A Little Salty Book Haul

I’ve made no secret of the fact the I really enjoy the books that Salt publish. I don’t think I’ve met with any duds so far. The Weaning by Hannah Vincent appeared on my Best Reads Of 2018 post, you all know I adored The Book Collector by Alice Thompson, I’ve also read and enjoyed My Shitty Twenties by Emily Morris, The Squeeze by Lesley Glaister and The Clocks In This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks. I’m also partway through The Rental Heart, a short story collection by Kirsty Logan.

So, in the new year I found myself with some Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket. I don’t often get bought books for Christmas as people are never quite sure if I have a book or have read it previously. Play it safe with cold hard cash!

I got onto the salt website and had myself a little shopping spree, so I thought I would show you my purchases!

I have been lazy and done a copy and paste job on the blurbs because…..well I haven’t read them yet!

Here we go!

Burnt Island – Alice Thompson

SYNOPSIS

For disillusioned author Max Long, the offer of a writing-fellowship on the mysterious-sounding ‘Burnt Island’ is a godsend. Max is determined that, inspired by his tenure on this windswept outpost, he will produce every writer’s dream — the bestseller. And this time, he plans to subvert his usual genre and write a horror story.

But upon arrival, Max’s fantasies of hermetic island life are overturned when he encounters a potential rival living in close proximity – the famously reclusive James Fairfax, author of the internationally-lauded novel, Lifeblood.

Fairfax’s critical and financial success with Lifeblood, coupled with his refusal to court the limelight, has long been the talk of the literary circles. However, as the lives of the two men become intertwined, Max cannot marry the myth of the publicity-shy Fairfax with the apparently urbane and confident reality. He begins to suspect that Fairfax is not the true author of his exceptional debut. Moreover, Max cannot escape the disturbing knowledge that Fairfax’s wife has disappeared.

Recently-divorced and struggling to keep a grip on his fragile mental state, the vulnerable Max finds himself sliding into Fairfax’s world. And he starts to witness alarming visions that take the form of the horror he is attempting to write. Who or what is the sinister, darting figure who appears between the trees of Fairfax’s garden at night? Who is the tiny, forlorn little girl who seems to need help? And what has happened to Fairfax’s missing wife?

Isolated island life? Tick. A sinister darting figure? Tick. A missing wife? Tick. Fragile mental state? Tick. Alice Thompson? Tick tick tick.

Melissa – Jonathan Taylor

SYNOPSIS

Melissa is set in 1999-2000. At roughly 2pm on 9th June 1999, on a small street in Hanford, Stoke-on-Trent, a young girl dies of leukaemia; at almost the same moment, everyone on the street experiences the same musical hallucination. The novel is about this death and accompanying phenomenon – and about their after-effects, as the girl’s family gradually disintegrates over the following year.

I think this one sounds absolutely fascinating and I love the idea of a mass hallucination. I think it could be potentially quite an emotional read though.

Sky Hooks – Neil Campbell

SYNOPSIS

A young warehouseman, his promising football career cut short by injury, counts flanges, valves and couplings for a living. He longs for the warmth and women of the office, but the prostitutes who hang around the high-rise are easier to deal with. Drink provides relief, if not escape, and probably the last thing he should dream of becoming is a writer, but then he buys himself a note pad and pen.

I enjoy any book that involves prostitution (don’t ask me why!), hard drinking and working class struggles so this one sounds right up my street.

The Birth Machine – Elizabeth Baines

SYNOPSIS

Tucked up on the ward and secure in the latest technology, Zelda is about to give birth to her baby. But things don’t go to plan, and as her labour progresses and the drugs take over, Zelda enters a surreal world. Here, past and present become confused and blend with fairytale and myth. Old secrets surface and finally give birth to disturbing revelations in the present. 

The fairytale and myth element attracted me to this one. Plus the cover is intriguing too.

The Habit – Stephen McGeagh

SYNOPSIS

Manchester, the present. Michael divides his time between the job centre and the pub. A chance meeting with Lee, an introduction to her ‘Uncle’ Ian, and a heavy night on the lash lead to a job working the door at a Northern Quarter massage parlour.

After witnessing the violent death of one of the ‘punts’, Michael experiences blood-drenched flashbacks and feels himself being sucked into a twilight world that he doesn’t understand but that is irresistibly attractive. When he eventually finds out what goes on in the room below 7th Heaven, Michael’s life will never be the same again.

I love just outside of Manchester. I know the Northern Quarter and thought it might be interesting to read a book set in my home city. Plus…..massage parlour and violent death? Tick.

Too Many Magpies – Elizabeth

SYNOPSIS

Can we believe in magic and spells? Can we put our faith in science?

A young mother married to a scientist fears for her children’s safety as the natural world around her becomes ever more uncertain. Until, that is, she meets a charismatic stranger who seems to offer a different kind of power… But is he a saviour or a frightening danger? And, as her life is overturned, what is happening to her children whom she vowed to keep safe? Why is her son Danny now acting so strangely? 

This one sounds like it could be an interesting read. I like books surrounding struggling mothers and the ‘charismatic stranger’ element drew me in.

So there are my purchases. Have you read any? Have any caught your eye?

There is a great sale over on the Salt website at the moment and when I was over there grabbing the blurbs for these books a couple of others caught my eye. It’s lethal.

Roll on payday!

See you all soon.

Amanda @bookishchat xxx

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Blood & Sugar By Laura Shepherd-Robinson – A Review

Publisher: Mantle

Publication Date: 24th January

I took a leap out of my historical fiction comfort zone with this one. It’s not that long ago that I wouldn’t have picked up historical fiction at all, but now that I love it I’m usually to be found amidst the cobbled dirty backstreets of Victorian London.

Blood & Sugar is set in 1781, when I read this I was a little nervous. I’m always a little afraid that it will be too far removed from what I know that I won’t be able to connect. Luckily with this book I really did connect.

In fact we clicked straight away and I was so relieved!

A body has been found hanging at Deptford Docks, mutilated and branded.

At the same time, Captain Henry (Harry) Corsham’s close friend and staunch abolishionist Thaddeus Archer (Tad) has been reported missing by his sister Amelia and when she appeals to him to help her find her brother, horrifyingly the body at the dock and missing Tad become one and the same.

It is now Harry’s (Captain Corsham) mission and indeed his duty to uncover what exactly has led to his friend being slaughtered and just who could have committed such an atrocity and why.

His investigation takes him on a gruesome, perilous journey, through the criminal underworld of the Deptford Docks and the stomach churning, barbaric realms of the slave trade.

With each person he encounters in his inquiries, Harry becomes further embroiled in the murky atmosphere at the docks and finds more and more horrors relating to the slave trade revealed to him.

Despite having a young son at home who he loves dearly and a wife who’s social standing and reputation is very important, Harry throws caution to the wind and continues in his quest for justice no matter what the cost to his reputation or even his safety.

There are some real standout villainous characters in this book, men who you will love to hate. There are also some charmingly slippery characters who Harry has to navigate through to reveal the truth. There are many businesses and reputations to protect and Harry finds these groups of men closing ranks, doing everything they can to protect their wealth and social standing.

Right at the start of this book there is a ‘Cast Of Characters’ section with a list of 31 character names and a little background on each and how they link in with each other. I must admit that this unnerved me a little! If a book needs a character list I’m always a little trepidatious that I’ll lose my thread. Luckily I only needed to refer to the list a couple of times and only really to briefly remind myself of a couple of character links.

The Deptford Docks are almost a character too. The murky backdrop of the docks with hidden back alleys and dodgy establishments was really evocative. With its gambling and prostitution, I love getting lost in a completely different world. A seedy, grubby, often treacherous world at that.

I haven’t ever read much or learned much at a about the slave trade but Blood & Sugar has made me develop somewhat of a fascination. I watched the television series Taboo with Tom Hardy which I think was set at around the same time but I don’t remember ever covering the subject at school. When a subject is so foul and shocking rather than make me turn my head away, I feel the need to know more because it feels so far outside the realms of possibility. Can these awful gut churning events have actually happened?

The attention to detail in this book is great, not too wordy, but extremely atmospheric. As a reader I got swept up with Harry and felt as if I was going along with him in his investigation. Learning who he could and couldn’t trust, unveiling more and more lies and coverup’s and making ever more grim discoveries. And there are numerous grim discoveries! If you’ve a sensitive stomach for subjects such as death, mutilation and torture then I would maybe swerve this book, or skim read those passages!

Me? I don’t mind a bit of gore!

Overall this book is a very accomplished debut and I am now super pumped to find out what Laura Shepherd-Robinson creates next!

If you’re a historical fiction fan I’d suggest you get your hands on it.

Thank you as always to the publisher for the review copy I received.

See you all soon.

Amanda @bookishchat xxx

Never Judge A Book By It’s Cover?…..

Whether it’s bold and beautiful or stark and minimal we all have book covers we are drawn to.

Never judge a book by it’s cover’ is of course the old adage but WE ALL DO IT!

Don’t even pretend you don’t.

But how often do we get it right? How often do we get drawn to a book by its cover and actually *dare I say it* love the contents too? Well that is holy grail type stuff fo sho!

I’m writing this post as a newly thwarted, freshly scorned purchaser of a beautiful book which was absolutely, disappointingly NOT what I was expecting. I’m still a bit raw to be honest. It smarts.

I am using my pain as a catalyst for this post which got me thinking about the times I’ve hit the nail on the head and the times I was so wrong I could have wept.

Let’s start with the most recent book in question…..

Fine Fine Fine Fine Fine by Diane Williams.

 

LOOK AT IT.

It’s stunning! It also has French flaps and who doesn’t love a flap, French or otherwise?…

I picked this short story collection off the shelf in my local Waterstones, stroked it, flicked through it, sniffed it……wait no!

I didn’t sniff it…..

Rewind back to my first mistake ‘I flicked through it’.

What I should have done instead of ‘flicking through it’ was get right on my phone and google the hell out of the Goodreads reviews. Because let me tell you those guys over there know what they are talking about when it comes to 1 star reviews. Had I looked properly and done my research I would have put this beauty firmly back on the shelf and walked away…..maybe a little wounded but £8.99 the richer.

These short stories are SUPER SHORT, more like flash fiction.

Here is a perfect example of one of them:

No? Me neither.

I had NO IDEA what any of these stories were about. NOT ONE!

I mean I’m no Einstein but I like to think I have at least a modicum of intelligence but this book had me for a fool (not least because of the £8.99 I shelled out!).

Man I’m still sore about this one!

Let’s move on to exhibit B in the never judge a book by its cover failure debacle.

THIS

The Man Who Loved Children By Christina Stead

The picture I have of this one doesn’t do the beauty of this book any justice. It opens out into a complete Norman Rockwell painting entitled ‘Going And Coming’.

Going And Coming – Norman Rockwell 1947

It is a stunning image and to be honest, it’s what drew me right in. The contents however……..

I really didn’t understand much of what this book was about……it’s a right bloody chunkster too. This is another book which I felt was made up of an accumulation of words that I didn’t understand.  I did feel somewhat dumb after I’d read it.  And read it I did! In its entirety! Another reason why I’ll be DNF’ing books much quicker this year!

Lets move on to more positive pastures shall we? I don’t like to dwell in the negatives…..

What are the books I was initially drawn to by their cover BUT then turned out to be books I’ve loved? Well of course I’ve read quite a few great books with eyecatching covers but if I was pressed to name one or two standout books they would be:

The Silent Companions By Laura Purcell – Publisher by Bloomsbury Raven

 

This is a beautiful hardback with a cutout keyhole with that creepy little eye poking through…..open the cover and you get to see the whole disconcerting face! Plus it has lovely gold foiling and those beautiful old fashioned birdcages. I just love it!  The book aswell is actually amazing (my review is here).

Next up we have:

Night-Gaunts by Joyce Carol Oates

I bought this book entirely on a whim when I was in London recently.  A cheeky little trip to Hatchards revealed this beauty and I knew I must have it!  If i’m honest I didn’t check the price before I went to the till and nearly had a coronary there and then but I sucked it up and handed over my bank card (£18.99  if you’re wondering…eeeek!).  So worth it!

Whenever I post pictures of this one on Twitter or Instagram I get comments about the cover art.  A couple of people mentioned recently that the image looked very Hopper-esque so I did a little research and it is apparently based on the painting ’11AM’ by Edward Hopper (1926).

I just adore this cover.  When I bought the book I spent a while just LOOKING at it! I sometimes take it off the shelf to stare at it a while….Normal.

As to my opinion of the contents, well, I’ve only read a couple of the short stories but so far so good.  I have a very good feeling about the rest of the book.  I’ll report back when I’m done.

I thought I’d include a book I’m crushing on the cover of.

Hard.

BUT I’ve not started reading it yet so I cannot comment on the story contained within.

Blonde By Joyce Carol Oates – 4th Estate

Just look at Mazza! she’s an absolute queen!

Lastly I thought I’d lower the tone and show you this book that I bought in a secondhand book shop/cafe purely because it’s completely silver foiled and has a nipple on it……

It’s pure filth.

On that note I’ll leave you.  But please do let me know of your book cover triumphs and failures.  Mainly so that I don’t make the same mistakes!

See you all soon.

 

Amanda @Bookishchat xxx

 

The Six Loves Of Billy Binns By Richard Lumsden – A Review

Publisher: Tinder Press

Publication Date: 24th January 2019

I was sent this book as a complete surprise and boy am I glad it landed through my letterbox.

Just to give some sense of time to this review, I’ve just read the book and it’s October 2018. I read the blurb and the first 2 or 3 pages as soon as it landed and I knew I just had to bump it straight to the top of my TBR.

When a book can grab you after a few short paragraphs then you know you’re on to a bloomin winner!

I have to get this out. I have to get it down before it’s gone for good. While it’s still clear in my head. While they’re all sat beside me, as alive now as they were then, these people I once loved

Billy Binns is the oldest resident in The Cedars, in fact he believes he’s probably the oldest man in Europe. Born in 1900 Billy was always as old as the century. However, as Billy feels his life gently ebbing away from him he wants so desperately to remember what love feels like.

He knows he has had 5 great loves in his life; Mary, Evie, Archie, Vera and Mrs Jackson, but he wants to revisit his feelings for them all and get it all down in writing in order to leave a little of himself behind. An explanation as to how these people and his love for each of them shaped him as a man.

I’ll admit that I initially thought that this book was going to be quite a fluffy, lighthearted yet emotive read, and that’s fine. In fact I’d been reading a lot of books with a dark twist and gravitated towards Billy as a bit of light relief.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book packed a gritty, emotional punch! Depictions of Billy’s time in battle in WW1 were particularly hard hitting, grim, gruesome and unflinching. I felt blindsided in the most spectacular way.

Told in the first person, Billy narrates his life story and slowly but surely introduces us, the reader to each of the five loves of his life. I say slowly, because he drifts in and out of lucidity. Often finding it hard to keep grasp of his rambling thoughts.

Interspersed with tales from everyday life at The Cedars care home, Billy takes us almost along with him as he re-imagines the various events in his life that brought him together with each of his loves. And boy oh boy what a life he has lead!

What I very much enjoyed about the character of Billy was the fact that although he is a lovely old man, he wasn’t always a person who did the right thing in his youth. Some of his ideals are very outdated and you have to keep this firmly in your mind when reading. He was of course a product of vastly different times and the author confronts this head on.

Each of Billy’s loves are wildly different in personality but each of them leap right off the page. Just as you get to love them, you have to leave them behind, much as Billy did.

Billy’s story is set against a backdrop of the ever changing social history of Britain.  Both World Wars that he lived through and the changing social landscape of the country.

This story is heartwarming and heart rending. There is some lovely gentle humour but also lots of poignant sad moments.   I feel honoured to have ‘met’ Billy and his loves and I urge you to aquaint yourself with him.  You won’t regret it.

Thank you as always to the publisher for the ARC and to Caitlyn Raynor.  It was a lovely and much appreciated surpise.

See you all soon.

Bookish Chat xx

A Selfie As Big As The Ritz By Lara Williams – A Review

Publisher: Flatiron Books

I’ll say right off the bat that I find it quite challenging to write reviews of short story collections and I’m not really sure why! Are you supposed to talk about each story individually? The ones you enjoyed the most? Over arching themes? Just focus on the writing?…..who knows!

But I felt that I had to at least have a bash at telling you about this collection because I think it’s great.

Lara Williams is a new author to me, I put her upcoming novel Supper Club on my most anticipated reads of 2019 list because it sounds so amazing. You know when you get a feeling about an author before you’ve even read a word they’ve written? Well…..I went online and did a little research and discovered she has also written short stories.

This is a collection of 21 contemporary stories surrounding love, the difficulties of modern relationships and the challenges in life.

She finds herself single, twenty-nine, partially employed, and about a half a stone overweight. Roller dexter of eligible friends rattling thin. Thirties breathing down her neck like an inappropriate uncle. She jogs. Looks good in turquoise. Finds herself punctuating gas ‘better out than in!’ Patting her stomach like a department store Santa. This is who I am, she thinks.

There are elements of sharp witted humour, details of modern day life that we can all identify with. Along side this there are some darker moments and I think the mix was perfect.

There are short stories of around 2 or 3 pages and some slightly longer more involved stories. I think if I’m honest I enjoyed the shorter stories, they packed more punch and had much more impact. I don’t think I always quite ‘got’ the message that each of the stories was trying to convey, then again maybe they didn’t all have a message to get across. If I’m honest I enjoy a short sharp story which leaves me thinking and guessing and trying to draw my own conclusions. A story that isn’t neatly tied up in a bow.

Although the stories are short and sharp, the authors language is quite beautiful. I must admit that I had to flip to the back cover to discover more about her as there were times that I didn’t understand whether she was American or British. She’s British as it happens, and from my marvellous home city of Manchester, however even though some of the stories mention the location as being in the UK some of the language and spelling of words was Americanised. Store instead of shop, the use of the word ‘gotten’ (which I don’t like) and spelling centre as ‘center’. It did kind of distract me a bit.

As a forty year old married mother of two I don’t think I was entirely the target reader for this book, seeing as most of the women involved were late twenties/ early thirties, either trying to embark on new relationships or enduring break-ups. Having said that it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. I liked the fact that the women weren’t perfect (who is!?), they didn’t have their shit together as they say and that makes for a very compelling collection of stories.

I would recommend it if you’re in the market for short stories. It’s beautiful too!

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xx

Bookish Chat About: 2019 Blogging Plans

Every blogger and his wife is doing a 2019 blogging goals post so feel free to roll your eyes, tut and give this post a miss.

But please don’t.

Love you.

I just thought I’d give you a quick run down of some lil blogging goals I’ve set for my bad self over the coming year. When I say ‘set’ I mean loosely had a very vague idea that I would like to loosely and vaguely do these things in a loose and vague way. I’m not about the pressures and constricting rules guys!

It’s just nice to have an idea of what you’d like to achieve and then you can check back in a year, cry mournfully and berate yourself for having failed EVERY SINGLE ONE.

FUN!

So let’s kick off with a few basics:

In 2019 I would like to……

    Post at least twice a week. I have no set posting schedule at the moment but seem to have loosely fallen into posting on Thursdays and weekends. (Blog tours are an exception of course). I’d like to try and stick to the Thursday but if I don’t it’s no biggy! But guess what, today is Thursday and this post is going live. I am SMASHING these goals already!
  • Keep up with my short story in the bath project. (Still not come up with a snappy title for that!) also I forgot to do it on New Years Day so I’m already a big fat failure. Hi!
  • Rustle up content that isn’t a book review every once in a while. Whilst I’m not a huge numbers gal it doesn’t take Columbo and grubby raincoat to deduce that bookish content does better in the old ‘views’ stakes than your common or garden review. Imma be all about ringing the changes in 2019 people. Mixing it right up. (Having said that my next post will be a review so……suck it up).
  • Be a bit fast and loose with my lovin. Purely of the blog kind I might hasten to add. I feel the need to go forth and share the love with some comments and retweets. It’s nice to engage and it’s nice to be nice. Simple innit?
  • Only read 2 books at any one time. Last year I was all ‘Charlie Big Potatoes’ about the fact that I could read more than one book at a time. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! But also……not so much. I can comfortably handle two at a time (steady) and no more. Also I prefer them to be vastly different time periods so that I can make easy distinctions. So, one contemporary and one historical only please! If you see me deviating, call me out on it.
  • Give some love to the books I already own which have been languishing on my shelves for many a year. It’s not fair on those little guys to be overshadowed by those brand spanking sparkly new proofs. I have some crackin ideas for showcasing some of the books I own here on the blog. I say ‘crackin’, they might be complete tosh but humour me….
  • Be choosy. And by this I mean not saying yes to books I don’t want to read, blog tours I don’t want to be involved in or instagram projects I have no interest in. Harsh but fair.
  • DNF books I’m not diggin far earlier. In fact just DNF’ing books anyway would be a huge start. I DNF’d 3 books last year, in the latter months and I feel liberated! I could DNF all over the parish now!
  • Say no more about my thoughts on negative reviews. I’ve talked the subject TO DEATH! Here is my stance I shall say it only ONCE MORE: I simply do not have the time to sit down and write full on negative reviews. I barely have time to write about the books I’ve enjoyed or loved. If a book appears on my blog then readers can take it as read (ironically) that I’ve enjoyed it. In that they can trust. There’s no writing a glowing review for the sake of it but by the same token if a book had negative points but I still enjoyed it then I will of course highlight then. I’m not duping anyone. I’d like to spend my time telling people about books they might love too. Not dissing ones I don’t. It’s my blog and I’ll blog how I want to. Namaste and all that. You do you.
  • Stop pretending I use notebooks for actual notes and not just pretty instagram pictures. I bow down to those of you who actually WRITE THINGS in your gorgeous stationery. I’m missing a gene or something. Those notebooks in that picture up there were blank. I know, shameful. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…….(that’s a Wizard Of Oz reference. There’s not really a man behind my curtain. I hope not anyway…..I’ve scared myself now!).

After that bombshell confession. I’m off.

Love you.

Here’s to 2019 you lovely bunch of bookish beasts.

See you soon

Bookish Chat xxx