Bookish Chat About: Search Term Books…

Something a little bit different for today’s post, so bear with me…

I’ve never been what you could call very ‘technologically minded’.  I set this blog up fairly easily but it’s hardly rocket science is it?

I can type a post, I can publish a post and I can check my stats.  Just recently I’ve noticed on the stats page that you are given a list of search terms that people have used in order to land on your posts.  I found it really interesting to see which books were the most searched for and which terms were used to find them.

So I thought I’d just show you the top 7 books that are the most searched for on my blog.  (random number! It was going to be the top 5 but there are 3 books that tied to take the 5th spot!).

Lets get cracking!

Tying in 5th place we have:

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Orion)

Things In Jars by Jess Kidd (Canongate)

Help The Witch by Tom Cox (Unbound)

Help The Witch is one of the short story collections I recommend the most.  I remember reading this in one big gulp on a rainy autumn Sunday afternoon.  Tom Cox is a hugely talented writer and has a massive Twitter following which is maybe the reason his book gets searched for a lot? I did wang on about it at the time!  My review is here.

I feel like I barely even need to tell you how much I loved Things In Jars…..I think a lot of people associate this book with me because I DID NOT SHUT UP HARPING ON ABOUT IT. I know that this book will always hold a very special place in my heart along with Bridie Divine.  My review of this marvellous book is here.

Lastly (and somewhat controversially) there is The Silent Patient by.  Now this book, in the run up to it’s publication got a hell of a lot of attention.  It was (in my humble opinion) a little over-hyped.  I had read so many great reviews that I was certain I was going to be blown away and when I read it I felt a little underwhelmed.  Now with a little more distance from the book I can confirm that I still fee the same.  At the time of writing my review (which is here) I was a little apprehensive to stick my head above the parapet and say, ‘you know what guys, I just didn’t enjoy it all that much’.  But I had to be honest and honest I was.


In 4th Place we have: The Six Loves Of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden published by Tinder Press.  I received this book unsolicited and when it came through I was unsure whether or not I would even read it.  It looked at first glance like a book I would normally swerve.  If you know me, you will know that I enjoy dark, gothic, slightly twisted fiction and this book with its  love hearts looked like the complete antithesis of this. However, I picked it up and gave it a whirl and was hooked.  Billy Binns as a character is a real eye opener.  He could have been written as a sweet old man but he had an acerbic edge and I loved him! My review is here.

In at number 3 we have The Bus On Thursday by Shirley Barrett published by Fleet.  I’m a little surprised that this one isn’t higher up in the list to be honest.  The most searched for term in relation to this bonkers book is ‘The Bus On Thursday ending’, purely because the ending is very ambiguous! I remember when I was reading it I had to speak to someone else who had read it and double check that we had derived the same meaning from the confusing climax!  At one point I was unsure whether I’d been sent a duff proof copy with a page or two missing.  Anyway, all in all I loved it and can completely understand why people turn to Google to find out what the blazes went on!  My review is here.

Number 2 in the chart is one of my favourite books of all time, Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller published by Figtree.  Interestingly the most searched for term with this book, as with The Bus On Thursday is ‘Bitter Orange ending‘, however with this one I’m unsure why there is any confusion? When I read it I can’t remember being unsure or confused about anything.  I feel like I need to go back and revisit it just to make sire I’m not missing anything! This is a fabulously atmospheric book and I adore Claire Fuller’s writing.  You should definitely check it out! My review is here.

So which book bags the Number 1 spot for the most searched for book on my blog (search term wise)…..

Drum roll please……….

It is…..

Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan published by Two Roads.  There isn’t any reason I can deduce as to why this book is the most searched for…..other than it’s great!  There’s no ambiguous ending, no negativity, it’s just a thoroughly immersive read.  Ruth Hogan as most of you no doubt already know, is a master story weaver.  I have enjoyed each of her books despite me being more on the dark side than ‘up-lit’ if that is infact a real term.  My review is here if you fancy checking it out.

So there we have it!

If you have a blog, go and check out your ‘search terms’ and see what people type in to land on your posts.  It’s always an eye opener and sometimes quite cryptic…

I had ‘Iris and Rose twins Silas doll painting’…… any guesses?……. and my personal favourite ‘Review book 5 days in November’…..I will give you ten points if you can crack that one….

See you all soon.


Amanda – Bookish Chat xx






The Main Street Trading Company Bookshop And Deli: Part 2!

You may remember a few months ago I had a little jaunt to Melrose to visit family and ended up going to see Ros at Main Street Trading in St Boswell’s (even though the shop was closed!) My post detailing my first visit is here.

This time around I obviously planned my visit for when the shop was actually open, because I’m clever like that.

It was nice this time to be able to unleash Mini-Bookish into the children’s fiction section as she wasn’t with me last time. The sheer excitement on her little face was magical. I turned around after being in the shop for under 60 seconds and she already had some books clutched in her little sweaty mitts.

I was in the market for book buying (obvs!) but I had restricted myself to maybe 2 books for me and 2 books for Mini Bookish……


I love it when a plan comes together!

We both had a lovely browse around the gorgeous shop whilst the not so book-loving boys sat and had a drink in the lovely coffee shop area.

It was nice to see Ros again and chat books and I came away with some great recommendations.

When we’d done our perusing I narrowed my choices down to 4 books (I think that’s pretty reserved given the vast array of choice!), then we headed off to the cafe area to meet the boys.

I had a rather lovely cappuccino and we had some delicious nibbles. Mini Bookish had a huge piece of Biscoff cake which I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of before she inhaled it!

So……..I’m sure you’re all desperate to know which books I chose, right?…..I know you lot so well!

Here goes:

First up we have The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch in one of the newly re-published Vintage Classics editions.

How bloody stunning is that!

I’ve never read any Iris Murdoch but I’ve dallied over this one at the library a few times.

I’m sure a lot of you have read it already but for those who haven’t here is the synopsis:

When Charles Arrowby retires from his glittering career in the London theatre, he buys a remote house on the rocks by the sea. He hopes to escape from his tumultuous love affairs but unexpectedly bumps into his childhood sweetheart and sets his heart on destroying her marriage. His equilibrium is further disturbed when his friends all decide to come and keep him company and Charles finds his seaside idyll severely threatened by his obsessions.

To be honestremote house on the rocks’ was all I needed!

Next we have a short story collection that I’ve had my beady eye on for a good while. If I’m honest this was the one book I knew I would definitely buy.

Salt Slow by Julia Armfield published by Picador is another bloody beaut!


In her brilliantly inventive and haunting debut collection of stories, Julia Armfield explores bodies and the bodily, mapping the skin and bones of her characters through their experiences of isolation, obsession, love and revenge.

Teenagers develop ungodly appetites, a city becomes insomniac overnight, and bodies are diligently picked apart to make up better ones. The mundane worlds of schools and sleepy sea-side towns are invaded and transformed, creating a landscape which is constantly shifting to hold on to its inhabitants. Blurring the mythic and the gothic with the everyday, Salt Slow considers characters in motion – turning away, turning back or simply turning into something new entirely.

I’ve heard so many great things about this collection and we all know I love me a short story……

Talking of short stories…..

Book choice number 3 is:

Why Don’t You Stop Talking by Jackie Kay published by Picador.

If I’m entirely honest I was drawn to this one by the cover and that’s pretty much the long and short of it. Although when I took it to the till Ros was telling me that Jackie Kay had recently been on the radio and Ros had enjoyed listening to her talk about her writing.


In Jackie Kay’s first collection of stories, ordinary lives are transformed by secrets. Her world might seem familiar – sex, death and family cast long shadows – but the roles of mothers, daughters and lovers are imagined and revealed in the most surprising of ways.

Sometimes it is the things that we choose to hide within ourselves which can transform us – and that has never been more true than in Jackie Kay’s warm, exuberant storytelling. She sees the extraordinary in everyday life, and lights it up with humour and generosity in a way that is uniquely her own.

I’m excited for this one!

Last up we have a very bold and intimidating choice which was borne out of a Twitter chat the evening before surrounding bloggers and poetry.

The Girl Aquarium by Jen Campbell published by Bloodaxe is not a book I would have envisaged myself buying because poetry intimidates me massively! I’ve never read a poetry collection (not since school anyway!) and certainly have never thought of reviewing poetry on my blog. But there’s a first time for everything and I’m willing to open my mind!


Jen Campbell’s first collection The Girl Aquarium explores the realm of rotten fairy tales, the possession of body and the definition of beauty. Weaving between whispered science and circus, she turns a cracked mirror on society and asks who gets to control the twisted tales hiding in the wings.

So there we have my purchases!

And for those of you interested in the choices of Mini Bookish:

Et voila!

If you ever get the chance to visit St Boswell’s you MUST visit Main Street Trading Bookshop, I urge you! The vast array of books is breathtaking (and the food is pretty delicious too!).

I cannot recommend this shop enough!

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

The Need By Helen Phillips – A Review

Publisher: Chatto & Windus

Publication Date: 9th July 2019

This book defies categorising in my opinion. It’s pitched as a ‘speculative thriller’ and I can see why. But what starts out as an intensely foreboding ‘house intruder’ kind of deal, swiftly turns into something very different!

I am going to struggle a little with this review I think, purely down to the fact that a lot of the aspects of the story that I would like to discuss would give away HUGE plot points.  I can only give you a briefest of brief synopsis (in my own words as always) and then I will tell you as much as I can about my thoughts without dropping any spoilers in!

The story revolves around Molly.  A paleobotomist (essentially someone who digs for and categorizes plant fossils), a very stressed and frayed mother of two small children, Viv 4 and Ben who I think is around 18 months.  The book opens with a bang! well not quite a bang, more like the sound of footsteps in the other room when Molly is home alone with the two children….

There is an intruder in the house.

A silent intruder wearing  a deer’s head mask (I know!).

This intruder seems to know EVERYTHING about Molly and her family.

But who can it be? And what will happen if Molly follows their very specific instructions?

The first few chapters are unbelievably tense! We veer from the very real and present danger of the intruder in Molly’s house and chapters which give us some recent information surrounding Molly’s work on the dig she is in the middle of.  Her and her colleagues have been coming across strange modern items incongruous with the ancient fossils they are expecting to find. But these items all having something askew or odd about them. A coke bottle with the instantly recognisable logo….however the lettering is slanting the wrong way, a child’s toy soldier….nothing odd about that, except this one has the tail of a monkey.  Perhaps the strangest and most controversial item discovered is an edition of the bible where God is referred to as a woman.  This item has caused a stir with the media and subsequently the dig site that Molly works on are offering tours to the general public, to visit the site pit and view the items found. But Molly is uncomfortable about these items and the tours, and feels a sense of growing unease each time she visits the pit.

As I said at the beginning of this review, I can’t really discuss any more than that plot wise! But what I can tell you is when the intruder’s identity is revealed (quite close to the start) I did think, ‘really?’……I maybe did a tiny little eyeroll……just a weeny one.  But then I sucked it up and thought, yeah why the devil not? You see this is where the ‘speculative’ part of this speculative thriller is heaped on in spades! It’s not even a case of suspending your disbelief for while, it’s just a case of go with it! Just accept what you are being told at face value and try not to let it batter your head!

You really do need to concentrate hard at certain points, so it’s a book you will want to read when you have some quiet time to devote to it.  I read the very tense opening at night in bed and as someone who suffers from night terrors this was perhaps not the best move!  The next night I was alone in the house and didn’t even pick the book up.  After the intruders identity is revealed, the story takes a very different kind of sinister turn, which meant I wasn’t so tense around reading it alone.

The over arching theme of a struggling, exhausted mother trying so hard to do her best for her children was the aspect of the book I enjoyed the most.  I do like a struggling mother, especially when there are hints that maybe the fears are all in the mothers very exhausted, anxious mind. Could she just be so completely wiped out that she’s imagining these events?

The children themselves are such vibrant characters in this book, especially little Viv.  She acts exactly as a 4 year old would and her conversation and behaviours are very  believable. She was just cute enough not to be sickly sweet, still a handful and very high spirited but utterly authentic.

I have read lots of reviews since finishing this book, and there are a wide range of opinions.  I think it has the potential to be very divisive and people seem to either love it or hate it.  I fall into the love it camp at the moment, but I need to let a book settle in my mind for a little while to see whether I really did love it or not.  If it still plays on my mind for a while after finishing it then that’s a sure bet that I enjoyed it.  The quirky nature of this book means that I certainly won’t forget it!

I have been pushing it on to my friends just so that I have someone to talk to about it! It’s one of those books that you really just need to thrash out!

Apologies for the vague synopsis but I really couldn’t give anything more away.  This book needs to be discovered by the reader.

I would urge you to at least give it a whirl! You’ll either hate me or thank me for the recommendation but I’m desperate to know your thoughts!

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

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

Platform Seven By Louise Doughty – A Review

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Publication Date: 22nd August 2019

I had read and loved Louise Doughty’s novel Apple Tree Yard, so when I saw that she had a new one coming out it immediately went on my Most Anticipated Reads Of 2019 (Part 2) post

I don’t usually include blurbs in my reviews but in this case I think it’s useful and important to see the premise I was so excited by:


Platform Seven at 4am: Peterborough Railway Station is deserted. The man crossing the covered walkway on this freezing November morning is confident he’s alone. As he sits on the metal bench at the far end of the platform it is clear his choice is strategic – he’s as far away from the night staff as he can get.

What the man doesn’t realise is that he has company. Lisa Evans knows what he has decided. She knows what he is about to do as she tries and fails to stop him walking to the platform edge.

Two deaths on Platform Seven. Two fatalities in eighteen months – surely they’re connected?

No one is more desperate to understand what connects them than Lisa Evans herself. After all, she was the first of the two to die.

I mean COME ON!

How AMAZING does that sound?!?

The book starts with this super atmospheric description of Peterborough Railway Station in the early morning hours.  It is winter, so it’s still dark at 4am. A man makes his solitary way to Platform Seven, the platform which is furthest away from the station nightstaff.  A place he knows he will be alone for sure. 

But he’s not alone, Lisa Evans is there watching his every move, looking into his watery eyes and seeing what his intentions are.  It is clear to Lisa that he is about to take his own life. Not only that, he is determined to see it through, unlike others Lisa has watched in the past, the ones who just can’t quite bring themselves to do it.  But she did, didn’t she? And this man also does.  As he falls in front of a speeding freight train, he is given the dubious title of being the second person in eighteen months to take their own life on Platform Seven.

From here, the station bursts into action and we see the tragedy from the perspectives of the various station staff.  Dalmar, the somalian security guard, who witnessed the man throwing himself in front of the train.  A memory he can never erase.  British Transport Police Officer Sergeant Lockwood, who has to deal with the gruesome aftermath, Melissa, the station manager, a brisk and efficient young woman who has to keep things flowing despite the horror that has occurred.

And then of course we have Lisa.  Lisa who spends her days trapped within the confines of the station.  Observing both staff and passengers as they navigate the station, doing their daily commute and living their normal lives.  A life which Lisa no longer has.  When Lisa passed over she seemed to lose her memory, she has no idea who she really is.  However, after the man has taken his life she is drawn to a certain young gentleman who she sees one morning in the cafe on the station approach. 

She can see he is hurting, he is furtive, shifty, and obviously very upset.  Lisa feels a very strong connection to this man.  He seems unable to make it fully into the station, just as Lisa is trapped inside. This all changes one day when Lisa is able to follow him home, he has set her free from the confines of the station.  She finds out his name and discovers he is having relationship issues.

Slowly but surely, fragments of Lisa’s own memories start to come back to her and she begins to piece together her identity.  We then move on to a very distinctive middle section of the book which tells the story of Lisa when she was alive and her coercive, controlling relationship with an A&E doctor, Matty.  I don’t really want to reveal too much about this section, other than it was my absolute favourite part of the book.  I stayed up until 1am on a Monday morning (Fool! I know!) to read this section.  I was utterly gripped! I felt so invested in this car crash of a relationship, it is intense, claustrophobic and utterly believable, I think that’s what makes it so sinister, to the point where you simply cannot look away.

The final third of the book ties together the threads of Lisa’s life and ultimate demise on Platform Seven.  It is by no means a neatly sewn conclusion, and I felt as I read that there were nuggets of information, clues, facts being drip fed to me, rather like slotting the pieces from the game Connect 4 into the grid to make a line. I was grasping at these nuggets and keeping them stored in my mind as it whirled with all the possibilities.

We also glean more information about the man in the station that Lisa felt an affiliation with and his connection to the man who took his own life in front of the freight train. There are many threads to this story which would make it a perfect book club choice.  I can see it prompting many a conversation.

Louise Doughty certainly knows how to tell a story and weave many threads together to make a thoroughly immersive read. Once you’ve started on your journey with this story the momentum takes you swiftly along, trying to keep your wits about you and make sense of what you have been presented with.

The character development is superb and we get to delve into the lives of the various station staff and get their take on the suicides.

As I said, the middle section which focuses on Lisa’s relationship really drew me in. A subtly coercive and controlling relationship with a man who on the face of it appears to be very charming and affable. A real dangerous relationship that affects all aspects of Lisa’s life.

Not only is this book a mystery to unravel it is a highly emotive tale of life and death. What’s important and the things we take for granted. Towards the end of the book there’s a real emotional scene between Lisa and another woman who has passed over, a woman who Lisa believes she saw through a window needing help when she was alive. I was blown away by this and got the absolute chills when they were both united in death.

If you’re after a genre defying read then I can thoroughly recommend this absolute gem. Louise Doughty has bloody done it again!

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx


Skint Estate By Cash Carraway – A Review

Publisher: Ebury Press

Publication Date: 18th July 2019

I used to follow Cash Carraway on Instagram so when Matt at Ebury Press got in touch to ask if I’d like a copy of Cash’s debut memoir Skint Estate, I knew I had to check it out.

I picked it up intending to have a flick through it and park it in the book trolley until closer to the publication date, however, once I’d started reading I just couldn’t put the book down.

What Cash has produced in Skint Estate is a real eye-opening, punch in the gut of a book, one that I feel everyone needs to read.

Cash takes us through her life as a single mum living way below the poverty line, from the moment she takes a pregnancy test in a faeces smeared train toilet, with a busted up face having fled her abusive partner, right through to securing the deal for her book.

Cash bursts into your brain with her straight talking, no-nonsense delivery of some of the most horrific and harrowing of times in her life. From having to work in a peep show whilst pregnant in order to save enough money for a deposit on a flat for when her daughter is born. To having to use food banks just to feed them both.

The total upheaval of Cash and her daughter, Biddy’s, lives every time they can’t afford to pay the extortionate London rents for pokey bedsit accommodation in ropey areas is both heartbreaking and massively frustrating.

Cash has to ask over 80 estate agents to help her find accommodation when landlords won’t accept single mothers on benefits. She gets so desperate that she even contemplates taking a windowless, electricity-less room in a man’s house which he offers for free, on the proviso that she sleeps in his bed with him for 3 or 4 nights a week.

Cash appears to fall on her feet at one stage when her gay ‘friend’ asks her to pose as his wife in order for him to remain in his father’s will. She lives in a lovely house, attends dinner parties, and even has the holy grail, an aga…..however she is kept on a tight leash by this man who has had a hold over her since she was in her teens. This man controls the purse strings and Cash’s freedom. When his father dies and he reneges on the deal, Cash finds herself trapped in a nightmare and trying desperately to escape.

When she does finally escape, it is back into a world of poverty and struggling yet again to find a roof to put safely over her beloved daughters head.

Cash has always enjoyed writing, and finally has a turn of good luck when she pens a play Refuge Woman and tours with it. This, together with the publication of her book,  feels like a turning point for Cash. I really hope that it is.

There are so many poignant and heartbreaking moments in this book. Cash talks about how there was a time after her daughter was born where she was at rock bottom. She used to fantasise about how and where she could die. She knew that she couldn’t go through with making the choice of committing suicide. She knew she couldn’t make that step and intentionally leave her daughter behind. But what if there was an accident and she happened to die? Surely this would free her and maybe give her daughter a better life?

Cash has such an honest voice, sometimes brutally honest. Her delivery is hard hitting, sharp, witty and she has a dark sense of humour. She is straight up and pulls absolutely zero punches. I am loathe to use the word ‘unflinching’ because it seems so wanky but it really applies perfectly to Cash’s narrative in this case.

Do I think Cash and her delivery of her story will be for everyone? If I’m honest, no. However that’s just tough. Cash’s story needed to be told. And it needs to be told in her own inimitable way.

This is a book I feel an overwhelming urge to press into everyone’s hands. To go some way to opening peoples eyes about exactly what life is like living below the poverty line.

I have to be honest and say that I have read lots of things online surrounding Cash and her story, I don’t know Cash and I don’t know the people who choose to comment about her online. All I know is that I really really enjoyed reading Cash’s book and I can say no more or no less than that.

I would definitely recommend it.

Thank you to Matt at Ebury Books for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat x

How It Was By Janet Ellis – A Review

Publisher: Two Roads

Publication Date: 8th August 2019

Janet Ellis first book was The Butchers Hook which ashamedly I haven’t read (I’ve had a copy for ages though). Her first book is historical fiction and How It Was is a leap away from this.

I was drawn to the colourful 70’s inspired cover, it’s just brilliant. But on reading the premise I knew it could potentially be a fantastic read, and I’m very happy to report that it was!  In fact I read this bad boy (all 448 pages of it) one extremely rainy Sunday afternoon.

The story starts in the present day with Marion at the bedside of her husband Michael who hasn’t got very long to live.  It becomes apparent very early on that theirs is not a conventional marriage and that they have grown estranged over the passing years.  As much as Marion feels an affection and fondness for Michael as a person, she is really just sitting by his bedside out of duty.  Whilst she is there she brings to the hospital a bag of photographs, old letters and documents, pulling them at random from the bag and reliving whichever memory they relate to or stir in her.  Photographs of their family life together with their two children, Sarah and Eddie.

It also becomes quickly apparent that the relationship between Marion and her daughter Sarah is fraught and with each memory pulled from the bag we travel back in time to the 1970’s when Sarah was 14 and Eddie 7, and discover what sequence of events led to fractured relationships and broken bonds.

Marion is a housewife and mother who feels resentful of her dull family life.  She doesn’t work and spends her days tending to her family’s needs.  She longs for something more to fill her days and her heart and when Sarah is a toddler she joins a choir where she meets a man and starts an affair.  This affair is all too brief, but Marion is left with a taste of what could be, of a life beyond her very agreeable, very safe husband and her two children.

When another man comes into their lives, both Marion and Sarah become linked to him in their separate ways, and when Marion finds and reads Sarah’s diary she begins to compete with Sarah for this new presence in their lives. This only serves to make the already faltering relationship between mother and daughter even more fractured.  But both of them have to pay a terrible price for their competition, one that they both could never have envisaged.

As I said I ate this up in one day.  It is much more than a domestic tale, it has such great characters and very realistic imperfect relationships.  Marion as a character makes choices that are ill advised and she appears to be selfish and closed off, this makes her a flawed mother and wife and there is nothing I love more!

I am usually massively put off by tumultuous Mother/Teenage Daughter relationships in books, particularly where the mother is trying desperately to get her daughter to love and respect her.  The huge difference with Marion and Sarah is the fact that Marion really doesn’t like her own daughter very much at all.  In fact she even seems to be repulsed by her.  She’s growing into a girl that Marion does not recognise and the more she reads her daughter’s private thoughts written in her diary, the more she seems to dislike her and distance herself from her.

Eddie is most definitely her favourite child, with his sweet nature and his need for his older sister to see him, notice him, give him some of her waning attention. Marion worries about him and can get quite distracted by dark thoughts of what could happen to him. However, her thoughts are also caught up in this man in their lives, how she can deceive her husband, her family and engineer spending time with him.  She is very focused and driven, knowing that what she is doing is completely wrong, but not caring very much at all about any consequences.

The peripheral characters in the form of friends and neighbours add depth to the story.  Particularly neighbour Sheila, who is instrumental in ways in Marion’s troubles.  She appears to be a typical ‘nosy neighbour’ but turns into someone much more calculating.

The narrative flits between characters with the bulk being from Marion’s perspective.  But we also get extracts from Sarah’s diary which allow us an insight into her thoughts and feelings about her mother, and we also get a few little Eddie chapters and Micheal chapters thrown in.  It was interesting to get an insight into Michael’s thoughts about his wife on his deathbed.

The narrative also flits between the present day in the hospital and the 1970’s.  What I will say is that the distinction between these two time periods was not always apparent and it did throw me a few times, but not to any detriment.  I would also say that it could maybe have been a little shorter, but that is just my opinion. I still gulped down all 433 pages of it!

Janet Ellis has a lovely, engaging writing style and there were some very vivid character descriptions that I just loved!

Overall I really enjoyed this book, I felt the characters were flawed and some not very likeable at all but that’s just what I love! It seemed at times like little clues about what would happen were dripped into the narrative.  You KNOW what is going to happen, you just don’t know but when it does you still feel shaken (at least I did anyway).  The memories pulled from the bag are like little squares of material slowly stitched together to make a quilt of sadness and regret.

A thoroughly immersive story that I would heartily recommend!

Thank you to Kat Burdon and the publisher for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx




The Lady In The Lake By Laura Lippman – A Review

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Publication Date: 25th July 2019

When I saw this book being talked about on Twitter, I was instantly drawn to the title and the cover design, and of course, being written by Laura Lippman was a huge plus too! So I did me some research and thought that the premise sounded great, I was hooked!

We are transported to 1960’s Baltimore, where disillusioned housewife Madeleine Schwartz has recently taken the decision to leave her marriage and her comfortable life and make a life for herself on her own.  She’s done her stint as a very capable housewife, she’s brought up a teenage son and now she has urges to move on to pastures new and become Maddy again, not just Milton’s wife or Jake’s mother.

When she inadvertently becomes embroiled in the search for a missing schoolgirl and becomes the person who discovers the poor girl’s body she develops a taste for uncovering mysteries, reporting on these kinds of stories in the newspaper and a general hunger to become a reporter in her own right.  When she starts corresponding with the young girls alleged killer she takes their letters to the local newspaper to tell her story.  However, when someone else essentially re-writes her narrative and she doesn’t get the elusive and much longed for byline, Maddy becomes ever more determined to make her mark. However, off the back of her story she gains a very basic entry level job answering the ‘helpline’ letters at the newspaper.

When one of these letters complains about the lights being out in a local fountain, which in turn leads to the grim discovery of the body of a young missing black girl called Cleo, Maddy is inspired to take up the case and uncover just what happened to Cleo and why her disappearance was more or less brushed under the carpet by the police and the press alike.

Maddy battles her way through prejudice on so many levels.  Most notably, how she is treated by her male counterparts in the newspaper office, her burgeoning relationship with a black police officer which she has to keep firmly under wraps, and of course, the racial prejudice surrounding how the disappearance of Cleo was handled.  She speaks to various witnesses who have connections to the case, however tenuous, and builds up a back story of Cleo’s life and relationships. She is given a picture of a young woman who has maybe made mistakes, but is trying to make the best of her life for her two young children.  As readers we are taken along with Maddy for the ride, gleaning information with her but also being privvy to the private thoughts of the various people she speaks to.

I found this aspect of the book very clever and I really enjoyed seeing an incident or meeting through the eyes of the peripheral characters after they happened.  For instance we hear from a waitress who serves Maddy and her male newspaper colleague at a diner, so not only do we see the interaction between Maddy and the man, and the focus of their conversation but we then go on to hear from the waitresses point of view, what she overheard and what she perceived the meeting to be about as a casual observer.

This is a theme that continues throughout the book and I really did enjoy these chapters which punctuated Maddy’s main narrative. We also get interspersed chapters of Cleo’s voice, observing Maddy in her quest to uncover the truth and find Cleo’s killer.  This gives a nice rich depth to the story and allows the reader to make a connection with Cleo to ensure she really isn’t just a ‘lady in the lake’.

Maddy is such an interesting character, Laura Lippman has a real talent for writing strong, independent, kick-ass determined female protagonists.  Maddy is no exception.  She has the guts to leave her comfortable marriage and steady family life to pursue a life where she is the main focus having spent an inordinate amount of her time pandering to other people’s needs.  She is driven and has a hunger for success which propels her along in her quest to be somebody of importance outside of the normal run of the mill domesticity.  To behave like Maddy does in a male dominated world and a social landscape where prejudice in its many disturbing forms is rife, takes absolute courage of conviction.

The many layers of this story make it an ideal book club choice in my opinion.  I think there are so many areas that could come up for discussion, all the various prejudices, racial, religious, sexist, the strong female characters coming from wildly different backgrounds but both very determined to make a life for themselves.

Lady In The Lake is not your run of the mill thriller, of course there’s the ‘whodunnit?’ element but there is so much to explore, so many rich and varied characters who develop and come to life before your eyes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Thank you as always to the publisher for my review copy and having me along on the blog tour.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx


Head Shot By Victoria Nixon – A Review

Publisher: Unbound

Publication Date: 8th August 2019


As many of you will already know, non-fiction is not my preferred genre.  I’m much happier in a made up world than the real world! However, from time to time (and more this year than ever) I am tempted by a good non-fiction read, particularly an interesting memoir.

When I was asked if I wanted a copy of Head Shot by Victoria Nixon to review I said yes immediately.  I don’t know if you’re aware of this, and it may come as a shock to some of you but…… I’m NOT a model……..I know, hard to believe right?! *ahem* HOWEVER I find the world of modelling fascinating.

I have always been a staunch fan of America’s Next Top Model (who doesn’t love seeing Tyra Banks lose her shit at some poor girl for not taking the process seriously I ask ya!?). So I knew that Victoria’s memoir would lure me in.  This book not only gives us tantalising details of all the behind the camera gossip, it also tells of Victoria’s devastating family losses when both her beloved father and brother take their own lives.

The book kicks off with Victoria’s early childhood, details of her relationship with her parents and her older brother Nick, growing up in the northern mining town of Barnsley.  Victoria is only in her early teens when her father, having run into some financial trouble relating to his car business and the downturn in trade, takes his own life at his car showroom. This hugely devastating event in Victoria’s life has such a profound effect on her and also ultimately brings her very close to her mother.  I found the depiction of her relationship with her mother so lovely and engaging to read. They have some very touching and often humorous interactions. They really did have a very supportive and beautiful relationship and Victoria’s mother was a constant source of encouragement and strength for her, always so immensely proud of her achievements.

We follow Victoria’s early foray into the modelling world which at first doesn’t go to plan.  Victoria then swiftly builds up skills and immerses herself in this new and exciting world, learning the tricks of the trade.  She enters into some not too successful relationships with men, men who seem to have issues of their own be that with drugs or alcohol.  And whilst this side of the lifestyle is only barely dabbled in by Victoria herself, it is a huge part of the life she lives and the world she finds herself in.

There are lots of little celebrity tit-bits of gossip in this book which I adored.  We as readers get to hear about a world we would not ordinarily get the chance to.  I recognised a lot of the names of various celebrities but even if I didn’t, I was still interested in the anecdotes Victoria tells about these people.  Very often colourful characters, eccentric or exacting photographers and designers etc. Some of the stories are sad and touching others are quite humorous but always very engaging.

There is no doubt that Victoria is a very driven woman not only in her modelling career but with the ventures she undertakes after she quits modelling in the late 1970’s. She succeeds in pushing herself forwards, and being the best she can be in her career. When her brother Nick sadly takes his own life, Victoria finds herself even more driven and determined due to the need to block out the devastating losses and use her working life as a distraction. I cannot even begin to imagine the effect on someones life of not one, but two suicides in a close family unit, however, Victoria gives us a very honest look at what must have been extremely distressing times in her life.

Victoria has a real rollercoaster of a life.  Super high highs and crushingly low lows but she retains a very unique and genuine northern sense of humour and a down to earth nature which endears her to everyone she meets (and also myself as a reader, being a northern girl aswell!) She makes some great friendships with her fellow models and has some eye opening life experiences, all taken onboard with an admirable resilience.

There are some amazing fashion shots of Victoria in the book nestled alongside some lovely poignant, precious family shots. It was very interesting to see the ever changing trends and hear the backstories behind some of the shots.

Victoria feels like a lady who you could sit down and have a no nonsense chinwag with and I am very happy that I had the chance to ‘meet’ her via this touching, funny, poignant memoir. With themes of ambition, love, loss, grief and friendship, Head Shot is a book I would very much recommend.

Thank you very much as always to Unbound for my review copy.

See you all soon.


Amanda – Bookish Chat x

Bookish Chat About: Recent Reading

This time last week I was fed up.

This time last week I felt anxious.

This time last week I’d had enough of Twitter pedants and other people’s opinions.

So I took my football and I went home.  I wasn’t playing anymore.

I decided to take a week away from Twitter, Instagram and the blog.  I removed my normal Thursday and Sunday posts from my schedule and took the pressure off myself.  In the main I love being on Twitter, getting involved in the chats and randomly tweeting the nonsense that regularly rolls around my brain and has nowhere else to go but out into the Twitterverse.  I enjoy posting my daily bookish Instagram picture and scrolling through beautiful images of everyone else’s books.  And obviously I enjoy writing my reviews and blogging about all things bookish.

HOWEVER – The downside of a growing follower count is that you encounter far more opinions, and just recently I have come up against, ‘mansplaining’, forceful opinions and pendantry.  I was even picked up on tweeting that I was going to have a cup of chai tea……several people ‘helpfully’ pointed out that I ‘couldn’t’ say that because ‘chai’ means tea so I was essentially saying ‘tea tea’………ok, thanks for that, I really DON’T CARE.

Don’t even get me started on the straw that broke the camels back……the dreaded tweet about using double spaces after a full stop……despite telling people I REALLY DIDN’T CARE what was right or wrong and that I was just messing about, and also telling people explicitly NOT to reply anymore and tell me their opinion….PEOPLE STILL DID!!

Now I know that sounds like a small pathetic issue to get narked about and maybe I was hormonal (definitely was) but I was dreading my phone lighting up with another notification. It wasn’t one big event that prompted the break, it was one little niggle after another, after another, after another…..

I had essentially burnt myself out. Being on social media was no fun anymore.  I had had enough of the sound of my own voice on there, and definitely had had enough of other people’s voices!

Anyway, I’m making this introduction much longer than it needs to be!

In short, I’M BACK!

So I’m taking the time today to just give you a little update on my reading over the past week.  What I’ve finished, what I’ve started, how I’m getting on with the infamous ‘Ducks’…..

On the Sunday I threw my toys out of the pram and did one, I spent all day reading How It Was by Janet Ellis. I gobbled up all 433 pages of it and LOVED it.  My review will be up very very soon. I’ve not read a whole book in one day for a while but it was a rainy dullsville Sunday and it felt like a real treat.

Also over the week I finished my ‘bus book’ which was The Collector by John Fowles. I picked up a secondhand copy of this from Scriveners Bookshop and I’d heard good things.


Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs. He is obsessed with a beautiful stranger, art student Miranda. Coming into unexpected money, he buys a remote Sussex house and calmly abducts Miranda, believing she will grow to love him in time.

Alone and desperate, Miranda must struggle to understand her captor if she is to gain her freedom…

I really enjoyed the first half of the book, told from Frederick’s perspective, however when the narrative switched to Miranda’s perspective I lost interest a little to be honest. I still enjoyed it as a whole and I’m glad I have now read it. Have any of you read it? What are your thoughts?

I also started a non-fiction book called Head Shot by Victoria Nixon published by Unbound. This is Victoria’s memoir about the 60’s and 70’s when she became a fashion model and the sometimes glamorous but often  darker side of the fashion industry.  This has been such a satisfying read in terms of my inherently nosy nature.  There are many famous names mentioned in this book and I loved finding out about the people behind the big names.  Victoria has a very self deprecating sense of humour and being a northerner like myself I found myself drawn to her no nonsense personality.  I’m nearing the end of this one and will be reviewing it over the next few weeks.

I have also started Burning Bright by Helen Dunmore, mainly because I wanted to read a book of my own and not a proof that I would feel under pressure to review.


Nadine, a sixteen-year-old runaway new to London, is set up in a decaying Georgian house by her Finnish lover, Kai. Slowly, she begins to suspect that Kai’s plans for her have little to do with love. ‘Be Careful,’ warns Enid, the elderly sitting tenant in the house, who knows all about survival and secrets. And when Nadine discovers Kai’s true intentions, Enid’s warning takes on a terrible and prophetic quality.

I have recently been working my way through Helen Dunmore’s short story collection Girl, Balancing and have thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’m nearing the end of it now and I find myself slowing down so that I can savour the last couple of stoires.  I’ve read a few of Helen Dunmore’s novels and whilst I very much enjoy her writing style, I have found some of her books hit and miss.  My least favourite being A Spell Of Winter.  I’m not very far into Burning Bright but it has started strong and I have a good feeling. I’ll let you know!

I can’t do this update post without letting you know how I’m getting on with Ducks Newburyport by Lucy Ellman. I have seen quite a few of you have finished this weighty behemoth and I’m here scratching my head in wonder! I am only around 130 pages in and I find I can only read around 10 or so pages in one sitting.  The writing style batters my head! There are lots of flashes of pure genius in this book but when I am away from it I don’t get the strong desire to pick it back up again.  I will of course carry on with it and let you know my thoughts when I’m finished (probably sometime in 2025).

I think that concludes my reading week!  I’m happy to be back and I’m feeling refreshed and rejuvinated.  Thank you for bearing with me and thank you to anyone who sent me a tweet or message of support when I threw a strop and flounced off (I didn’t).  You are (mostly) supportive lovely people!

See you soon.

Ps. I don’t care how many spaces you choose to use after a full stop. PLEASE IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, DO NOT WRITE ANYTHING ABOUT THIS IN THE COMMENTS OR I MAY IMPLODE!!!!

I’m off for a Chai tea. Love you.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx