A Famished Heart By Nicola White – A Review

Publisher: Viper Books

Publication Date: 27th February 2020

I was lucky enough to receive a bumper pack of proofs from the new Serpents Tail imprint Viper Books (Thank you Miranda!) and A Famished Heart was the one I was most drawn to.  It was one of those books that I had to restrain myself from picking up too soon!

I patiently waited until new year rolled around and then it felt like the right time to pick it up.  I read it within two days and it was an absolute belter.

The book opens in Dublin in the 1980’s with the grim discovery of two middle aged sisters dead in their own home.  The local priest Father Timoney, is called by the two women’s niece Maddy when she finds that they are not answering the door and are not contactable, nor have they been for a long time. Father Timoney on entering the property finds Berenice, the oldest sister, dead in her arm chair, essentially looking like a skeleton.  The younger sister Rosaleen is then discovered dead, curled up under her own bed in much the same emaciated state as her older sister.

The police are notified and it quickly becomes apparent that the sisters have in fact starved themselves to death. But what had prompted them to act in this way?  Who’s idea was it to die in such a horrifically painful and long drawn out way? and was anyone else aware of what the sisters had planned?

To certain members of the Gardai it is an open and shut case of suicide, albeit a very unusual case. However to Detective Vincent Swan there is more to the case than initially meets the eye and he is determined to find out what has been going on.

The sisters young sister Francesca returns home from the US where she moved some decades prior to pursue a career in theatre. She finds herself in the middle of the case not really knowing herself what could have happened to her sisters. She is tasked with sorting out affairs amidst the fractured remains of her family and trying to take young Maddy under her wing.

There is a strong religious theme running through the book with the dead sisters heavy involvement with the local church and their staunch religious beliefs. Father Timoney, the local priest plays a huge part in the investigation and feels somewhat guilty that this grim discovery is tarnishing his church having recently taken over there.

This book is not just a crime thriller, for me it was more a family tale and a character study. Each of the characters are well formed and vital. Francesca is a confident and strong woman who is not afraid to speak her mind and is more than used to outside attention. Father Timoney is somewhat hapless (constantly putting his back out!) and bumbles along trying to do his best under the judging gaze of his superiors (and housekeeper!).

If you’re looking for a high octane thriller, this book is certainly not that but in my opinion is equally as gripping and compelling.  Fully formed and complex characters are the mainstay of this mystery and you really do find yourself propelled forward in the search for answers.  We get to learn about the background and secrets of these characters, through not only their back story which is fed to us in increments but their nuanced interactions with each other.

This was just my kind of novel. Not overstated and horrifyingly believable. I would thoroughly recommend it! Nicola White is certainly one to watch!

Thank you so much to Miranda and huge congratulations to Viper Books on their first published book!

See you soon

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx



NB Magazine Book Bloggers Choice Awards

I am absolutely thrilled and delighted to announce that I am one of the six book bloggers who have been shortlisted for the NB Magazine Book Bloggers Choice Awards.

This opportunity arose a few weeks ago and when NB Magazine invited bloggers to champion their favourite book published in 2019. For me there was only one choice of book, most of you will know before I even mention the name of it……

That’s correct! The wonderful Things In Jars by the equally wonderful Jess Kidd.

I spent a huge amount of time WANGING on about this book over on Twitter and Instagram and I reviewed it here. I think this is the book that most people associate with me and I just had to jump at the chance to wax lyrical about it again!

I quite often take this book down from my Forever Shelf and re-read the most perfect prologue I think I’ve ever read. Even the first line gives me shivers.

Pale as a grave grub she’s an eyeful’……….

I just LOVE It!

Jess Kidd is the kind of writer who just amazes me.  She crafts such wonderful stories that are dripping in atmosphere with such vibrant characters that stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.

My fellow shortlisted bloggers are:

The Lonesome Reader, Roachies Reviews, Kelly Loves Books, The Caffeinated Reader and Mrs Cookes Books.

They have all chosen some fantastic books too so you might want to check them out! 


I would absolutely love it if you would consider voting for me and my choice of Things In Jars by Jess Kidd, published by Canongate.  

You all know the love I have for this book and I would really appreciate the support.

If you would like to vote for me please click the link below and I will love you long time!:

Vote for #TeamJars

Thank you as ever for your continued support.

Love you!

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx



Inlands By Elin Willows – A Review

Publisher: Nordisk

Publication Date: 20th February 2020

I was approached by Duncan Lewis from Nordisk books recently to see if I wanted to read and review Inlands by Alan willows I was also sent a collection of all the titles I was interested in and I read and reviewed Zero by Gene Cornelia Pedersen here.

Nordisk specialise in publishing translated fiction from Nordic countries, Inlands by Elin Willows is set in Sweden.

The story is told in the first person narrative of a young woman who originates from Stockholm and relocates to her boyfriends hometown which is a small village in the far north of Sweden. Even before she arrives she knows that their relationship is over and he does too. There is no huge falling out, there are no recriminations it is just a quiet ending to a relationship.

This then leaves our protagonist (who remains nameless throughout) with a dilemma, Should she stay in her boyfriend’s hometown and try and make a life for herself or should she return home? She decides (and it is a fairly easy decision to be fair) to stay in the village and carve out a life for herself there, despite no longer having her boyfriend by her side.

She manages to rent a couple of rooms in a shared house and gets herself a job in the village grocery store. She tentatively makes friendships with other staff members from the store and divides her time between working shifts at the store, socialising with other members of staff at a local hotel on a Saturday night or just spending time isolated by herself in her room with the TV her constant companion.

Her friends sometimes find it difficult to comprehend why she has chosen to stay when she had a life of her own in a bustling busy city. The residents of the small village are often the ones who are trying to escape village life and head towards a more exciting life in the city and they find it difficult to wrap their heads around the fact that she would choose to stay.

What I enjoyed about our nameless protagonist was the fact that in my opinion she was somewhat of an unreliable narrator. Or maybe that is the wrong phrase to use? What I mean is with her words she portrays a distinct feeling of being justified in her decision to remain however sometimes her behaviour jars against her words and she seems terribly lonely despite having formed some friendships. She is often on her own, she struggles to sleep and she really doesn’t manage to eat well. She often has minor illnesses, colds, nosebleeds, and feeling generally rundown and tired.

As I was reading this book I couldn’t quite decide whether her decision to stay was the best thing for her as I felt she was a little unsure herself despite betraying feelings to the contrary. I also enjoyed the fact that she did not dwell too much on her last relationship as I feel this could have potentially drawn away the focus of the narrative which I feel were the themes of belonging, freedom and loneliness.

Her boyfriend is always referred to as ‘him’ and we never discover his name. She does make mention of him sporadically throughout the book but never in a hugely melancholic way. She seems to deal with the breakup of the relationship in a very mature manner even though deep down we know she is hurting.

This book is particularly insular and as it is told in the first person perspective we often find ourselves trapped inside the main characters head. If you are looking for a book jampacked with plot this is not the book for you, if like me you enjoy a brilliant character study in which you can see somebody change and develop, not always for the better, then you will most likely love this book. If you like living somebody’s life through the minutiae of their every day then you will more than likely enjoy this aspect of this book as we quite often get told what she is eating how much or how little she has slept and what seemingly minor tasks she has had to perform during her working day. I understand that this may not be for everybody but I do particularly enjoy books that delve into tiny aspects of people’s everyday lives.

This book also has a huge sense of place the landscape and the changing seasons are depicted perfectly. The timeline appeared to me to be non-linear as the character quite often refers to the fact that she has been in the village for a year and yet some of the vignettes of narrative seem to swing between the seasons. The bleak and extremely cold and dark winters and the perpetual sunlight of the summer.

I throughly enjoyed this book and Elin Willow’s sparse prose. If you you’re after an introspective look into someone’s life I would heartily recommend it. I don’t read nearly enough translated fiction and I really should.

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

See you soon

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

The Illness Lesson By Clare Beams – A Review

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication Date: 6th February 2020



This book is one of those exciting beasts that make my blood fizz with excitement! I devoured it.

I almost dismissed it before even getting my hands on a copy because I’d heard it centered around a group of teenage girls. If you’ve been a regular on the blog for a while you’ll know that I don’t enjoy books with female teenage protagonists and particularly if there is a group of teenage girls in a school setting. What I didn’t realise was The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams is actually set in the late 1800’s and I love me some historical fiction as you know! My aversion to teenage girls is firmly rooted in the contemporary so I decided to give the book a whirl! I am so glad that I did and of course very grateful to the lovely Alison Barrow for sending me a copy. (A BEAUTIFUL copy at that!).

The Illness Lesson tells the story of our protagonist Caroline Hood who lives on a farm in Massachusetts with her philosopher and essayist father Samuel Hood.  The book opens with the arrival of a flock of vibrant red birds which have only previously been seen a few decades before.  Infact very little is known about this strange species of bird, so little infact that it was not given an official name for a while.  However, Caroline’s now deceased mother gave them the whimsical name of ‘Trilling Hearts’ (I love this!).  Samuel believes these strange birds to be portentous and really feels that there recent arrival heralds a signal for change. Caroline however feels uneasy about these birds despite most people around her extolling their beauty.

Samuel feels that now is the time to start his own school as an experiment of sorts. In a time where young females are taught the lessons of life, eg sewing, homemaking etc Samuel (being an eminent thinker) wants to teach the girls real lessons.  Lessons where the girls will actually have to think and engage with the topics.  Have conversations and form opinions. Lessons like these have not been attempted with young girls previously and there are a number of eminent education professionals keeping a keen eye on the experiment.

Caroline is to be a teacher at the school, along with an acolyte of Samuel called David.  Caroline is drawn to David from the off and has to try to control her burgeoning feelings for him.

As a backdrop to this we know that Caroline’s mother died when Caroline was young. Caroline is aware that her mother was an epilepsy sufferer and she unfortunately one day had a fit which ultimately led to her death.  This knowledge has been hanging over Caroline’s head like a dark cloud for years.  She constantly worries that any twinge or strange feeling in her own body is the onset of the condition which tragically killed her mother.

When the small group of girls arrive at the school, they seem to take well to their initial lessons.  One of the girls, Eliza has links to Caroline and Samuel from the recent past and seems to wield this power over them and the other girls.  She has an enigmatic draw to the other students and appears to be the pinnacle of the group.

When Eliza starts to experience ‘falling fits’ out of the blue, strange occurances start to happen to the other girls.  Skin rashes, verbal tics, fainting episodes, shaking hands, all of which seem to be increasing in voracity with no apparent cause.  Samuel, David and Caroline are all equally as baffled by the girls symptoms and cannot fathom between them what could be the root cause of them.  Could it be a group psychosis, mass hysteria or something more sinister afoot?  Why too do the Trilling Hearts keep appearing at the oddest of moments and in the oddest of ways?

Ultimately Samuel and David want the school to be successful and not to fail under scrutiny and feel their reputations depend on it, therefore they choose to not inform the girls parents and bring in an outside doctor Hawkins to assess the girls and make recommendations for their rehabilitation.  From here on in things take an even more disturbing and sinister turn.

But ultimately what does it all mean for Caroline? For her life, her health and her reputation.

There are so many themes in this book to consider, which is why it had my brain fizzing!  I suppose the pinnacle of the story is the way in which young girls and women were treated at the time, despite the best attempts to educate them in more than simple homemaking tasks.  It is this forward thinking that is then undermined by the assessment and subsequent ‘cure’ of the girls.  I should say that the method undertaken for ‘curing’ the girls is horrifying and when the penny dropped I almost didn’t want to believe it.

The characterization in this book is brilliant.  Caroline and Eliza are particularly compelling but all the girls are identifiable by their own distinct character traits so that none of them get lost or feel interchangeable.

Caroline is presented as a fairly strong minded woman.  Someone who has defied the way life is ‘supposed’ to go for a woman of her age and standing at the time.  She has not left the childhood home, she hasn’t married or had children which during that time was the natural way of things.  But is this out of choice or circumstance? She is also living under the dark shadow of not only losing her mother but of fearing the very thing she dreads the most, falling ill with the same condition.  She is hyper aware of every feeling in her body and lives with the sense of unease surrounding the death of her mother.

Eliza is a very enigmatic and mysterious character with a calculating side.  She is able to quite proficiently draw the other young girls under her spell and seems to have some kind of hold over them. This hold extends to Caroline and Samuel and they are almost nervous of her and the effect she is having on the girls.

The Trilling Hearts bring a sinister edge to the whole story, these mysterious birds that seem to have defied catagorisation for a long time, infiltrate the school and behave in the strangest of ways.  I was never quite sure of their meaning but they instilled a dark sense of foreboding in me when I was reading.

All in all this book really drew me in. Clare Beam’s writing is beautiful and drips atmosphere (in fact I re-read certain passages a few times, particularly the opening paragraph). I would absolutely recommend you getting your hands on a copy!

Thank you so much to Alison Barrow and Doubleday for the review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx


A Good Man By Ani Katz – A Review

Publisher: William Heinemann

Publication Date: 16th January 2020

When I was first approached about this book I had a quick look at the blurb and thought yeah go on then I’ll give it a bash. When the book arrived, apart from stroking it’s gorgeous cover I put it in my book trolley and parked it.

A couple of weeks ago I was looking for a book to read that wasn’t too long and I reached for A Good Man. Man am I glad I did!

I really don’t know what I was expecting from this book and when I picked it up I purposefully didn’t re-read the blurb and basically went into the book more or less blind. Of course I had a vague idea of the premise but I was sketchy on the details and I’m glad I was to be honest.

This book really blew my mind! Not really knowing what to expect I had no preconceived notions but still I feel like this book came out of left field and smacked me right round the head!

A Good Man tells the story of our protagonist Thomas. He is a married man with an 11-year-old daughter. He is the kind of man who considers himself to be a very hardworking, decent, and all-round reliable good guy. In the majority of the book he is.

Thomas has had a nightmarish childhood in which his parents had a less than normal marriage, his older Sister passed away and he was left to look after his mother and two younger twin sisters DeeDee and Kit.

Now in their early twenties the twins are still very much cosseted by their elderly mother and in most ways have not been allowed to grow up. Thomas for his part looks after his family financially and makes sure he visits regularly, however he finds his younger sister’s behaviour quite strange and immature and hopes that they will make something of themselves in the future although he has no faith that this will happen.

He also steadfastly ensures that he protects both his wife Miriam and his daughter Ava, who he refers to throughout the book as ‘my girls’. He wants to seal them in a protective bubble and make sure no harm comes to them from the outside world. He has an innate need to act as a buffer between his family and any potential dangers or upsets etc.

Thomas has a very good job in the world of advertising but slowly and steadily things start to fall apart around him and he begins to lose control of the life he held so dear and the family he is so desperate to protect and keep happy.

What I loved about this book was essentially watching one man fall to pieces in initially the smallest of ways, gradually building until Thomas no longer has the wherewithal to keep his wife happy and his daughter safe.

What we see is a man losing his mind, perpetuated by years of guilty feelings over his sister’s death and his father’s behaviour. He also feels he could’ve done more to ensure that his younger twin sisters saw more of the world, got an education, and lived a normal life outside of their home. As it is they have had a very cloistered life and they are now left looking after their ailing mother with Thomas shouldering the financial burden.

There is a very definite sense of a creeping unease throughout this whole book. You know that there has to be a conclusion as Thomas tries desperately to navigate the obstacles in his life. The pacing throughout the whole book is perfection. We learn about the kind of man Thomas is, we learn about his initial relationship with his wife and how that relationship has progressed over the years. As we watch him grow into a man, Husband and Father, we essentially then observe his undoing.

The ending of this book was such a shocker, the very last sentence gave me chills and I really wanted to just press the book into anyone’s hands and say ‘please read this’!

I really enjoyed Ani Katz writing style and I believe that this is her debut novel. If that’s true then I am very excited to read anything she writes in the future.

As I said at the start of this review, this book took me by surprise and I feel like I need to let everyone know that they need to pick it up and give it a whirl. It is by no means an uplifting book and it deals with some difficult subjects and is quite dark and disturbing, however I feel it is an important read and it is one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Thank you to the publisher and Alice Spencer for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx