My Top Books Of 2019

Here we go!

It’s that time of year again when we all start putting together our ‘end of year’ lists and I’m bringing mine to you today!  I could have whittled it down to 10 books, 15 books, 20 books? but ya know what?……I didn’t want to!

I choose my books of the year based on the very scientific process of scrolling through my Goodreads and seeing which books still give me ‘the feeling’.  Crazy I know! There will be some 5 star books on my Goodreads that won’t necessarily appear on this list due to the fact that they have faded a little for me, and that is the true test of a good book! Whether it can still give me ‘the feeling’ some months after reading it.

I have a good mix of novels and short story collections here, however I only have ONE non-fiction! ( I really need to make more of a non-fiction effort in 2020!).

I will also say that these books are books I’ve read in 2019 and not books published in 2019 so bear that in mind.

I won’t harp on about each book but I will link any reviews I’ve done.  (Lets face it, a lot of you will probably just scroll through the pictures anyway! No judgement here!).

Without any further ado, lets crack on! (In a loose ‘oldest first’ order)

Slack Tide by Elanor Dymott – Jonathan Cape

This gave me distinct vibes of Louise O’Neill’s Almost Love (which I adored!)  I also loved Elanor Dymott’s novel Silver & Salt, she’s an amazing author.  Add to the mix a tale of a coercive relationship and I was hooked! my review is here.

When I Had A Little Sister by Catherine Simpson – 4th Estate

This book just broke my heart.  I still think about it often and can remember feeling utterly bereft and having a good old cathartic sob in the bath.  This an unflinchingly raw account of suicide in a rural farming family.  I think it will always remain one of my most memorable non-fiction reads.  My review is here.

It’s Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mothers by Lisa Blower – Myriad Editions

I have such a strong nostalgic feeling even just looking at the cover of this short story collection.  It is perhaps the collection I recommend the most.  If you haven’t read it, you really need to! My review is here.

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal – Picador

This book could not have been any more ME! A dark and gritty historical tale that lures you in and drags you under.  Bloody marvellous! My review is here.


The Rapture by Claire McGlasson – Faber & Faber

Another stonking historical tale but with one foot firmly rooted in the truth.  If cults are your bag then you need to get your hands on this beauty (and it is a beauty! Look at it!) My review is here


Common People Edited By Kit De Waal – Unbound

This book is another nostalgic trip down memory lane for me! I feel like I could have written some of the stories myself, they felt so closely connected to my own Northern working class upbringing.  This book will always have a huge piece of my heart.  My review is here.


Some New Ambush by Carys Davies – Salt 

Carys Davies was a new author to me this year and the stories in her collection Some New Ambush are amongst some of the most memorable I’ve read.  I read a lot of short stories and sometimes I struggle to remember who wrote what or which collection each story appears in.  However, Carys’ distinct voice shines through in this collection and it contains one of my most memorable stories.

Sweet Home by Wendy Erskine – Picador

Another short story collection with some of the most enjoyable tales I’ve read.  If I ever see anyone reaching out and asking for short story recommendations I always suggest Sweet Home.  They are stories of everyday lives behind closed doors on normal streets but with deeply rooted themes of loss and grief.  My review is here

The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns – Virago

2019 was the year that Barbara Comyns came into my life! Man am I glad she did! This book sparked a love affair with Comyns and I now have read or own most of her books.  My review of The Vet’s Daughter is here.

Witches Sail In Eggshells by Chloe Turner – Reflex Press

I chanced upon this short story collection via Twitter.  It is an absolute stunner and each of the stories touched a part of me. This is another hugely memorable collection which has pride of place on my ‘Forever Shelf’ and another book I recommend lots!  My review is here.

Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley – John Murray

If I was pushed I would have to say that Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley is probably my overall book of the year.  I ate it up in one rainy afternoon and can still remember how it made me feel.  I closed it immediately wanted to shout about it to the world!  My review is here.

The Mating Habits Of Stags by Ray Robinson – Eye & Lightning

This book was a joyous little surprise.  One that almost flew under the radar but thankfully ended up soaring right above it!  This is another one that I gobbled up really quickly and immediately wanted to tell everyone about.  My review is here

They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple – John Murray

Ahhhhhh Dorothy! I think someone suggested Dorothy Whipple to me when I asked on Twitter for recommendations of books based in the 1920’s and 30’s.  As with Barbara Comyns, They Were Sisters sparked a Whipple love affair and some may remember that I battled with the library to let me keep the old fusty falling to bits copy they kept in their basement, to no avail!  However I am now the proud owner of this First Edition which was kindly sourced for me by my lovely Aunty and Uncle! I love it!

Things We Say In The Dark by Kirsty Logan – Harvill Secker

Now this short story collection is just deliciously dark and horrifying! I sat and read it all the way through one night.  Wow! What an experience! I love Kirsty Logan’s writing so much! My review is here.


The Murder Of Harriet Monckton – Myriad Editions

A stonker of an example of perfect historical fiction for me.  Elizabeth Haynes can do no wrong in my eyes and I absolutely adored this book! Get your hands on it immediately.

This Is Pleasure by Mary Gaitskill – Serpents Tail

This is a short powerhouse of a book that really packs a huge punch!  I was conflicted about my thoughts on the protagonist and wanted everyone to read the book so that I could discuss it!  My review is here.

Reality, Reality by Jackie Kay – Picador

Jackie Kay is another new to me author this year.  I picked up a copy of her other short story collection Why Don’t You Stop Talking purely on a whim and really enjoyed it.  This led me to loaning Reality, Reality from the library and racing through it.  Short stories with a hint of magical realism? yes please!

Haven’t They Grown by Sophie Hannah – Hodder & Stoughton

Now this book sparked off pure excitement before I’d even started reading it!  I read the blurb to my friends and family and it had us all crying out ‘BUT WHY HAVEN’T THEY GROWN???’.  Having now read it, I KNOW why they haven’t grown……..but I’m not telling.  You’ll also have to wait for my review until my stop on the blog tour on 16th January. Ooooh I’m a tease and no mistake!

Little Bandaged Days by Kyra Wilder – Picador

Sorry but this is another book that hasn’t been published yet! I love books surrounding struggling mothers and the mental issues this presents.  This book knocked me sideways and was one of those books that I had to review IMMEDIATELY as soon as I’d finished reading it because my brain was fizzing!  Again, you’ll have to wait until closer to publication at the end of January for my review.

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson – Penguin

I know, I know! I was super late to the party with this one! You’ve all read it, you’ve all loved it.  I’m now part of your crew and kicking myself that I left it soooo long to actually read it!

All The Birds Singing by Evie Wyld – Vintage

This book is the reason why you should never close off your books of the year list too early.  I read this a few days ago and it has made a huge impression on me.  It was recommended to me by the amazing Daisy Johnson when I asked on Twitter for books about living in isolation.  It blew me away and I’m so glad I kept my mind open to amazing books this close to the end of the year.

So there we have it folks!  My ‘List’.

I have read 148 books this year and most have been hugely enjoyable.  The 21 books you’ve seen here are my ultimates.  The cream of the crop (a great crop at that!).

Have you read any of them and do any of them appear on your list?

I hope you all have a marvelous New Year and here’s to more amazing books in 2020!

Thank you all so much for your continued support.

Much Love.


Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx




Bookish Chat About: My Reading And Blogging Year 2019

As the end of the year fast approaches, I thought I’d just pop on to do a little summary of my reading and blogging year.  I will of course be doing a Best Books Of The Year post, more than likely on New Years Eve.  My post won’t be a top 10 or Top 20, it will just be however many books give me ‘the feeling’, but I’ll explain more about that in the post on NYE.

What I thought I’d do today is just have a quick look back over 2019 as a whole in terms of my reading and my blogging.  I mentioned to my best bookish pal Clare at Years Of Reading Selfishly that I don’t feel like 2019 has been my best reading year and I don’t mean because of the standard of books.  When I think back to 2018 I felt as if I was on a roll with blogging, I felt motivated and juiced up and enjoyed creating content and publishing posts at least twice a week.  However, as this year panned out, I found myself under increasing (self imposed) pressure to read and review EVERYTHING before it was published.  I felt like I was churning out reviews and began to feel very much bogged down and demotivated.

Some of you may remember that I had a little break from blogging in August (1 week) and then again at the start of November (2 weeks).  It was during the two week hiatus that I knew I had to stop putting pressure on myself and start paring back the posts.  I decided that 1 post a week was ample for me as I have 2 children and I work fulltime and want a life away from blogging! (I know right!) Since then I have been posting once a week and it feels much more managable.  I feel rejuvinated and excited to head into 2020 with a renewed vigour for writing.

2019 has also been the year of the DNF for me too.  I very rarely gave up on a book if I wasn’t enjoying it.  I would steadfastly trudge on until the end and consider it a personal mission.  Towards the end of 2018 I DNF’d a couple of books (popular ones too!) and I felt the odd twinge of guilt.  However this year I have felt very little guilt and have realised that life is too short to force yourself to plough on with a book you are not enjoying! I still stand by my policy of not reviewing books I have DNF’d but I do usually tweet about books I feel I can’t finish.  I know a few people who like to keep quiet and let DNF’s slink away but If I’ve tweeted that I’m currently reading a book and then decide to DNF I feel its only fair to let people know my decision.  That’s just me.

This year has also seen me breaking into audiobook territory! If I ever forgot my physical book and tweeted lamenting this fact, I used to get so many people responding with ‘audiobooks’.  NO! I used to rage….they are NOT for me.  However, I feel I can now eat big bowl fulls of humble pie and sheepishly admit you were all SO RIGHT!  I took the plunge and downloaded Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am I Am I Am and since then I haven’t looked back!  Audiobooks have seen me through bus journeys, walks, baths, wallpaper scraping, and afternoons in the office. I tend to stick to non-fiction but as recently as yesterday I downloaded Saltwater by Jessica Andrews and I’m loving it! Watch this space….(update: since writing this blog post I’ve finished listening to Saltwater and bloody loved it!).

2019 has also been a huge year for short story collections for me.  I feel like I’ve become known for my love of a good short story collection and I love recommending them.  My Best Books Of The Year Post currently features around 6 or 7 collections, something which I never thought would happen.  There are some crackin’ collections due to be published in 2020 aswell which I’m super pumped for!  If you’ve not yet made the leap to short stories I would urge you to do so….If you need any recommendations, I’m your gal!

I also bought my first poetry book this year…..I’m yet to read it……I’m scared!……..2020 has to be the year that I’m brave and give it a whirl!

The last point I just want to touch on is my Goodreads challenge target.  Last year I set my goal at 120 and read over 130 (I think).  This year I set it at 150 to stretch myself a little.  Currently with 13 days of December left to go I have read 141 books.  I did wonder whether I should grab some short books and push myself to hit the 150 target but do you know what?…..I want to reach it organically if I can.  If I don’t, its no great shakes, for me its just a record of my reading year.  Next year I think I’ll drop it slightly……

Going into 2020 I am very excited by some of the books I already have in my possession and some of the books I’ve got my eye on and my fingers crossed for.  I will continue to post once a week (no set day) and I will hopefully have a slightly better blogging year!

This is my last post now until New Years Eve.  I’m going to enjoy christmas in all it’s madness and mayhem and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas too! Thank you all so much for your continued interaction and support, you’re all bloody brilliant bookish belters!

See you all soon!

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx


Orkney By Amy Sackville – A Review

Publisher: Granta

Publication Date: 6th February 2014

Orkney by Amy Sackville was one of my subscription book choices from Mr B’s Emporium. They know I enjoy books that are a little dark and strange and this one is no exception.

At 253 pages it’s not a huge read but it’s super atmospheric and I found myself fully immersed.

A literature professor and his new wife, one of his ex pupils, are taking their honeymoon on a remote island in Orkney at the young wife’s request. Desperate to please her, the professor agrees, eschewing all other more exotic places with more clement climes.

The professor has taken a sabatical from his university work to write a book based on myths and fairytales and hopes to use some of his time on Orkney to continue with his research and writing. However he becomes somewhat obsessed and entranced by his new wife. A woman he considers himself extremely lucky to have married. The 40 year age gap (he is 60 she is 20… can do subtraction I’m sure!) plays on his mind and he is very alert and sensitive to people’s reactions to the two of them together, particularly within a small island community.

The young (nameless) woman spends her days walking along the coastline, or quite often just standing motionless watching the sea. The professor, who should be working, spends his time watching her from the window of their rented cottage. Desperate to keep his eyes on her, trying so hard to figure her out, to get into her mind and her thoughts. He is a man who wants to keep hold of this enigmatic woman who he feels is the pinnacle of his life.

She spends her nights plagued by nightmares all surrounding the sea and her apparent fear or awe of it. She cannot swim and some of her trepidation around the sea and it’s force and power seems to dominate her dreams. The professor soothes her through these frightening nightmares which seem so visceral and urgent in the dead of night but which she recounts in the morning with an almost casual air of storytelling before venturing back outside to the beach and the ocean.

The woman likes to tell the professor myths and fairytales about people of the sea, selkies, mermaids, sea-princesses. The professor, listens, rapt and enchanted by her. But just how much of a pull does the sea have and how much power can the ocean wield over their relationship?..

This book is so steeped in atmosphere. The descriptions not only of the island of Orkney, its remoteness, it’s landscape, but also the depictions of the coast and the sea. There is a dampness that hangs in the air which you can almost feel permeating your bones.

This book is most definitely a character study and not so much plot based. As the story is told from the perspective of the Professor we are effectively inside his head so we can share in his love and adoration of this enigmatic almost ethereal woman. We are trying to figure her out as a reader just as much as the professor is as her husband.

The woman seems to veer from being quite childlike, fun loving and playful to being introverted, almost taciturn and secretive. She is most assuredly an interesting character. The little nuanced touches of her demeanour and character lending even more of a fascination for me. Her apparent ability to shrug off the cold, her slightly webbed fingers and toes….

She and me. I and she. Safe within, the dark sea outside, and the poor envious sailors who long for home, who cannot have her; the heat of the skin of her chest, her shoulders, as I slid from them shawl and sweater; the small of her back quite cool; the soles of her feet, folded under her, frozen. I clasped my hands around about them; the only part of her skin that has toughened, my barefoot urchin. As I warmed my hands before the grate, the better to administer to her chilled extremeties, she unfolded herself and splayed her toes before the fire – yes, they are also just a little webbed, so that each tiny membrane glowed orange, like a frogs foot in the firelight.

Orkney is just the right kind of strange that I love. If you’re into the selkie myths as I am, or fairytales linked to the sea, this would be a book I would wholeheartedly recommend.

A great pick from the Mr B’s staff!

See you soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

Women’s Weird – Strange Stories By Women 1890 – 1940 – A Review

Publisher: Handheld Press

Publication Date: 31st October 2019

If you’re a regular around here or Twitter, you’ll know that I adore a spooky, creepy, dark and gothic tale. When I saw the cover of Women’s Weird – Strange Stories by Women 1890 – 1940 I knew it had the potential to be a piece of me.

Whilst I love a good ghost story, historical or comtemporary, I also love it when the ordinary becomes extraordinary and there is horror to be found in the everyday.

In the past when I’ve been reviewing certain books I’ve had to try to portray a feeling that a book has given me. It can quite often be difficult to harness this feeling into words and I usually fall back on the phrase ‘I love it when something isn’t quite right or feels ‘off’. When I read the introduction by Melissa Edmundson and she used pretty much this exact same phrase, I knew I’d struck gold.

Melissa goes on the explain that ghost stories in the traditional sense of a grey mist or an apparition clanking their chains have been around for centuries and had a particular resurgence in the Victorian era. Whilst this book does indeed have it apparitions and it’s possessed objects it also takes it’s creeping sense of unease from the darkness of everyday human emotions and perhaps most chillingly of all the theme of patriarchy running through the core of the majority of these stories.

I was even more excited when I read that the stories of Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Edith Wharton featured in the collection. I read and loved The Yellow Wallpaper by Perkins Gilman and I have a collection of ghost stories by Edith Wharton on my short story shelf.

I don’t like to look into all of the stories too closely when reviewing a short story collection, but rather just give you a taste of some of my favourites.  Stories which stand out in the forefront of my mind are the first story The Weird Of The Walfords by Louisa Baldwin in which a man detroys the bed which has been in his family for generations.  A bed in which his ancestors before him have all seen out their last days.  He doesn’t wish to be swept up in this macabre tradition and so eradicates the death bed from his life and shuts up the room it used to lie in.  However, when he marries and his new wife takes an interest in the locked up room and its contents, the man discovers that you can’t always outrun an overriding force.

I also really enjoyed Kerfol by Edith Wharton in which the main ghostly focus is the presence of spectral dogs.  Edith Wharton is such a great writer, she absolutely nails a spooky atmosphere and is fabulous at creating an certain energy which lures you in and makes the hairs on the back of your neck rise!

The middle section of this book really stood out to me as some absolutely superb quirky and chilling tales that feel like absolute classics with a definite twist.  Hodge by Elinor Mordaunt where a brother and sister almost will into life a neanderthal man.  At first he is compliant and subserviant but soon takes a darker turn when he becomes obsessed with the sister.  I adored this story so much, the idea that this sibling pairing were seeing the same unbelievable being and reacting to him in their differing ways.  In The Haunted Saucepan by Margery Lawrence we discover the story of precisely that!……a haunted saucepan! When the male protagonist moves into a flat which has seen previous tenants leave quickly in mysterious circumstances (isn’t that always a brilliant premise for a spooky story!).

What is very refreshing about this collection is that there are many and varied themes that are sure to send a chilling sense of uneasiness through your veins.  Whether you’re a  staunch fan of the traditional ghost story or prefer something a little more off the wall and ‘weird’, then there will be a story in here that will grab you. There are ‘ghosts’ in the age old sense of the word but there are also possessed objects, everyday objects that could be found in any home (bed, saucepan!).  There are ghostly animals, shadows, feelings of dread and terror.

This collection fills a gap between gothic ghost story and out and out fantastical weird fiction.  I also love the fact that these amazing stories came from the brains of such brilliant female writers.  I enjoy the writing style of the early 20’s and 30’s, the language, the interplay between characters, the sense of time.  A couple of the stories even put me in mind of Daphne Du Maurier’s writing style, particularly her short stories (Don’t Look Now And Other Stories, brilliant collection!).

This book is just perfect for the chilly, dark Autumn/Winter evenings.  You can snuggle up under a blanket and pick and choose any story you like to give you chills.  This book can be kept and returned to time and again each time the spooky season rolls around.

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

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx