members. One by one the head of each household takes a slip from the old, falling apart yet unnervingly unwavering, big black box. 

Jackson has written the story in an objective third person point of view. When a story is told through an objective third person point of view, it is slightly different compared to when a story is told through a limited third person point of view. Usually when a story is written in the third person, the narrator exists outside of the story and this means that the omniscient narrator can enter a character’s head and allow readers to access a character’s thoughts. When we can access a character’s thoughts, we can read about how a character feels. When a story is told through an objective third person point of view, the point of view remains neutral and relays events to readers almost like a camera that is filming the goings on in the story. An objective third person point of view remains neutral, this point of view does not enter a character’s head, so readers cannot access their thoughts, and so it is harder to discern how a character is feeling. An easy way to think about the objective third person point of view is to think of it like a report. The facts are relayed, but emotions and motivations behind those facts are not. 

I would say that the main character is Tessie Hutchinson, but the objective third person point of view does not allow readers to get to know Tessie. As a a matter of fact, readers are not allowed into the thoughts of any character so I think that while Tessie becomes the focal point, we as readers, are somewhat detached to her. This is an important thing to note in my opinion, because the more I read this story, the more I think that this detachment to Tessie is very intentional. I think that is exactly the point. 

If you have not read the lottery by now, this is the part of the review where I spoil the ending. I am going to discuss the ending as I cannot discuss the themes of this story without revealing how it ends. 

As I said above, the lottery begins when the head of each household picks a slip of paper from a big black box. Tessie’s husband takes a slip, just like everyone else. Every slip in the box is blank, all except one. One slip has a black dot on it, this is the slip that Tessie’s husband Bill has taken from the box. The Hutchinson family is singled out. Tessie protests. It is not fair, she says. Her husband was rushed through picking his slip, she moans. She is ignored. There are five family members in the Hutchinson family. Tessie, Bill, and their three children. So five slips are put in a box. All are blank, except one. One slip has a black dot. Bill takes a slip. Blank. The three children take a slip one by one. Blank, blank, blank. Tessie takes her slip. The slip with the black dot. Tessie has won the lottery – that is what I thought when I first read this story, Tessie’s won, but something is wrong. Something is off. 

Tessie has not won the lottery. Tessie has not won anything. Tessie has lost her life. 

Tessie begins to protest again, she shouts and screams that it isn’t fair, it isn’t right. 

Everyone else in village starts to collect stones, all while Tessie continues to protest. Her cries about injustice are ignored as Tessie is stoned to death. 

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery has been called a masterpiece, and I have to say that I would agree with this assessment. 

This is a story that is unbelievably unsettling and upsetting, and it is very easy to see why this caused outrage when it was first published. 

This is the kind of story that makes people deeply uncomfortable, it is the kind of story that is thought of as being too horrible to write. That is what makes it so important, that is what makes it so brilliant. It is a dark piece, that is undeniable, but the horrors that exist in this text, and what those horrors represent and prompt one to think about are why this story is a crucial read. 

I believe that everyone should read The Lottery once in their lives. It should be a text that is taught, analysed and discussed because I think that while it was published in 1948, the story remains historically, culturally, and socially relevant and significant. 

Let’s talk about the themes of the story and their importance, alongside the story’s setting and how the story’s setting allows those themes to have such a memorable impact. 

I would call this story a suburban gothic. The story is set in an idyllic, suburban, American town. The exact place is not specified, but I think that adds to the idea that this could be any town USA. The story is set in June. It is summer, it is a warm, sunny day. Children are playing. It is the picture of suburbia …until it isn’t. The setting is significant. It seems unbelievable that such a horrific act could take place in a place that seemed so lovely and safe. That is the point, that violence, and horrific, unjust acts can take place anywhere, and sometimes the place that looks the prettiest can be home to some of the most awful acts. In my opinion, this is an important idea to discuss. Often, it can be argued that people think that certain places are dangerous, and it is easy to place where we live on a pedestal. It is easy to be naive and say “well things like that don’t happen here, bad things like that would never happen where I live.”, but this is very often not true. The Lottery is a story that highlights how ordinary and usually kind, reasonable people can act cruelly and allow cruelty to occur and this cruelty is allowed to occur in their safe, idyllic town. 

It is very easy to act as though one is above violence, but it is important to be aware of and ensure that, actually, we are not complicit in any violence.

I would suggest that the main themes of this story are the ideas of the danger of blindly following traditions, mob mentality, and hypocrisy. 

The lottery is an event that happens every year. It is an event that has been allowed to happen every year. Why? Well, the event is held because of the superstition that the lottery will lead to a good harvest, so there is this idea being put forward that a sacrifice will lead to prospering. This superstition rationalises the killing of one person, because this death leads to a good harvest, which is good for everyone else in the town. The townspeople need a good harvest. In this warped event, motivated by superstition and tradition, one could find a twisted sense of fairness. This twisted sense of fairness is almost symbolised in the narration. The story is told objectively, through the third person, there are no emotions involved. The event is presented matter of factly, and the idea that comes across is that the townspeople think that choosing someone at random through a lottery is the fairest way to decide who will die for the harvest, however readers are more likely to agree with Tessie. This is not right. This is not fair. This is wrong, this is shocking, this is unjust. 

The lottery is an event that has been unquestioned for so long that the big black box that the slips are put in is old and battered. This implies that perhaps it is time to end the event, as when the lottery first started, it was wood chips not paper in the box, but now the town has grown so much that the wood would no longer fit as there has to be enough for every family member to pick one. There is talk about other towns and about how other towns have stopped doing the lottery, but in Jackson’s story, the town is committed to the lottery because “there’s always been a lottery.” 

I would say that this story is pretty clearly presenting the message that clinging to traditions of old can be reductive and sometimes downright dangerous. While it is important to remember the past, it is crucial that society always moves with the times, and sometimes clinging on to something just because “it has always been done” does more harm than good. Sometimes we simply need to say enough is enough and stop doing something that no longer works – although when it comes to a story like Jackson’s, I can’t help but wonder if the point was to make readers question if this lottery was ever really fair in the first place. I would think not. 

The mob mentality aspect of the story is really interesting. The story highlights how the status quo is maintained, and often it is maintained simply because no-one stands up to it. Tessie protested, but her voice was quickly drowned out, and the story makes one think about how people act when they are surrounded by people who are doing the same thing. It is the echo-chamber effect. When you have an opinion that you know is a popular one, it is easier to share that opinion knowing that you will be agreed with. It is easier to shut down change, when it is clear that there are more people that are unwilling to change than those who are, and this is where mob mentality becomes dangerous. If more people are unwilling to change, unfortunately dangerous things continue to carry on. A horrifying, yet significant aspect of this story is the fact that Tessie’s husband Bill and their children participate in the stoning of Tessie. This is an absolutely awful thing, and it is horrible to think about, but it does demonstrate how people will go along with the status quo even if doing so harms someone they love. It is perhaps one of the harshest literary metaphors I’ve come across, but the point the story makes is clear. 

It is practically impossible to read The Lottery without thinking about hypocrisy. 

I’m going to say the setting is hypocritical because in a story like this, the setting is just as much of a character as anyone else, and small towns that preach good values are the perfect backdrop to a story about hypocrisy. The town is idyllic, the town is lovely, the town is safe and the people are good. How can the town be idyllic if a horrific event takes place year after year after year? 

How can the people be kind if they allow someone to be killed year after year after year? 

The town is not idyllic. The people have simply justified extreme violence because it suited them to do so. Tessie is this year’s victim of the lottery, but Tessie is also a hypocrite. 

Tessie arrives late to the lottery, she claims she forgot it was taking place that day. This highlights how nonchalant she has become about this event. The fact that she is a married mother implies that she has lived through the lottery every year up until this one. Tessie does not protest until Bill picks the slip with the black dot and even then she does not protest about the lottery, she simply complains that Bill was rushed when picking his slip. This implies that had someone else gotten the black dotted slip, she would not have said a word. She would have participated in the lottery, just like she has done every year until this one, but now she is protesting because it is her family that is in danger. Suddenly the lottery effects her and her family. I would suggest that Tessie is a very symbolic character as she represents a much larger societal issue. Tessie represents the fact that so many people do not care about injustice and are happy to let it continue until it impacts them or someone they love. When it impacts them or someone they love, suddenly it is not okay and that is hypocrisy at its finest – to say it is okay for others to suffer, but not for me. 

Is it any wonder that this story caused outrage in 1948? I bet it still causes outrage today as many, many people do not like it when societal flaws and hypocrisy are pointed out. 

We must point them out, this story is an extreme, horror filled example of why social flaws must be discussed, of why societal norms must be challenged if they are harmfully outdated, and why we must be always aware of violence and injustice, so that we can put a stop to it, rather than be complicit in it. 

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery is perhaps one of the most frightening kinds of horror story, because so many of the themes in the story can be applied to real life. The story is extremely evocative, it is so well written. It builds, and builds until the horrible picture unfolds completely. It is jarring, it is mysterious, it is very unsettling, very scary, and the more I think about it, it is upsetting. 

That is why it is brilliant. The fact that is it so horrifically evocative is what makes it such a significant read. 

If you have not read The Lottery, you must and if you have read it, tell me do you remember the first time you read it and how you felt when you did? Please let me know because I’d love to read other people’s reaction to this story. 

Kate xo. 

The Haunting Season.

The Haunting Season: Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights

A collection of ghost stories by Bridget Collins, Natasha Pulley, Imogen Hermes Gowar, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Andrew Michael Hurley, Jess Kidd, Elizabeth Macneal & Laura Purcell. 

The idea behind compiling this collection of stories appealed to me immediately. 

The idea behind this beautiful book was that winter is the perfect time to gather together to listen to ghost stories. 

I love winter. Autumn is my favourite season, but there is something deliciously gloomy about winter. I can’t explain why, but I’ve always had a fondness for grey skies. In my humble opinion, there is something calming about looking out the window at a dull, grey sky. Even better, if the dull, grey sky sits above bare, leafless trees. There is something quiet about it, something peaceful. I love those days where it looks as though at any second, the grey sky would split open so snow could fall. I love crisp cold air that allows you to see your own breath. 

Winter is a time that inspires descriptions & beautiful icing imagery. All of the blues and greys are juxtaposed against the warm twinkly lights of Christmas and the bright, vivid oranges of dancing flames in big fireplaces. 

The stories in this book take readers from Covent Gardens to the Yorkshire Moors, and the stories inspire goosebumps at every turn. The stories range from wonderfully eerie to at times desperately sad. At times I was deeply moved, and deeply unsettled. Some of the stories, in fact some of the lines in this book stayed with me for a long time. 

This collection of stories also lead me to think about the link between female mental health & horror in 19th century literature in particular. This collection of stories shines a light on how women suffered with their mental health, particularly during pregnancy and postpartum. It is very sad to read accounts of women who did not have the support, who suffered because they were dismissed as mad, when they really needed someone who understood, someone who was willing to help. 

I also couldn’t help but be reminded at times of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 

This collection of stories is very evocative. The large, creepy, mysterious houses provide excellent backdrops for peculiar stories. I would suggest that there is a gothic element to the settings of these stories; big houses that don’t feel safe, suddenly making the home a place that one needs to escape from rather than find refuge in. 

I’m also quite fond of the idea that someone could get lost in their own home. The idea of being in a place with rooms upon rooms and not knowing what it is in each room intrigues me greatly, as I would feel very unsettled if there were wings in my house that were unknown to me. The fact that one can be in a house yet be so disconnected from parts of it is an idea that I’ve always been fascinated by. The idea that horrors lie around you but you are unaware of them until you go exploring the unknown rooms is an eerie but intriguing idea. 

There are eight stories in this book. It is hard to pick a favourite. I struggle when it comes to picking a favourite anything in general. If you have been a reader of my articles here on for a while now then you’ll be aware of this. I like categories. 

I can’t just pick a favourite movie, I have to have a favourite Christmas movie, a favourite nostalgic movie, a favourite Disney movie etc. 

This collection of stories is no different. I enjoyed each one of the stories and there are times when I could say that any one of the eight are my favourite, and all for different reasons. I’m going to discuss the stories in no particular order. 

I think that I would set Confinement by Kiran Millwood Hargrave aside because out of all the eight stories this one didn’t scare me, or I should say that while it did scare me, it didn’t scare me in a ghostly sense. This story was sad. It reminded me a lot of The Yellow Wallpaper. It is scary in the sense that when we look back through history, we see that so many women suffered because their health was not taken seriously, and not understood. 

It is frightening to think about how many women’s lives would have been different if they had gotten the support they needed, especially when it comes to postpartum care. 

I enjoyed this story. The ending made me sad. It stayed with me for a long time, but I could guess the plot and how it would play out fairly early on. It was the least “ghostly” of the stories. 

Thwaite’s Tenant and The Chillingham Chair by Imogen Hermes Gowar and Laura Purcell respectably are two stories that have similar themes and stories, but both are haunting in their own way. I loved Thwaite’s Tenant. I felt that this story had a really satisfying ending. I also think that this story is the one that captured the idea behind the collection really well. This story is filled with ominous descriptions of a cold, big, sinister house that one wouldn’t want to get stuck in on a freezing, wintery night.

The Chillingham Chair handles a similar story in more suspenseful way. I feel that this story was darker than what I consider its counterpart. I would say that it is the scarier of the two stories. The idea that an inanimate object can be horrifying may seem unbelievable, but Laura Purcell is excellent at portraying objects as things that can be in fact, very frightening indeed. 

Lily Wilt by Jess Kidd has the creepiest premise in my opinion, although it also feels the least realistic. The idea that a photographer would be so infatuated with a dead girl that he wants to bring her back to life somehow is unsettling, yet morbidly intriguing. This premise did remind me a little bit of Frankenstein, simply because I think that the story makes it clear from the start that bringing someone back from the dead cannot happen without consequences. This story is perhaps the most mysterious of the eight in my opinion, although at times a few more details would have been nice. Lily is a very mysterious character and wanting to know more about her is what kept me turning the pages, but we actually know nearly nothing about her at all. One might say that is the point, and if that is the case then I’m fine with that, I like a story that aims to keep readers curious and achieves that goal, but a few more details would have been nice. 

As I said, this story is very mysterious but it is also perhaps the least realistic of the eight. I’m sure that some people would have the opinion that ghost stories are simply not realistic at all, and that depends on one’s belief or disbelief in ghosts. 

I’m talking about a collection of ghost stories, and when one is talking about ghost stories, or myths, or legends, I think one tends to operate under the assumption that the stories being told are true, if a little unbelievable. That is how I operate anyways. When I think about storytelling around a fire, I tend to think of intriguing, magnetic stories that pull in a crowd. The stories delight and scare the listening audiences, and then later people wonder if the events of the tale really happened. That is the fun of a ghost story. 

So, I am looking at these ghost stories as suspense filled and unbelievable, but true and within this scope, Lily Wilt feels the least realistic, but I enjoyed the story all the same. 

A Study in Black and White by Bridget Collins keeps readers guessing constantly. This story opens the collection and I think this was a smart choice because the story is consumed by an unsettling yet intriguing atmosphere. I think this is the story that I have reread the most. 

The Eel Singers by Natasha Pulley is wonderfully creepy. This story has elements that I’ve stated many times that I am a fan of; this story features protagonists who long to go somewhere quiet at Christmas time, but the people who live in the town are not very welcoming at all. We’ve got newcomers in a mysterious town. We’ve got townspeople who don’t like newcomers, and we’ve got this ever increasing idea that something just isn’t right. I love this kind of setup. I really love that unsettling feeling that builds and builds and the longer you’re in town, the more things just feel off. 

I could be a little biassed because this kind of setup is a premise that I am a fan of already so when I realised that this was the route this story was taking, I was excited. I knew I’d like it before I read the entire thing, but I do think that this setup can make for an  extremely enticing read, especially when it’s done well. 

The Hanging of the Greens by Andrew Michael Hurley is story that gives us a mysterious story within a story. It’s rather cryptic, and the ending does involve a twist that I won’t spoil. I enjoyed this story, but personally I would call it a mystery rather than a ghost story. 

I don’t think this book has to be strictly a collection of ghost stories only, as mysteries definitely fit the theme of gathering around to hear unbelievable tales. In my opinion, this story is about how the perception of the truth can heavily impact one’s life. What you do with what you think is the truth is extremely important, and when you discover new information, your entire belief system can be shattered, and all of your actions can be put under scrutiny. Information impacts the actions you take, and finding out new information after the fact can have a shocking effect. This story was engaging, but just not very ghostly. Our main character in this story is haunted, just in his own way. 

Monster by Elizabeth Macneal is an interesting story about how things can be different from how they appear. This idea is a very important one, and I think that it is an important lesson to learn that things are not always as they seem. This story is interesting as it highlights how victories cannot always be celebrated if they are intertwined with mystery, I also think this story is a good commentary on how becoming too consumed by one thing can be a slippery slope to go down. It’s not my favourite story in the collection, but I did like it. 

Overall this is a collection of stories that I really enjoyed reading. Some stories scared me more than others, and I enjoyed some stories more than others but it is a varied collection. It would be boring if all eight stories were exactly the same, and the collection does bring intrigue, mystery, and varying degrees of horror to readers. 

The cover is also beautiful, and while one should never judge a book by its cover, this book does look absolutely gorgeous on my shelf. I would recommend it. If you like ghost stories and mysteries then I’m sure you will find something that you love within this collection. I also love a collection like this because I do enjoy short stories, I like snippets of something that could have been longer, but kept me guessing and reading a book like The Haunting Season allows readers to enjoy eight different intriguing stories, and what better time to read ghost stories than in October? 

Do you have a favourite ghost story? I’d love to hear it. 

Kate xo. 

Through the Looking-Glass.

Hello everyone. I am publishing my March’s Book Of The Month discussion later than intended, but let’s dive right in.

Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass takes place months after the events of Alice in Wonderland.

In this book, readers follow Alice to another magical world as this time she takes a step through her mirror (the looking glass) to a world where everything is inverted. If Alice wants to get somewhere, she must walk away from it rather than towards, left is right, etc.

The novel is also written in the third-person, and once again Carroll’s writing is very direct. This novel is filled with poems all about the passage of time and the loss of youth and some of them are rather poignant. This novel includes the famous verse entitled Jabberwocky, which I will be talking about in a discussion all on it’s own because it is one of my favourite poems. I absolutely love the use of nonsense verse, and I will be discussing nonsense writing and its importance at a later date. I think this book is more challenging to read, for example at times the text is backwards. This use of placement on the pages is interesting. Alice must read backwards, therefore the text is backwards, so readers have the same struggle as Alice. When we must read backwards, our actions mirror Alice’s, who has stepped through a mirror so the idea and the symbolism of the mirror becomes really interesting and in my opinion, quite complex.

There is the idea that literature mirrors reality. I talk about this a lot, as after all so much art reflects life. Alice steps through a mirror into a world where everything is backwards, yet the injustice and pointlessness and the cruelties that Alice must contend with can be argued to mirror the injustices that one must face when they grow up, because adulthood and reality is unfortunately filled with things that are not fair. Cruelty exists, inequality exists, lack of control over our own choices exist. So it is very interesting that this nonsensical world mirrors the injustices of the real world and then at times our actions while reading mirror Alice’s so the whole reading experience is very immersive.

I think that Through the Looking-Glass is darker than Alice in Wonderland. I don’t know if this was Carroll’s intention. I think sometimes that Carroll intended to write a nonsensical fantasy novel about a curious girl and her curious nature is celebrated, and ever since readers and scholars have analysed this work and created interpretation after interpretation because the nonsense and the wondrous nature of the book has inspired curiosity. The fact that this is a book that celebrates wonder and in fact lends itself to endless interpretations is quite funny, and perhaps that was the intention, perhaps Carroll wanted people to endlessly question. So while the intentions of Carroll are impossible to know, I do think that his works can be discussed at great length, and I think that some of the discussions can be quite complex.

I love the idea of fate in Through the Looking-Glass. I love the idea of the chess board. I think that the chess board is very symbolic. I think the chess board by itself could be the heart of many discussions and interpretations. I see the chess board as a metaphor for how in life, each move we make determines our next one. This can be negative or positive depending on how you view it. One can question Alice’s choice. If she was always meant to play this game of chess, then did she have any control over the moves she made or did she do what she was always destined to do?

Spoiler below:

I think that Alice’s journey is quite an empowering one, because she plays the game of chess but she moves from pawn to Queen. This, in my opinion, demonstrates her journey from child to adult. She has matured, she is more sure of herself, she has learned a lot and she is using her newfound knowledge to improve her next move.

I think that Alice in Wonderland will always be my favourite work by Lewis Carroll. I loved it when I was young. I love the movie adaptations. I love the text. I always go back to it, it is surrounded in nostalgia, so the conclusion that I have come to is that Alice in Wonderland will always be one of my beloved childhood texts but I think that Kate in her twenties prefers Through the Looking-Glass.

Read Through the Looking-Glass if you haven’t already and then tell me which text you prefer.

Kate xo.