The Vet’s Daughter By Barbara Comyns – A Review

Publisher: Virago

This wonderful book came into my life via my Mr B’s Emporium monthly book subscription.  I trust their choices implicitly because they really took the time to listen to my likes and dislikes when I had my consultation with them before my subscription started. They gave me a good going over as it were!

The cover of The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns intrigued me and put me in mind of the cover of The Book Collector by Alice Thompson (and also gives a clue or two about what the book could be about but that’s all I’ll say on that!).

The story is told via the first person perspective narrative of seventeen year old Alice Rowlands, the daughter of a vet in an unnamed Edwardian London suburb.  Alice’s father is a tyrant, an evil tempered man who treats both Alice and her ailing mother with utter comtempt and as more or less slaves in the home.  Alice’s mother is a timid woman who is gravely ill.  She tries her best to tend to her brutal husband’s needs and keep the home in order.  When she can no longer disguise the pain she is in, they enlist the help of housekeeper Mrs Churchill, a no nonsense woman who Alice comes to rely heavily on. Alice’s father seems to despise her mother even more during her illness, particularly when she becomes bedbound.  He even has the audacity to send the undertaker round to measure Alice’s mother for her coffin before she has even died, Mrs Churchill sends him away with a flea in his ear!

‘ I didn’t look after Father as well as Mother used to, and he often hit me because the bacon was burnt or the coffee weak. Once, when I had ironed a shirt badly, he suddenly rushed at me like a charging bull in a thunderstorm, seeming to toss the shirt some way with his head. I held onto the kitchen sink, too afraid to move. He came up at me and I saw the whites of his eyes were all red. He was only wearing his vest and trousers and was dreadfully hairy. He seized the arms of the shirt and was trying to tie them round my neck with his great square hands, when the parrot suddenly started to give one of its awful laughs. Father seemed to go all limp and stumble from the room, while the parrot went on laughing’.

After Alice’s mother’s inevitable death, Alice is left to be the homemaker and is at the mercy of her Father’s violence and rage. When he takes up with a new lady friend, the brash and bawdy Rosa (dubbed The Strumpet From The Trumpet after the name of the cafe she waitressed at) Alice is further ostracised.  Alice doesn’t get on with Rosa, who is desperately trying to fix Alice up with a n’er do well waiter she knows, and when Alice is attacked by said waiter Rosa is expelled from the Rowland’s house.

Alice is then sent away to the country to become a companion to the mother of one of her father’s fellow veterinary colleagues a Mr Peebles (who Alice nicknames ‘Blinkers’).  It is here that she discover she has a dubious ‘gift’, something which she is able to do at will and which sets her apart as ‘peculiar’ to everyone else.  A skill she wants to hide and bury.   When tragedy strikes at the home of Mrs Peebles, Alice is boomeranged back to London and her Father’s house, where her striking ‘talent’ is discovered by her Father, who then attempts to exploit it for his own selfish gain.

Plot wise, that is all I want to tell you.  This is a book you need to discover for yourselves! a rare and brilliant gem!

There is such an underlying unease within the pages of this book, not only due to the magical realism which really comes to the fore in the latter half of the book, but also down to the sinister behaviour of Alice’s father and the odd and quirky peripheral characters who are larger than life but not always likeable!

Added to this there is the strange setting of the vet surgery being in the Rowland’s home.  The noisy parrot who pulls out it’s own feathers and has to be comforted in the bathroom, the cages of barking dogs and mewing cats, the cacophony of animal noise and odours and the mongoose who lives in the kitchen for a time.  There is also a creepy vivisectionist who makes regular visits to the surgery to collect any bodies of animals that the vet himself cannot re-home or have use for.

I have always said that I love books where things are slightly ‘off’, not quite right with a hint at the surreal.  This book is the absolute perfect example of this.  One review I read described Barbara Comyns’ writing as ‘offbeat’ and I would wholeheartedly agree with this.

It is arguably a grim read, depressing and gut wrenchingly sad in places, but the prose is so stark and unflinching.  I have often seen reviews that say ‘not a word was wasted’ and I think now for the first time having just finished this book,  I can fully understand the meaning behind this.

Alice herself is such a lovable character, she comes across as quite naive and maybe that is due to her age but also to her guileless sensibilities.  She seems to take life at face value and accept that of course her father will hit her, of course he will deride her and of course he will find her contemptuous.  There is almost an acceptance that this is how her life is meant to be, which of course is so sad in itself.

I read the end of this book whilst I was on my lunch break at work and immediately wanted to go and speak to somebody about it.  It is shocking and heartrending and still plays on my mind even now.

Since reading this book I have bagged myself 4 more of Barbara Comyns books. I took Sisters By A River out from my local library and read it within about 2 days, another quirky, dark tale but riddled with humour. Then I read The House Of Dolls (one of her later books written in the 80’s) telling the darkly humorous tale of a group of middle aged ‘escorts’ shall we say, who live on the top floor of one Mrs Amy Doll’s house.  Set in the 1960’s this is another quirky tale shot through with Comyns inimitable humour.

I have also bought The Juniper Tree and Our Spoons Came From Woolworths, they are secondhand copies which I have yet to read.  I don’t want to gobble them up too quickly, I want to savour them!  There are other Comyns books but some of them are quite rare and quite pricey so I’m going to have to do some research!

If you enjoy offbeat, quirky, sometimes darkly humorous fiction then you need to give Comyns a whirl! I feel so lucky to have discovered her, her writing is a complete and utter joy.

Let me know if you’ve read any of books. I’d love to chat about them.


See you all soon.


Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx



Bookish Chat About: My Blogging Blunders

‘To Err is human….’

Or so they say, right?

A little impromptu bonus blog post for you today which I’m going to look on as a kind of therapy for myself.  You lot are my counsellors, my confidants, my listening ears.

Forgive me bookish pals for I have sinned.

Well not so much ‘sinned’ as ‘ballsed up’. I mean we’re not talking big, swinging, hairy balls, we’re talking….well……just…normal sized balls I suppose.

But the point is, recently I have effed up a couple of times.  Nobody will be in the slightest bit bothered, they probably haven’t even noticed. We all make mistakes, BUT even so, I crriiiiiiiiinge inside when I think about them!

I pride myself on being RIGHT.  I check my posts for spelling and grammar errors as best I can, I check my tweets for the same, nobody wants to look like a berk.  Occasionally however, little things slip through and it irks me!

Up first we have The Great Mis-tag Mistake.  Yes, I tagged THE WRONG AUTHOR in my tweet about a book that a publisher recently sent to me.  It took someone to politely say ‘ermmmmm isn’t that the wrong author?’ before I even realised.  A quick delete and re-try was swiftly executed but I was inwardly cringing my nut off. Did the world end? No. But still! In my defence, their names were VERY similar….

Next up we have The Do Your Own Research Debacle. I watched a booktube video in which the channel host was talking about a book which I thought sounded right up my street. They handily said who it was published by and so off I tottered to approach said publisher to see if I could get my hands on a proof…….Now I asked very politely…….I was very respectful, I was very enthusiastic….however, and here’s the kicker….


Yes, I’d made the mistake of taking what the booktuber said as gospel.  If there is one lesson we can all take away from this it’s DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH! (ie don’t be lazy and gullible like little old me). Luckily the publisher was lovely but I wanted to go to bed and hide for a few days (weeks).

And today we have The ‘Dude Where’s Your Blog Post?’ Blunder.  On going to copy across my recent blog review to Goodreads, I realised that the last draft of the post had not updated properly and the post had been published with the final few paragraphs missing……no ‘thank you’ to the publisher, no sign off from me…..just a very abrupt ending!

This review had been up for over 24 hours…….PART FINISHED.

I know that these things don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but at the time they mattered to me.  But I’m not going to beat myself up about it and I can’t afford the air fare for a one way ticket to a remote island where I can cringe inwardly in peace, so…….

Do any of you want to stick your head above the parapet with me and confess to your blogging sins?

Come on…..don’t leave me hanging here like a complete and utter whelk……

See you soon, (when hopefully I’ll have my shit together)

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx


Changeling By Matt Wesolowski – A Review

Publisher: Orenda

Publication Date: 15th January 2019


I’ve recently become changeling obsessed.

There I’ve said it.

I read Little Darlings by Melanie Golding a few weeks ago and was suckered in by the whole idea of changelings. (Man those babies in that book are creeeeeepy!).

So I put a little shout out to the Twitter book massive and asked for any other changeling based recommendations and lo and behold the lovely Karen at Orenda Books suggested Changeling by Matt Wesolowski. Not only did she suggest it, she also very generously sent me a copy! And that my friends is why I call her ‘the lovely Karen’.

I had seen this book along with Matt’s other books, Six Stories and Hydra doing the Twitter rounds with huge praise and stonking reviews but I think at the time I was caught up with other books and life and they kind of fell by the wayside. I have to admit that I was intrigued by the podcast audio narrative of the books and knew that at some point I would read them.

So….Changeling.  Lets get straight into it.

Scott King is the host of a podcast called Six Stories in which he investigates cold crime cases and looks at what happened through six different perspectives. Taking an old case and looking at it anew through the eyes of six people who were connected at the time.

When Scott receives a letter suggesting he investigate the case of 7 year old Alfie Marsden who disappeared from his fathers car in the Wentshire Forest on Christmas Eve 1988 and was never seen again, he has pause to think. Young Alfie had been sleeping in the back of his father, Sorrel’s, car on that fateful night.  Sorrel, on hearing a knocking coming from the car engine, pulled over to investigate just near a new construction site Great Escapes.  A matter of minutes later, Alfie was gone, missing without a trace.  He was officially declared presumed dead in 1995.

Surely everyone already knows about this case? what more can be gained by making it the focus of the Six Stories podcast?

But, Scott takes it on despite a reticence he feels deep inside about stirring this case up and bringing it back to life and starts speaking to 6 witnesses with connections to the case in some way.  We hear from Alfie’s parents Sorrel and Sonia, and amongst others we hear from a construction worker, a psychic, and a teaching assistant from Alfie’s school who spent a lot of time with him.

Each of these interviews, told in the Six Stories podcast audio narrative are sinister and eye opening in equal measure. I found two points of view particularly creepy, they made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end! Firstly, the narrative of Callum the construction worker who tells of the environment in which they were building Great Escapes and the strange and unnerving goings on there.

Wentshire Forest is already home to various myths and legends, most of which are firmly rooted in the sinister, surrounding tales of ‘The Wentshire Witch’ and changelings. But when Callum starts to experience odd occurrences in the isolated, dense forest he begins to wonder just how much of these tall tales are actually myths after all…..

It was the knocking – on the doors, the windows, the ceilings of the vehicles. I remember going and sitting in with someone once, so they could prove they weren’t losing their mind. It was fucking insane. That knocking came from anywhere you weren’t looking. Above your head, behind your back, over your shoulder, it was horrible. If you tried to look around it would move. It was like it knew……


I read this section on the bus. A jam packed bus full of people minding their own business and yet I was transported to Wentshire Forest in the expert hands of Matt Wesolowski and I felt like I was there, experiencing all that Callum and his colleagues had. So much so that when the bus driver’s radio crackled loudly into life I nearly jumped out of my skin!

This uneasy feeling didn’t abate when I got to the safety of my own home however….

I usually keep a book in my bag for the bus journey to work, lunchtime reading in the office and then to keep me company on the bus journey home, I rarely read my ‘bus book’ at home.

HOWEVER! I couldn’t put Changeling back in my bag and just not think about it! So out it came and I carried on reading.

The next voice we heard from was the late Delyth Rice who had recorded her own audio files for her dissertation on behaviour in young children from a time when she worked closely with a ‘difficult’ child in the school she was employed at. This child is referred to as Child A throughout, but it is assumed that this troubled boy is Alfie Marsden.

These passages told through Delyth’s audio accounts are some of the most atmospheric in the whole book. I was so tense reading them!My shoulders were up around my ears! Delyth tells of the encounters and experiences she’s had with Child A when she is supervising him alone in the classroom in a one on one situation.

It feels like hours, we sit there. Stalemate. I remember thinking, fine, just fine. I’ll get plenty of stories from the staffroom. That’s when I hear it. Tap-tap-tap. I almost drop the book. It sounds like it’s coming from right under Mrs Moss’s desk. I look straight at Child A, expecting not to see him in his seat, but there he is. The same position, no sign of movement. I stare at him for a little while longer, willing him to raise his head, to grin….anything. Nothing. I am shaken, a little bit. You see with kids, when they do something naughty, they can’t help looking at you, to see if you’ve noticed. Crafty, I think. Not like a normal child at all. Tap-tap-tap. Louder this time, and I nearly cry out. I swear, it’s like there’s someone underneath the desk. I even push my chair back to look – to see for myself that someone isn’t lying there, tapping the underside of the desk with a pencil. That’s what it sounds like. Of course there’s no one there. Of course there isn’t. I look back up, pull back into the desk. And I see that Child A has moved…

Now……I looked up whilst reading this to see my teenage child standing at the window staring at me with his face painted like The Joker (it had been sports day at school). I nearly died!

Children can be so creeeeepy!

In all seriousness though, I’m quite good with creepy, unnerving stuff. I’m quite partial to a horror film but for me to feel so deeply invested and sucked right into the story enough to block out everything around me is testament to how evocative Matt Wesolowski’s writing is.

Scott King carries on his investigation. Analysing the different narratives, the opposing perspectives and trying to piece it all together. We go on to hear from Sonia, Alfie’s mother, a troubled woman with an alcohol problem, a woman who stayed away from the eyes of the press at the time of Alfie’s disappearance. A woman who appeared to all intents and purposes to be quite detached and cold. Conversely we then have Sorrel, Alfie’s heartbroken father. A man who still makes the journey to the Wentshire Forest to try and find his son, even now, years after the event.

But what can Scott glean from all this information? Can he find any new leads that may help put the mystery of Alfie’s disappearance to bed? is he really just raking over old ground? And will he regret unearthing past secrets that maybe should have stayed buried?

The sinister undertone running throughout every single part of this story is what had me hooked! I love my fiction dark and I adore being expertly transported into a place where I don’t feel safe. I can honestly say this book got under my skin in a very real way and is unlike any thriller I have ever read before.

The fresh and contemporary feel of the podcast narrative made for a propulsive read. This was the ultimate ‘I couldn’t put it down’ book. Because really and truly I couldn’t! The ending, when it came was a shocker to me too!  Looking back on it now I’m wondering whether I should have known what had happened all along…..but I really didn’t, and I’m so pleased it happened that way.

I am now so excited to move on to Six Stories and Hydra, Matt Wesolowski is undoubtedly a very skilled writer and I can’t wait to give myself over to his capable hands as it were, and immerse myself in the intriguing world of Scott King.

Thank you very much as always to Karen at Orenda for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx



Bookish Chat About: Birth Date Books

I mentioned at the start of the year that I wanted to show you some of the books I have on my shelves.

I’m all too aware that I can tend to only show you the brand spanking new proofs I am lucky enough receive and my reviews of these. But I have shelves and a book trolley packed with books I’ve had in my possession for a good old while!

It’s my birthday tomorrow so I thought it would just be a bit of fun to show you the books on my shelves that correlate to the numbers in my birth date…..I know right, genius.

So….my date of birth is 22/07/1978 and I’ll be 41 (shut up about it) so I have selected books 22, 7, 19, 78 and 41.

I purposefully didn’t choose from the trolley which houses the new proofs and I also didn’t include my forever shelves as these are the books I’ve read and loved and I probably talk about them a luh-hot.

This is a good selection of 5 books I haven’t read yet, all of which I’m now thinking need to be pushed up the TBR!

So let’s get crackin (I’m going to include blurbs by the way, soz).

First up we have:

Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume – published by Windmill



A misfit man finds a misfit dog. Ray, aged fifty-seven, ‘too old for starting over, too young for giving up’, and One Eye, a vicious little bugger, smaller than expected, a good ratter. Both are accustomed to being alone, unloved, outcast – but they quickly find in each other a strange companionship of sorts. As spring turns to summer, their relationship grows and intensifies, until a savage act forces them to abandon the precarious life they’d established, and take to the road. 

I read Sara Baume’s A Line Made By Walking a couple of years ago now. I found her writing style really stark and to the point yet still quite lyrical. I’ve heard good things about this one and have read some great reviews from people who’s taste I trust (Susan at A Life In Books wrote a great review here). It’s a fairly short read and I am looking forward to finally picking it up!

The Edible Woman By Margaret Atwood – Published by Virago.


Marian is determined to be ordinary. She lays her head gently on the shoulder of her serious fiancee and quietly awaits marriage. But she didn’t count on an inner rebellion that would rock her stable routine, and her digestion. Marriage a la mode, Marian discovers, is something she literally can’t stomach …

Please don’t think ill of me……I’ve NEVER read any Margaret Atwood…

I know!

I’ve not even made it all the way through watching The Handmaids Tale on the TV either! Shocking.

However, I did pick up this secondhand copy of The Edible Woman because I trust in Margaret Atwood’s writing despite never having read any of her books. Millions of people can’t be wrong can they?!

This one sounds intriguing and just putting the blurb in this post has piqued my interest more…..hmmmm I need to get to this one soon too!


The Sealwoman’s Gifts by Sally Magnusson – Published by Two Roads.


In 1627 Barbary pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted 250 of its people from a tiny island off the mainland. Among the captives the island pastor, his wife and their three children. Although the raid itself is well documented, little is known about what happened to the women and children afterwards.

In this brilliant reimagining, Sally Magnusson gives a voice to Ásta, the pastor’s wife. Enslaved in an alien Arab culture Ásta meets the loss of both her freedom and her children with the one thing she has brought from home: the stories in her head.

Now this one is a beauty! I think I won this one in a Twitter giveaway but I’d already had thoughts of buying it anyway. I like anything linked with sea myths (a blog post to come about this subject soon) and I’m hoping this one has hints of that. We’ll see!

There Were No Windows by Norah Hoult – Published by Persephone


This 1944 novel is about memory loss and is the only book we know of, apart from “Iris about Iris Murdoch” (and arguably “There Were No Windows” is wittier and more profound), on this subject. Based on the last years of the writer Violet Hunt, a once- glamorous woman living in Kensington during the Blitz who is now losing her memory, the novel’s three ‘acts’ describe with insight, humour and compassion what happens to ‘Claire Temple’ in her last months.

This is my one and only Persephone book. I went to London at the end of last year to do my judging stint for The Sunday Times Young Writer Of The Year Award and we did a little whistle stop tour of some of the iconic London bookshops (you’ll find a post on this here).

We of course had to make a stop at Persephone (just before it closed!) and I plumped for this book. I could have chosen soooo many others though! They have beautiful endpapers and matching bookmarks. I could go wild in there!

Finally we have:

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton – Published by Trapeze


Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

Did she get it wrong all those years ago? 
Or is there something much darker at play?

Now I’m so surprised that I haven’t got around to reading this one yet. I think it’s because when a book is super hyped, as this one was, I feel like waiting a while and not reading it when everyone else is….do you ever get like that?

I’ve heard great things about it and I know it will be right up my street, so really, what am I waiting for?!?

There we have it. A brief insight into some of the books on my shelves.

Have you read any of them? What were your thoughts?

I’ll be off now, don’t tell anyone I’m 41 tomorrow will you? I’ll never live it down.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Birthday Bookish Chat xx

Witches Sail In Eggshells by Chloe Turner – A Review

Publisher: Reflex Press

Publication Date: 11th June 2019

I love me a short story collection. You are all no doubt very aware of this by now!

When I saw Witches Sail In Eggshells by Chloe Turner mentioned on Twitter by Chloe herself I was intrigued by the title and did a little bit of googling…..

Did you know that if you don’t smash up your empty eggshells after you have used the egg, witches will steal the shells, use them as boats to sail across the seas casting spells and causing untold damage?…..

Seems legit!

The point is I LOVE superstition and folklore like this and I got a really good vibe about the collection just from this awesome title. This vibe cranked up a notch when I investigated further and found that there was a sample story from the collection on the Reflex Press website. A story called Hagstone which I urge you to read here.

This story had just the right amount of magical realism and folklore for me and I had the excited tingly feeling when you know a book is going to be right up your street!

The guys at Reflex very generously said I could have a gifted copy to review and the rest as they say, is history.

I feel I like I was constantly wanging on about this collection on Twitter and Instagram so most of you will already know my thoughts and feelings, but for the rest of you, strap in and brace yourselves whilst I try and assemble my thoughts.

I find reviewing short story collections somewhat of a challenge but I’ll try my utmost to convey my thoughts coherently and do this amazing book justice!

There are 17 stories in this collection each ranging from around 3 pages to around 10 pages.  The overarching themes are of ‘love, loss, the little ways we let each other down, and how we can find each other again’.

I don’t like to talk about each individual story in a collection as I think it’s very important for a reader to discover for themselves.  I do however like to pick out stories that particularly resonated with me and ones that have stuck in my mind.  Although having said that, I flicked through the collection after reading it and knew immediately, just by the title alone, what each of the stories were about.  This is not always the case after I finish a collection.  I can sometimes forget what a particular story was all about and have to read bits to remind myself. I have also been known to confuse stories with other collections by different authors!

The stories which stand out in my mind (and still give me the tingles now!) are:

A Raft Of Silver Corpses, which tells the story of a coastal town where strange things are happening to the sea life.  Starting with the octopuses being found inland, the star fish literally being thrown out of the sea, dead, making 5 pronged imprints in the concrete, the fish dying almost as a collective.  We learn of the residents reaction to the sea giving up it’s dead, and the lengths they will go to to make sure the evidence remains hidden.

The stories swiftly turned sour when the octopuses began coming up the beach. Just at night, at first: evening dog-walkers talked of finding them mired in sand right up at the tideline, mantles expanding and contracting, blue blood leaking from their beaks. Then, two were found on the lifeboat slipway in broad daylight, heaving themselves towards the boat shack like old women walking into the wind. One lively specimen made it all the way to the Spar in the clutch of shops set back from the harbour wall. It had backed itself into a gap between the fridges, flashing through colour changes as if it were trying to pass on a message in code.

This story is a very brief 3 pages long and the shortest story in the collection I think, but for me it is the one that had the biggest impact on me. I love anything relating to the sea, be that myth or folklore or strange happenings and this story packs such a punch for such a short story.  I have read it several times since.

This leads me neatly on to the next story which still haunts me:

The Wetshod Child, which tells the story of Lewis, a fisherman who stumbles upon a strange turn of events down at the shoreline one evening when going to moor up his boat during a storm. What he finds down there amongst the rocks, changes his and his wife Sal’s lives for all too brief a time, leading to a heartbreaking conclusion.  Again this story is steeped in sea based myth and folklore and put me firmly in mind of the story The Pied Piper which appears in the short story collection Some New Ambush by Carys Davies which I recently read and loved.

Not all of the stories in the collection have a magical realism/folklore edge.  Some are firmly based in reality, in the here and now of the real world, which lets face it can be more heartbreaking and horrifying and downright odd at times!

Collecting Her Thoughts On The Prison Steps tells of a woman who has a habit of collecting things, glass bottles, thimbles, men…..when one of the men makes her collect something she really doesn’t want, she finds herself having to accept the dire consequences.  This story really tugged at my heartstrings and left me feeling a bit choked, told through the eyes and observations of her close friend, this story really got under my skin for some reason.

In Show Me What You’re Made Of Di’s partner Michael with his catchphrase of ‘show me what you’re made of’ becomes somewhat involved in getting to the heart of the matter. Destroying objects and insects just to ‘see what they are made of’. But what is he working on alone in his workshop, and does he want to see just what Di is made of?

As I’ve mentioned, I could sit and talk about each of these stories but I do believe it’s important just to get a flavour of a collection and go and discover it for yourself.

What I loved about it, aside from Chloe Turner’s captivating writing style is the fact that there is a mixture of stories with magical realism, folklore and fairytale in with contemporary stories rooted in reality. This meant that you never quite knew what to expect going into a story. You are kept on your toes as a reader.

Add to this the fact that there is also a lovely blend of stories which have open endings, where you have to make your own assumptions and read between the lines and stories which are neatly tied up with satisfying conclusions. Quite often a short story collection will contain either one or the other, and don’t get me wrong, I do like both types of ending. I like to push my imagination boundaries and think about a possible conclusion for a story, and also try to discern what the author meant to portray as their ending. But I also enjoy the neat, boxed off roundedness (if that is indeed a word!) of a fully concluded story.

I don’t know if I’ve articulated that very well but I hope you know what I’m driving at!

There are some memorable characters who appear briefly but capture your heart. The nuanced relationships, most of which are not perfect, are fascinating. Some of the stories almost feel like modern day cautionary tales about how not to go about relationships!

I adored this collection and know that it will take pride of place on my bookshelf. I am extremely excited to read more of Chloe Turner’s work.

Thank you as always to the publisher for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

The Other Mrs Miller By Allison Dickson – A Review

Publisher: Sphere

Publication Date: 16th July 2019

I do love a thriller every now and again folks! If you know me at all, you’ll know my usual favoured genre would be dark, gothic historical fiction, however sometimes a pacy thriller is the perfect antidote to all the darkness.

The Other Mrs Miller by Allison Dickson tells the story of Phoebe Miller, a reclusive wealthy woman who likes to while away her days by her swimming pool, self medicating with glass after glass of wine. Her marriage is faltering over the subject of children, Phoebe is against the idea of starting a family whereas her husband Mark is hoping to do everything in his power to persuade her otherwise.

Also, Phoebe’s high profile businessman father has become embroiled in very public controversy surrounding his conduct around women. Phoebe is rightly mortified about her father’s behaviour and the subsequent spotlight it has thrown on other areas of his life, mainly her. This is why she chooses to stay indoors, away from prying eyes.

But how safe is she behind the walls of her secure home? Just recently she has noticed a blue car parked outside her house, daily. She cannot see who the slight figure is inside the vehicle but she keeps a notebook logging the times the car arrives, how long it stays and the time it leaves.

When a new family move in across the street, Phoebe’s mind is taken off the car and it’s mysterious driver for a while. Vicki and her doctor husband Roy arrive in the neighbourhood with their son Jake and Phoebe suddenly has a reason to leave the house again. A tentative friendship with Vicki during which they share their woes surrounding their respective marriage troubles, and a clandestine relationship with Jake added to the mix.

But just why did the family choose this exact neighbourhood? Why did they have to leave their previous home so quickly? and why do they appear to have money worries? Phoebe feels that there is a lot more going on behind closed doors than Vicki cares to let on.

When an explosive event occurs, everyone’s lives are changed forever, not least the mysterious stalker who has had eyes on Phoebe all along.

I have to be entirely honest with you, as I always am. I very nearly gave up and put this book down a little way into part 2. Now don’t get me wrong, part 2 starts with an absolute jaw-dropping bang! I was NOT expecting that opening. After a fairly gentle first part, I was surprised and excited by the turn of events going into part 2. However, things took a little unbelievable turn which pushed the boundaries of credibility and I did a little eye-roll.

BUT ……here’s the thing. Despite plans being formulated which WOULD NEVER WORK IN A MILLION YEARS, I was still wholly invested in this book and desperate to see what the hell was going to happen! What did it matter if the realms of possibility were in question? I was thoroughly enjoying this book!

I even took to Goodreads to see what other folk were saying and was heartened to see that I wasn’t the only one shouting ‘Oh come on!’ It’s always nice when your thoughts are validated and you don’t feel so ‘out there’ on a limb, alone.

So the upshot of this is I continued to read the book. Of course I did. I NEEDED to know if this madcap scheme would pay off!

The other thing I felt slightly uncomfortable about was that I was finding certain parts quite lighthearted and amusing despite them featuring some really grim content……I rooted out the press information that came with the book and was relieved to see it described as ‘darkly humorous’.

HUZZAH! I wasn’t a complete sicko after all!

The front of the book does say that it is soon to be turned into a TV series and I can totally see why. I’m getting slight Fargo/Santa Clarita Diet vibes in terms of style. I hope so anyway!

I think this is a book that could potentially divide opinion but in a buzz creating way. The second part flies at a pace, with characters mistrustful of each other, trying to trip each other up and discover the truth. There is a particularly well constructed, awkward dinner party scene where the characters are all sitting around the table knowing each others dark secrets and knowing that the others know they know each others dark secrets! Crikey!

I had read some reviews which said that the ending was questionable but I really don’t agree.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and think that it played out in a very satisfying way.

To sum up, I don’t think this book will be for everyone, but I would urge you to give it a try anyway.  Suspend your disbelief for a wee while and just go with it!

Thank you as always to the publisher for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

Bookish Chat About: Blogging Doubts

Whenever I’ve written and posted a review of a book, there’s always a small lull immediately afterwards where I worry about the quality of writing I’ve set free out there in the bloggersphere. Have I been too gushy? Too harsh? Have I tried too hard to be funny, quirky or relatable?

Once I’ve received a simple ‘like’ or a retweet or a lovely comment on the blog post itself, I can breathe a sigh of relief. Phew! I’m not a pathetic, clueless blogger berk after all. I am always genuinely grateful for the interactions that result from a blog post or a tweet and I try to say thank you and reply to all comments on my blog.

I do feel that a little appreciation goes a long way, don’t you?

I’m not for one minute expecting every single publisher/publicist or author to always ‘like’ or retweet my review but when it happens it makes the hard work involved in the whole reviewing process seem all the more worthwhile.

I choose to do this as a hobby. I’ve mentioned before that I have 2 children (13 and 10) and whilst they aren’t toddlers they do still need some parenting (when they’re not attached to gaming devices!) I work full time and I have a husband who likes my company every now and again….I think……I hope. So whilst this book blogging caper is an immensely enjoyable hobby it is also very time consuming and sometimes (for me anyway) draining. But I adore it and the world it has opened up for me.

Not only that but the people it has allowed me to meet, be that virtually or in real life. I know there are quite a few of you out there who really have my back and I know I can rely on you to sound off at or moan to.

Because I do occasionally moan, I think we all do sometimes. We need to let off steam and vent frustrations due to the fact that it’s not all hearts and flowers this blogging life.

I always try to rise above any dramas. In fact I see very few of them on my social media feeds as I’ve become more adept at creating the content I want to see. I know there are dramas for sure, people who want to bash others over the head with their opinions. This ain’t my vibe kids.

This doesn’t mean that I am an angel. Every now and again I get the dark passenger on my shoulder…..

‘How come they got that book and I didn’t?’

‘Why do I not have eleventy billion daily visitors to my blog?’

‘Why did that publisher/publicist not ‘like’ or retweet my review? Was it shit?’

‘Do I put enough effort into my reviews?’

‘Why did I not think of putting that in my review but they did?’

Blah blah blah and the list goes on…..and this is where doubts can creep in.

I do occasionally let these doubts overwhelm me.  They drag me under and I give in to them which is not healthy.  There are times when I want to have a break from the twice weekly posting (which isn’t masses compared to some, I know, but also takes up a lot of my time).


Times where I don’t want to feel weighed down with guilt that I’ve accepted a proof copy of a book so therefore must ABSOLUTELY WITHOUT FAIL get it read and reviewed before it’s publication date or the world will surely IMPLODE.

No Amanda, it won’t.

I will of course try my best to review the books I have accepted copies of.  But who will really care if it doesn’t get reviewed by me at least one week in advance of publication?……Probably nobody in truth.

But doubts creep in don’t they…..

I read and appreciate everyone’s different styles of reviewing books, but sometimes I have to check myself when the old green eyed monster rears it’s ugly head.  I wonder why I don’t seem to be as eloquent as that person, as insightful or erudite.  I worry I have enjoyed a book at a surface level and I’m not intelligent enough to find hidden themes or meanings.

I worry that perhaps my reviews are not as long as other peoples, and why that is? Why did I not find as much to say? Does this mean my review is rubbish?  Did I not enjoy the book as much as them? Did I not ‘get it’?

The rational part of me knows I write reviews to the length I would be happy to read myself.  If I have to scroll more than a few times then the chances are I’m not going to read to the end of a review or i’ll just skim read it.  I write as much as I feel I’ve got to say, no more, no less, so whats the issue Mand? The length of a review does not (in most cases!) correlate to the quality of a review.  I know this (aside perhaps from the old copy and paste of a blurb and a few lines of vague ‘this is a real page turner’ Amazon reconstituted bullshit).

Oh yeah, I worry I swear too much too!

I suppose the point of this impromptu ramble is this…

I ADORE blogging, I have no intentions of jacking it in, but just every now and again I need to check myself and cut myself some bloody slack.

We all do.

See you soon.


Amanda – Bookish Chat xx



Looker by Laura Sims – A Review

Publisher: Tinder Press

Publication Date: 25th July 2019

At just under 200 pages, Looker is a brisk read. Chopped up into bite size paragraphs, I raced through it.

It’s a tricky one for me to review though and I might find it difficult to explain why but please bear with me!

Looker tells the story of an unnamed female protagonist who lives in the building opposite a famous blockbuster actress and her family. Our protagonist lives alone with her cat after the demise and ultimate complete breakdown of her relationship.

She develops an unhealthy obsession with the movie star whom she dubs ‘The Actress’ and spends her time watching their family life play out through their blindless windows. Harbouring fantasies about The Actresses husband, taking note of their routines and basically spending way too much time and effort concentrating on their lives instead of her own, which is slowly falling down around her.

She had problems getting pregnant when she was with her husband and went through gruelling and expensive rounds of IVF treatment. The infertility issue lay with herself and not her husband which left her harbouring lots of guilt. She longs for a baby of her own and perfect family idyl that she perceives The Actress to have.

As the story progresses we witness her mental health slowly beginning to decline until her behaviour is so erratic and odd it is difficult to fathom. This is not so much a plot based book, although obviously things do happen to power the story along, it’s more a study of the protagonists issues with her relationship and fertility problems and how they ultimately affect her mental health.

Told in the first person, the narrator takes the reader with her through her myriad thoughts and feelings surrounding her life. We are with her in her head and this makes her somewhat of an unreliable narrator. I LOVE an unreliable narrator and she is no exception.

Here comes the tricky bit……

I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the portrayal of the character’s decline in mental health. This subject (struggling to conceive, baby loss etc) has been so deftly dealt with in a few books recently, most notably The Flight Of Cornelia Blackwood by Susan Elliott Wright, however in the case of Looker it felt a little more like an exaggeration. I enjoyed the obsessive/voyeuristic element of this book hugely but I felt uncomfortable at times.

There are many women who suffer depression and mental health issues when faced with the devastating fertility problems our protagonist has, but I felt her behaviour was perhaps unneccessarily over-exaggerated. I don’t mean that to come across as glib or offensive in any way, I just felt like it was too convenient a reason for her behaviour and maybe a little insensitive. But this is of course just my opinion.

I guess what I’m trying to convey is that many women suffer from these issues and they are strong and resilient and they get through it, as devastating and as difficult as that may be. To portray a woman losing her grip and having a dark spin put on it as a result of these issues felt a little uncomfortable to me.

That said, I did enjoy the writing style, the first person perspective and the building tension to what is a eye opening if not exactly shocking denouement. It is very much a character study, a quite claustrophobic one at that.  It has building tension and a propulsive writing style that kept me invested right to the end, however if it’s an action packed thriller you’re after, you’re barking up the wrong tree with this one.

If you’re after a quick, slightly dark, quirky read then I would recommend it. I will also just say that I don’t tend to give trigger warnings in my reviews but i’ve read a lot of reviews for this book where there is a trigger warning for animal cruelty.  So please be aware of this.

Thank you as always to the publisher for my review copy.

See you all soon.


Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

Mini Bookish Reviews: Women Who Changed The World – By Grace Jones

Publisher: The Secret Book Company

As I’ve mentioned on a few occasions here on my blog, I have two children.  A nearly 14 year old boy and a 10 year old girl.  The boy child used to be an avid reader when he was little but is now more likely to be found with an X-Box controller welded to his hands.  He will occasionally pick up a book before bed but I think this is out of desperation!

On the other hand, the girl child LOVES her books and her reading.  She reminds me so much of myself as a young girl and I really do hope she continues to love reading.  I get a bit misty eyed sometimes imagining all the great books I have on my Forever Shelf that she can pick up and read when she’s older (she’s already got her eye on The Doll Factory by Elizabeth MacNeal!).

So, when the guys over at The Secret Book Company contacted me to see if I would like one of their children’s titles to read and review with my girl, we jumped at the chance. The title they sent us was Women Who Changed The World by Grace Jones and it looks like this:

My little Mini Bookish girl (MB we’ll call her!) read this book aloud to me, one inspirational woman per evening.  I was pleased that there are a varied range of women in this book, a scientist, an author, a sportswoman, a singer, an equal rights activist, etc.  MB enjoyed enlightening me with the facts laid out in this book, and they really were enlightening! for example, I remember learning a little about Helen Keller at school but I had completely forgotten what her story was, it was nice to be re-educated!

So, without further ado, I shall hand you over to MB so you can hear her thoughts:

I think the cover of Women Who Changed The World is very vivid and colourful and I love the symbols. The woman on the cover looks amazing and the symbols link to the information. It is very eye catching. If you walked past it in a shop, you would look at it and know instantly what the book is about.

The book was very easy to understand and very easy to read. I like how the difficult words are bold and coloured pink and then are in a glossary at the back of the book.

It has real photo’s which is also good, they are good quality photo’s and very eye catching. The quotes from the women at the bottom of the photo’s or pages are amazing.

At first I thought the book was about civil and equal rights, I never knew there were so many other inspirational women who were athletes like Serena Williams and scientists like Marie Curie. There are all types of inspirational women in the book!

I didn’t really know a few of the women so I have learnt more about the different women for example Malala Yousafzai receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 or Helen Keller when she was taught words when she was both blind and deaf.

The book was very interesting and also very helpful because I now know about lots of women who changed history.

I think the book would be enjoyed by children between the ages of 8-14. I enjoyed it very much and I can’t wait to look at more achievements.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book to review.

See you again soon.

Mini Bookish xx

So there we have it! That’s what MB thinks of Women Who Changed The World.

We really did enjoy reading this book together. There’s just the perfect balance of text and images with some easy to comprehend stats and some amazing inspirational quotes. A nice educational, interesting read for just before bedtime.

There are also a number of other books in the range to check out. MB has her eyes on The Greatest Human Achievements next!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this break from the norm! And thank you all for supporting my little Mini Bookish!

Thank you to The Secret Book Company for sending the book for review.

See you soon!

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

The Carer By Deborah Moggach – A Review

Publisher: Tinder Press

Publication Date: 11th July 2019

When this book dropped unsolicited through the letterbox I was drawn by the title of The Carer but I have to be honest, not by the front cover.  If I’d have seen this book on the shelf in the shop I think I would have passed it by, which would have been a real shame!

The title drew me in because I’ve found in recent years that I have a liking for books that focus on the relationship of a carer and a patient (patient is not always the correct term but I couldn’t think of an appropriate one…….client?……I don’t know, but you get the picture!).  I plan to do a blog post about books I’ve enjoyed featuring this kind of relationship/dynamic, so keep your peepers peeled for that.

I think I made certain assumptions about this book which turned out to be unfounded.  Nothing negative, just assumptions that I had before going in, having read the blurb.

I assumed that the story would be heavily constructed around the carer/patient relationship with this being the main focus, and whilst it is indeed an integral part of  the first half of the story, it is by no means the central subject matter.

So whats it all about?

We have Phoebe and Robert struggling to look after their elderly father James.  A wise old professor who is now sadly widowed and unable to look after himself adequately and safely.  Phoebe and Robert have lives of their own and don’t live close enough to their father to be able to care for him, so they employ Mandy, a bubbly, charismatic whirlwind of a woman who swoops in and takes over their father’s care without batting an eyelid.  She swiftly forms a close bond with James, taking him on outings, introducing him to daytime TV, having tea and cake and sharing little ‘in-jokes’ that Phoebe and Robert can only stand on the periphery and observe.  They are both initially thrilled that Mandy is taking over the difficult task of their fathers care, however as they witness the growing bond between Mandy and James they start to become jealous.  Both Phoebe and Robert feel that their father, now in later life, is giving his affection freely to this woman, when they struggled to elicit any interest or affection from him when they were children.

Add to this the fact that they both have seperate concerns over Mandy’s motives in being their father’s carer and the whole mix is muddied with suspicion. Could the bright and breezy Mandy have more sinister reasons for infiltrating the family?

This book has so many layers, so many subject matters to be debated.  Each of the characters are flawed in their own way but absolutely fully rounded. They each have their own issues in life which are explored and excellently used as a backdrop for the main thread of the story.  Phoebe is an unmarried 60 year old, having a relationship with a man who lives in the local woods, a bit of an aging hippy by the name of Torren.  Their relationship is based mainly on sex and Phoebe is vaguely aware that Torren may be spreading his seed wider than he should be, but she chooses to ignore it in the hope that he will pick her as his main squeeze and actually bring their relationship out into the light of day.

Robert is married to an ambitious, successful newsreader. He lives a privileged life in the huge house with all the mod-cons but spends most of his time ensconced in his writing shed, trying to construct his novel. He used to work in a high flying job in the city but since being made redundant he has lost his way a little and is trying his hand, not very successfully at novel writing.  His marriage is strained and he feels a little untethered, which isn’t helped by the concerns he has over his Father and Mandy.

The first part of this story is excellently constructed to build up a view of each of the characters.  It also places various suspicions and doubts in your mind as a reader and I for one was unsure who to trust or who’s point of view to believe.

The second part changes focus completely and puts James’s earlier life under the spotlight.  For me this was a brilliant change of pace and interest and I gobbled this section up.  For the latter third we switch back to the present day and are back in the hands of Phoebe and Richard, making sense of their discoveries about their father and tying up some loose ends.

I have never read any of Deborah Moggach’s books before but she is the author of The First Exotic Marigold Hotel which I have heard lots of great things about. Her writing style is very easily accessible and flows beautifully.  The switching of perspectives via alternating chapters helped the flow of the story and kept me invested and I always find this is a powerful writing tool to maintain momentum.

I think this would be a fantastic book club book, given all its multiple layers and subject matters. I will certainly be heading to more of Deborah Moggach’s work in the future.

Thank you as always to The publisher and Georgina Moore for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx