Slack-Tide By Elanor Dymott – A Review

Publisher: Jonathan Cape

Publication Date: 17th Jan 2019

This book featured in my most anticipated reads of 2019 post that I published at the end of 2018. You can check out that post here.

I read Silver & Salt way back in 2017 and loved it. It’s included in a mini reading wrap up here from when I wasn’t an ‘official’ bookblogger.

Elanor Dymott intrigues me as an author, as soon as I’d read Silver & Salt I immediately went online and found what else she’d written and this led to me having Every Contact Leaves A Trace on my shelf which I’ve yet to read.

Slack-Tide tells the story of Elizabeth, a 40 year woman who’s marriage fell apart 4 years ago after the tragic loss of her baby daughter. Elizabeth has spent the last 4 years learning to become fiercely independent and suffering a few disastrous dates and ill-fated, short lived relationships.

When her close friend asks her to stand in on a cinema date with a man from her book group, Elizabeth reluctantly agrees. Robert is a 52 year old architect with an ex-wife Lena and an adult son Phillipe. He swiftly begins an intense relationship with Elizabeth. Showering her with gifts, paying for expensive meals, and sending her heartfelt emotionally heavy emails.

Initially Elizabeth is dubious of Robert and his intensity, particularly after having to become so self sufficient and independent, however she soon allows herself to let her guard down, and begin to fall for him.

We know right from the first few pages that this passionate, intense love affair doesn’t last:

By midsummer the thing between us was finished, and it was as if a storm had torn the roof from over me’

Robert being an older gentleman let’s Elizabeth know that he is unsure whether children will feature in his life in the future, whereas Elizabeth, having suffered such tragic loss knows intrinsically that she must have a child of her own.

They make a deal that when Robert decides for certain that he doesn’t want children he will walk away from their relationship and Elizabeth will be free to find a partner who shares her desire to have children. Deep down Elizabeth hopes that Robert’s passionate displays of affection and the way he has ingrained himself so deeply into her life means that he will eventually share her desires for a family.

This story is a fascinating look at a doomed love affair. I felt like a reluctant spectator watching a relationship slowly unravel and come apart. Even though I knew what eventually must happen I was still so invested in Elizabeth and Robert’s relationship.

Whilst the blurb for this book mentions a ‘coercive’ relationship I didn’t feel as if Elizabeth was entirely under Robert’s spell. There were times when she kicked back against his domineering ways and did exactly the opposite of what he was expecting of her. And whilst Robert was indeed a little odd in his ways, allowing his friends to look down on Elizabeth, dropping her whenever he felt like it then needily expecting Elizabeth to change her plans for him when he was free. Constantly talking about his ex wife Lena and their marriage and allowing her to be a constant, lingering shadow over their relationship. Some of his behaviour is distinctly disconcerting and uncomfortable to read.

‘In a book by Adam Phillips, Robert has underlined passages. ‘If you want to make someone fall for you’, one of the passages read, ‘intrude, invade, insert yourself’. I sat with the book in my hands for some time, thinking about the stream of empty hotel envelopes Robert had sent me from his trips. Once, he’d enclosed a room service slip with a heart scrawled in the corner, our initials entwined inside it. Another time was a subway ticket from New York and a map of Manhattan on a plastic card. On a trip to Toronto he’d sent a chocolate bar wrapper in a tissue paper envelope. Turning it over, I had just been able to make out the letters L-O-V-E stamped into the foil, intaglio style. I’d always imagined those things to be proxies for the letters he didn’t have time to write. That evening in his apartment though, I read further in the Adam Phillips. ‘Take every opportunity to put yourself in their field of vision,’ the underlined extract concluded. ‘Interfere with every aspect of their life’.

 

What I really love about Dymott’s writing is that it’s sparse and not over-written, no flowery, fancy prose, she tells it like it is. Highly relatable and engaging, I really did just devour it within a couple of hours one Sunday afternoon.

It gave me slight Almost Love by Louise O’Neill vibes but in a more mature setting. If you’re looking for a plot based story then this book isn’t for you. It’s most definitely a character study, a relationship study really. Whilst we know that Elizabeth has suffered the loss of her child, it is only ever referred back to sporadically but we also know that this tragic event has shaped her into the person she is.

With themes of love, loss and passionate heartache, this book was such a thoroughly enjoyable read.

A solid 4 stars from me.

The only thing I wasn’t keen on was that both the characters used the word ‘Honey’ CONSTANTLY. Such a small gripe but I hate that word! I’ll overlook it just this once because the book is so so good.

 

See you soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

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My Book Moment Subscription Box – Crime Fiction

Who doesn’t love coming home to a pretty parcel I ask ya!?

When I was asked by the lovely Lara Marshall over on Twitter whether I would like a gifted subscription box from the new book subscription service My Book Moment, I said gimme the deets!

Lara told me she had been tasked with picking the crime fiction book choice (there is also popular fiction to choose from) and together with the book, there would be a few little added treats in the box. I said YES PLEASE!

It arrived in a box that fitted easily through the letterbox which is a huge plus point. Who wants to come home to an annoying Royal Mail delivery card on their door mat?? Proper infuriating!

Inside there is a beautiful tissue wrapped package of loveliness. So what do you actually get?

Well I’ll tell you!….

First up we have the most important part of a book subscription box, the actual BOOK.

This months choice is You Let Me In by Lucy Clarke.

Fortunately I’ve not read this book but it really does sound amazing and I love Lucy Clarke’s writing.

I’m going to include the blurb so that you can get a feel for the book even though I’m not a huge blurb includererer (definitely a word).

BLURB:

Nothing has felt right since Elle rented out her house . . .

I’M IN YOUR HOUSE

There’s a new coldness. A shift in the atmosphere. The prickling feeling that someone is watching her every move from the shadows.

I’M IN YOUR HEAD

Maybe it’s all in Elle’s mind? She’s a writer – her imagination, after all, is her strength. And yet every threat seems personal. As if someone has discovered the secrets that keep her awake at night.

AND NOW I KNOW YOUR SECRET

As fear and paranoia close in, Elle’s own home becomes a prison. Someone is unlocking her past – and she’s given them the key…

How amazing does that sound?! Creepy AF!

I was so pleased with the choice of book and that’s the most important part right? BUT my second love in life after books is CHOCOLATE.

The box contained a delicious looking bar of Divine white chocolate with strawberries. Strawberries?! They are one of your five a day! Positively a health food! I can confirm at the time of writing this post, I have only 4 squares of the chocolate left (and they BETTER STILL BE THERE when I get home).

There were also two Clipper teabags, one Peppermint and one Wild Berry. Books and tea go hand in hand for me as I believe they do for a lot of people and I love trying new flavours.

Last but certainly not least was a Phase Zero liquid lipstick in a shade called Chai Latte. I’m not a huge makeup kinda gal and you won’t be seeing any beauty blogging anytime soon but I do like me a lipgloss, especially in a shade I wouldn’t necessarily have picked up myself.

So there we have it!

I was pretty chuffed with my gifted box and I’m excited to tuck into the book and the (rest of) the chocolate whilst sipping my tea and modelling my lipstick.

If you’re interested in purchasing a box then all the details can be found over on the My Book Moment website. Go check it out!

I’m going to be ordering next months for sure!

Thank you again to Lara and the lovely folk at My Book Moment.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

The Secretary by Renee Knight – A Review

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication Date: 21st Feb 2019

When the blog tour for The Secretary landed in my inbox I just knew I had to get involved. I’d read Disclaimer a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it, so I was hopeful for more of the same gripping, twisty turny drama.

Christine Butcher is a woman who quietly and conscientiously gets things done. Employed as PA to Lord Appleton, owner of a supermarket chain, Christine catches the attention of Mina, Lord Appleton’s daughter with her determination and effortless efficiency.

As Lord Appleton’s health diminishes and time marches on, Mina is lined up to take over the running of Appleton’s with Christine as her ever faithful secretary.

Christine lives for the attention of Mina, a sparkling personality. Even when Mina takes the company in new and fresh directions, Christine rolls with it and makes herself indispensable. Mina becomes a TV cooking sensation with star studded pals and friends in high places, even at Number 10.

Christine tries to involve herself in the glamorous lifestyle, working her way into Mina’s affections, picking up after her, organising her life and desperately grateful for every scrap of attention Mina deigns to dish out.

When Mina’s business practices are called into question and the running of Appleton’s and it’s relationships with its produce suppliers is thrown under the spotlight, Christine’s loyalties are truly tested.

At the expense of her own family she works tirelessly for her employer, carrying out dubious tasks and not thinking to ask why.

But has Christine been pushed too far? And will she realise that loyalty is not always a two way street before it’s too late?

This book for me was a slow burner. Not in a bad way, tension was slowly built and there was a continuous undercurrent of unease.

The story is told from the first person perspective of Christine. She is telling the story from a present day point and looking back over her employment and the events that have led up to this point in time. There are lots of references along the way to small events that Christine didn’t know at the time would become very relevant in her life. Almost throw away, innocuous moments that all tie up at a later date.

There is a section just over halfway through which is mostly courtroom based and if I’m honest I’m not a fan of this in literature. However, it’s not too drawn out a section and it did form the basis for a lot of what happens next.

The end section of this book is where it really ramps up a pace! Chock full of suspense and agonising tension, the latter part will have your heart racing.

This is a twisty turny story of the intricacies of relationships, tested loyalties and the constant see-sawing of power. I love the idea that the secretary can be the most dangerous person in the room. The person who slots themselves seamlessly into the lives of the very powerful but has the potential themselves to bring the whole house of cards crashing down. A person who is trusted, relied upon, sometimes too much and who constantly has their ear to the ground and their eyes peeled.

Christine is definitely a fascinating character. I felt quite detached from her, but I must admit that there were times I really felt sorry for her. Particularly when Mina was being especially cold towards her.

If you’re after a thriller which builds slowly into a crescendo then I can certainly recommend this book. What an ending!

Thank you so much as always to the publisher for the review copy and thank you to Anne Cater for allowing me to be part of the blog tour.

See you soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat. Xxx

Bookish Chat About: Non-Fiction

I’m often to be found trotting out the phrase ‘I’m just not a non-fiction kinda gal!’…….

Lies.

If for example I was at a pub quiz and was asked the question ‘How many non-fiction books did Amanda read in 2018?’ – My teams answer would be four maybe five if I thought really hard about it.  Well…..

1. My answer would be *cue Family Fortunes style noise* INCORRECT and

2. We’d be at a very dubious pub with very niche pub quiz questions.

It turns out in 2018 I read 15 non-fiction books.  Whilst that’s still not huge amounts considering I read 140 books in total, it’s still more than I thought.

Here they are in all their glory:

Love Nina: Dispatches From Family Life by Nina Stibbe.

Member Of The Family by Dianne Lake

Trafficked Girl by Zoe Patterson

Dead Babies And Seaside Towns by Alice Jolly

Look What You Made Me Do by Helen Walmsley Johnson

This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

Why Mummy Swears by Gill Sims

Impossible Things Before Breakfast by Rebecca Front

Hunger by Roxanne Gay

You Left Early by Louisa Young

Gross Anatomy by Mara Altman

A Life Discarded by Alexander Masters

My Shitty Twenties by Emily Morris

The Reading Cure by Laura Freeman

Kings Of The Yukon by Adam Weymouth

I put it to you the jury that Bookish Chat does indeed read non-fiction.  Case Closed.

Thinking about it I have read some absolute belters over the years, so I just wanted to do a little blog post about the non-fiction I have already read and enjoyed and then follow it up with a post about the non-fiction I am slowly amassing in my quest to be wider read this year.

I of course read Kings Of The Yukon By Adam Weymouth and The Reading Cure by Laura Freeman for The Sunday Times/Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer Of The Year Award and really enjoyed them both.

I also read You Left Early by Louisa Young and Look What You Made Me Do by Helen Walmsley-Johnson and enjoyed them both. Louisa Young tackles her partners alcoholism and Helen Walmsley-Johnson tackles her coercive relationship. Both books are unflinchingly honest, sometimes difficult reads. I actually remember tweeting that it was difficult to admit that I had ‘enjoyed’ Louisa’s book as it felt wrong to say it under the circumstances and was hugely relieved when she tweeted back that it was perfectly fine to say so.

In terms of the non-fiction I am drawn to, it seems to be books that are medically based, be that physically or mentally, or just books that satisfy my inherantly nosey nature. The perfect example of this being Home: The Story Of Everyone Who Ever Lived In Our House by Julie Myerson. Which is a book that does exactly what it says on the cover.  Julie Myerson takes it upon herself to research all the people who have lived in her London victorian house. This quest sees her visiting the library and checking out old archives and records (I’ve always wanted to do that!) she uncovers the lives of the families who lived their lives in her home. This has always fascinated me and I have to admit I got bit excited recently when we had to dig out our house deeds! It’s amazing to see the names of people who have lived through loves and losses in your home. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Next up is a book that is the epitome of nosey! What better way to snoop on somebody than to read their diary! A Life Discarded (148 diaries found in a skip) by Alexander Masters is the story of Alexander’s mission to find the owner of a stack of old diaries he chances upon in a skip. Piecing together somebody’s life via their innermost thoughts be they mundane or profound. Alexander doesn’t even know (up to a point) whether the diarist is male or female even. It’s like a quirky detective story with an edge of eavesdropping on someone’s thoughts. Again, I found this book fascinating.

Talking of diaries…….

Two books which are entirely made up of diary entries are The Diary Of A Book Seller by Shaun Bythell and Love Nina by Nina Stibbe. Both of these books are dryly humorous and witty. I love a book told in diary entries, not least again because I’m nosey but because they are short and snappy little glimpses into someone’s life and inner thoughts. I would heartily recommend both of these books.

Another great book I read last year was My Shitty Twenties by Emily Norris. I found an affiliation with this one straight away as Emily lives quite near to me and mentions a lot of the places I know in her book about falling pregnant, dropping out of university and initially struggling to bring up her baby as a single parent. Again this is a funny and heartwarming book full of northern heart. My review is here.

I am ashamed to admit that with Adam Kay’s This Is Going To Hurt, I have read it and loved it and I even wrote a review but it’s sitting in my drafts unpublished and I’m not sure why! All I can think is that this book has been EVERYWHERE and so many people have loved and reviewed it that I feel like why would anyone want to read MY review? Stupid eh? I wrote it such a long time ago now that I feel like I might never publish it……….ok ok I will one day…..maybe. Anyway, it’s a GREAT book. You know this I’m sure.

As this blog post goes live I have just finished When I Had A Little Sister by Catherine Simpson. Man. I can’t talk about it yet. My review will follow soon. Heartbreaking.

My intention was to do a post about the non-fiction I have read and enjoyed and the non-fiction I have collected recently by hook or by crook by this post has turned out to be a bit longer than I’d like so I’ll save my new non-fiction books for a separate post!

Suffice to say I DO INDEED read non-fiction and I DO INDEED enjoy it.

Do you have any suggestions of other books I may enjoy? I’m all ears!

See you soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

You Know You Want This By Kristen Roupenian – A Review

Publisher: Jonathan Cape

Publication Date: 7th February

I was perusing the Vintage website one lunch hour at work and I stumbled across this short story collection. Described as ‘stories that make you feel fascinated but repelled, scared but delighted, revolted but aroused’ – how could I not get my hands on it?!

With my recent growing affection for short story collections I knew I had to read this one. Which I did. In fact I binge read it. Gorging on one fantastic story after another, my jaw dropping.

The first story in the collection is called Bad Boy and oh my goodness what an opener!

Straight off the bat Roupenian hooks you, but then continues to reel you in at a frightening pace until you are horrified but can’t look away. To be honest I was left a little uncomfortable after that first story but in a good way. In a ‘can’t wait to see what she follows THAT with’ way.

These stories tell of the power that women can wield, not always for the greater good. The distinctly different dynamics between men and women in their relationships. The confusion that women can cause men and the subtle or not so subtle ways they can deliver pleasure or pain.

The author apparently wrote a short story which went viral entitled ‘Cat Person’. This story appears in the collection but for me it was the weakest story but still enjoyable, so I guess if you’ve read and enjoyed that one then you’ll love the rest! Whilst writing this review I had to go back and remind myself what it was all about whereas just seeing the titles of the other stories brought them all rushing back in glorious detail.

My favourites are The Boy In The Pool, The Matchbox Sign (an skin tingling, insidiously unsettling tale) and and Sardines (the story of one little girls birthday party wish and the power she has over her gathered party guests) . All of which start pretty innocuously and quickly ramp up to a horrific crescendo.

I suppose these are horror stories for the modern age. Not overtly gruesome, typical horror, but very inventive, unique, quirky, gripping and thought provoking horror. Stories to make your brain tick and keep you discombobulated. Having said that I’ve just remembered that the story entitled ‘The Mirror, The Bucket And The Old Thigh Bone is written like a fairytale which was quite refreshing in its delivery.

I really enjoyed Roupenian’s writing style. Pared back and not at all flouncy. Straight to the point and punchy.

This is slightly reminiscent of Lara Williams collection, A Selfie As Big As The Ritz. Maybe on speed……after a few too many shots of vodka. Darker with buckets of shock value.

A very accomplished collection that I would thoroughly recommend to any short story lovers.

Thank you as always to the publisher and particularly Sophie Painter for hooking me up with a proof copy for review.

See you soon.

Amanda @bookishchat xxx

Blood Orange By Harriet Tyce – A Review

Publisher: Wildfire

Publication Date: 21st Feb 2018

This is one of those books that you see other bloggers receiving and get a touch of the old green eyed monster descending over you. At least I did. I was then hella lucky to receive one of the precious orange hued boxes in the post containing this beauty.

Despite this book not being released until February 2019 I dived straight in! (And I’m writing this review in September 2018 BUT it won’t be published until next year which will be NOW as you’re reading this! Crikey that was some Back To The Future type trickery right there!).

I’ll tell you about the book now eh?

Alison, to all intents and purposes has it all. A devoted husband, a perfect little girl Matilda and a job as a criminal lawyer. However things are never quite as they seem (of course not, this is a thriller after all!). Alison is struggling under the weight of a secret. She’s been having an affair with a colleague named Patrick. A man who seems to only want her for quick, rough sex on his terms. Alison knows this is wrong, she knows she’s endangering her marriage and home life but she feels an indescribable pull towards Patrick.

Alison drinks too much, works long hours and puts herself in risky situations with Patrick. Carl her husband has had enough of her ways and is embarrassed about her behaviour, especially when she’s been drinking.  He fears for the safety of his daughter whilst she’s in Alison’s care and makes Alison feel like a failure at being a mother.  An accusation she refutes.

When Alison is assigned her first ever murder case, a domestic incident in which a woman has murdered her abusive husband, Alison begins to question her own relationships. How can she extricate herself from Patrick’s hold over her, and who else knows what she’s been up to?

This is one of those thrillers that pulls you in right from the start. If I didn’t have a job to go to and children to keep alive I would have sat myself down and devoured this in one sitting. It’s everything I adore about a good thriller without being cliched. It has an edginess to it, the like of which I’ve not read in a thriller for a long while.

It is dark and gritty and doesn’t shy away from difficult topics. The writing is stripped back, real, visceral (hate that word but it fits!). And it has the added perfection of not only a pacy plot line to keep you gripped but absolutely fascinating characters that you want to sit down and study.

Alison as the main protagonist is not exactly a likeable lady! She’s essentially putting her family at risk for the sake of a cheap thrill but I did feel for her as I watched her slowly begin to unravel. The drinking, the recklessness all serving to make her difficult life all the more tumultuous.

The men in this story will absolutely make your blood boil! Mysoginistic, controlling beyond words and domineering. But fear not! The women are ballsy and strong and ultimately make you feel empowered!

The author Harriet Tyce spent the best part of a decade working as a criminal barrister in London and whilst you can certainly tell she knows her stuff, she doesn’t ram the legalese down your throat. Something I was very grateful of. I was also happy that the main murder trial that Alison was working on was not the main focus for the story. I’m not a huge fan of courtroom legally stuff (correct terminology I’m sure) so having the murder case as a thread running through Alison’s story was perfect for me.

This story did grip me from the start but my god, the final chapters were what that little ‘hands clasped on the face shocked expression’ emoji was made for! At one point when Alison is having a conversion and something starts to dawn on her, the cold realisation that she was experiencing I was feeling too! Brilliant!

If a pacy, gritty thriller is your bag then trust me, you need to get your hands on this one ASAP!

Such an accomplished debut by the author. I’m excited to read more from her………..has she written another book yet?…….how about now?…….now?……

Thank you as always to the publisher for the arc.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat. Xxx

Bookish Chat About: How I Structure A Review

I read a post on another blog recently about how that person likes to structure a book review and I found it very interesting. Given that my recent (Slightly contentious!) blog post about When Is A Review Not A Review? garnered some interest and great discussion points, and a few people asked me about the best way to structure a review, I thought I’d do a little blog post of my own.

Now before I start I must say that there is no ‘best way’ to structure a review. I am certainly no expert and still consider myself a ‘newbie’ even though I’ve been bookblogging in earnest for over 18 months now. Some of you out there have been at for YEARS, honing your review skills and nailing it!

I still get nervous before I start a review, what if I’ve lost my knack? I still get a gut churning sense of anxiety when I press ‘publish’ on a post, what if I’m totally off pitch? What if its……..UTTER RUBBISH?! The HORROR!

That said, I do tend to stick to a tried and tested vague structure when I’m composing a review.

When I start reading a book I always set up a draft post with a picture of the book and publisher details. This acts as a kind of ‘aide memoire’ and allows me to see more or less at a glance what reviews I have on the go and when they need to be written by.

A draft post also allows me to add bits in as and when the mood strikes (or I’ve snatched myself some time to write!). I rarely write a complete review in one sitting but it has been known if I’m super pumped after reading a book and fizzing with ideas.

I don’t write notes.

There I’ve said it.

I don’t use those notebooks.

They’re blank.

CALL THE COPS.

I’ve tried, I really have. But I’m just too lazy for writing notes I’m afraid kids.

So when I’ve got my draft post ready, image of the book in situ, book read, I can crack on.

I usually start with a brief description of how I came by the book, what drew me to it etc. I then give a brief overview of the story. I personally don’t use the blurb in any way in reviews. I will use them in ‘haul’ posts because I haven’t read the books yet and can’t summarise them myself. I have nothing against bloggers who use the blurb as part of a full and detailed review. I just prefer to use my own words rather than the words of a book marketer. That’s just me folks!

I don’t give away spoilers and in books where I’ve gone in ‘blind’ I try to give as few plot details as possible if I think my reading experience was made all the better for not knowing them myself.

I tend to then move on to characters and characterisation in general. Discussing my thoughts on them, reaction to them, what I think was going on with them and whether I liked or disliked them etc.

I move on to writing style, what was the prose like? Sparse or detailed? What was the narrative perspective? First, second or third person? Any likes or dislikes of writing style. Pacing is also a good point to mention and I like to give a nod to chapter length if I feel that it had an effect on my reading (I enjoy short snappy chapters).

I then like to mention any over arching themes just to add weight and detail, although I personally don’t give specific trigger warnings, if I’m asked outright I will of course try my best to give details of any subjects that might be considered triggering. As an aside this whole triggering subject is an interesting one. Drew over at The Tattooed Book Geek recently wrote a very incisive blog post about the subject here which you should check out.

I then usually conclude a review with a general final thought and maybe a nod to whether it’s a book I would recommend to everyone (not every book I enjoy is!).

If I have received a proof copy I will thank the publisher. If I use a quotation I will mention that it is from the proof and NOT the finished copy. This is a new thing I’ve started doing and whilst I don’t always use quotes I find them helpful for giving people a sample of the writing style. I like to read reviews with quotes in.

So….is there anything I DON’T include in a review?….

Well I tend not to do any ‘about the author’ detail, because I don’t really tend to read these on the blog posts I read. If I don’t like to read it, I don’t like to write it!

I also don’t tend to include links of where to buy the books from because……well I’m just too lazy! I’m sure we all know where to buy books from.

Contrary to popular belief, size ISN’T everything and I would say my reviews are of average length. Long enough to be considered a detailed review (I hope!) but not too wordy. I don’t enjoy reading extra long reviews, I need succinctness to hold my interest. Therefore, again, if I don’t like to read it, I don’t like to write it.

At the end of the day folks, it’s your blog and your reviews and the best advice I can give is you do you!

I just thought a little ‘what I do’ post might be helpful. And it’s worth noting that even I sometimes stray from my tried and tested review structure.

How do you do yours?…..

See you soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx