Boy Parts By Eliza Clark – A Review

Publisher: Influx Press

Publication Date: 23rd July 2020

When the lovely Jordan Taylor Jones sent me a copy of Boy Parts by Eliza Clark I was proper chuffed. I can’t remember where I’d seen it talked about but there was a buzz around it, as there has been for months, which has reached fever pitch over the last month or so, and RIGHTLY SO.

When reading this book I remember tweeting that the whole experience was like having a shot of pure adrenaline straight in the arse cheek and I think a lot of us who have read this book are still BUZZING OFF OUR TITS on this adrenaline injection.

So what do we have here then?

Irina is a photographer from Newcastle, taking a sabbatical from her bar job after an incident in which she gets punched square in the face by the mother of one of her photography subjects.

Because yes, Irina has a very distinct talent for photographing ‘ordinary’ looking men in sexually explicit poses and scenarios. She scouts men and boys from around her in her everyday life, the supermarket, bars etc and approaches them to pose for her. Irina has a way of luring people in and she seems to have many people orbiting around her and her great talent.

This at times is unfathomable given Irina’s acerbic, sharp and often mean behaviour, but she really does draw people into her world. When she’s offered an exhibition at a top London gallery she starts to look back through her previous portfolio of work and we see shots and memories of previous lovers and complete strangers that she has photographed in the past which leads her down a very dark road of self destruction.

Irina has a friend and ex lover called Flo who is one such person who orbits Irina’s world. Flo is utterly obsessed with Irina and writes a ‘secret’ blog based around her unrequited love for Irina or ‘Rina’ as she affectionately terms her. Irina for her part capitalises on this weakness of Flo’s and uses her love for her to push her buttons.

Irina is one of those protagonists who explodes into your psyche by welcoming you into her own despite it being so very dark. She is awful at times, JUST AWFUL and there were points where I wanted to look away but JUST COULDN’T DO IT.

She is a woman I will never ever forget due to her no bullshit attitude and her propensity to ride absolutely fucking roughshod over everyone!

If you haven’t guessed already, Boy Parts is grim, it’s hilarious, it’s dark as you like and it’s fizzing with urgent life. It’s base, it’s disgusting, it punches low and it punches hard and I effin loved it!

Of course the true icing on the cake is that Eliza Clarke is a northern writer and as you know I’m a northern bird who loves to shout about the talent we have up here. Eliza Clark is just nailing it with this book and not only that she is such a strong personality over on Twitter, she makes my day over there!

I feel like I always say that I’m looking forward to whatever a good author is going to produce next but in this case I’m DOUBLE EXCITED ON SPEED (oh yes, there’s drugs in this book OF COURSE) to see what brilliant disgustingness Eliza Clark births next….

If you want a book to punch you in the gut and make your blood fizz, BOY PARTS IS IT. I urge you to give it a whirl. I’ve seen nothing but effusive praise for this book, and I mean that, not a bad word has been said. Eliza Clarke has burst her way into everyone’s brains with this debut novel and none of us will ever be the same again.

Thank you so much to Jordan Taylor Jones and Influx Press for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx


Bookish Chat About: The Darker Side Of Sex

I recently read wounding by the brilliant Heidi James, published by Bluemoose (you should grab yourselves a copy) and it’s a story surrounding a female protagonist who is bored of married life and has not taken to motherhood. All she wants to do is feel something and not be so numb. This pursuit of punishing pain leads her down a dark path and I bloody loved it!

It got me thinking about other books I’ve read in a similar vein. Most notably Adèle by Leila Slimani published by Faber & Faber (which I loved and reviewed here ) which tells the story of Adele, a French woman who from the outside appears to have it all, an attentive husband and a young son and a promising career. However she feels distanced from her family and seeks out darker and darker sexual encounters which put her in physical danger.

I also read and enjoyed Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum which is similar in ways to Adele. In this case we meet Anna living in Zurich who once again appears to have it all yet decides to risk everything for a series of sexual affairs.

I also recently read Blow Your House Down by Pat Barker published by Virago, which is completely different than the books I’ve mentioned above but still portrays the darker side of sex. This book tells the story of northern women working as prostitututes at a time when the Yorkshire Ripper was on the loose. It’s grim and makes for scary reading but I really enjoyed it (if ‘enjoyed’ is the right word to use in these circumstances!).

These books got me thinking about the darker side of sex and I asked out on Twitter for some recommendations. I knew I didn’t want Fifty Shades Of Grey awfulness (sorry if you’re a fan!), or nicey nicey ‘romance’, I’m not about that vibe. I wanted stories of unusual love, dangerous sex or dark encounters.

As always I had some great suggestions and went on a buying spree so I thought I’d show you my choices.

Let’s get cracking.

The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek (Serpents Tail)


Erika Kohut teaches piano at the Vienna Conservatory by day. By night she trawls the city’s porn shows while her mother, whom she loves and hates in equal measure, waits up for her. Into this emotional pressure-cooker bounds music student and ladies’ man Walter Klemmer.

With Walter as her student, Erika spirals out of control, consumed by the ecstasy of self-destruction. A haunting tale of morbid voyeurism and masochism, The Piano Teacher, first published in 1983, is Elfreide Jelinek’s Masterpiece.

It’s not only the darker side of Erika’s habits that drew me to this one, I also am very intrigued by her love/hate relationship with her mother. That cover is gorgeous! Looking forward to this one.

Bad Behaviour by Mary Gaitskill (Penguin Modern Classics)


Mary Gaitskill’s tales of desire and dislocation in 1980s New York caused a sensation with their frank, caustic portrayals of men and women’s inner lives. As her characters have sex, try and fail to connect, play power games and inflict myriad cruelties on each other, she skewers urban life with precision and candour.

I recently read This Is Pleasure by Mary Gaitskill (review here) and really loved it. When I bought Bad Behaviour I didn’t realise that it’s actually a short story collection but that’s fine because you guys know I love my short stories. I’ve actually seen a few other Mary Gaitskill books I’d like to buy, she’s one of those authors I really gel with.

Perfume by Patrick Suskind (Penguin)


In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of scent . . .

I actually bought this one a couple of months ago but it came up as a suggestion. When I intitially posted a picture of it I had so many people tell me how good it was. Whilst I don’t think it’s directly sexual it has been described as having an eroticism and I know it’s very dark!

The Collection by Nina Leger (Granta)


Jeanne moves from room to room. In the anonymous hotel bedrooms of Paris – Hotel Agate, Hotel Prince Albert, Hotel Prince Monceau, Hotel Coypel, Hotel Nord & Champagne – she undresses man after man, forgetting faces, names, pleasures, thoughts, and all physical attributes but one. In her head, a palace of memories is being built, image by new image, lover by new lover. There is no pathologizing Jeanne; she resists it. There is no way to impose a story on Jeanne; she escapes it. There is no pitying Jeanne, no lusting after Jeanne, no uncovering the secret to Jeanne; she won’t allow it. Jeanne moves from room to room.

I actually discovered this one myself when I was browsing. That cover is absolutely stunning! It’s a short one this one and is translated from French. I’m really looking forward to it in a strange way!

This final choice is probably the most stunning!

A Spy In The House Of Love by Anais Nin (Penguin Modern Classic)


Beautiful, bored and bourgeoise, Sabina leads a double life inspired by her relentless desire for brief encounters with near-strangers. Fired into faithlessness by a desperate longing for sexual fulfilment, she weaves a sensual web of deceit across New York. But when the secrecy of her affairs becomes too much to bear, Sabina makes a late night phone-call to a stranger from a bar, and begins a confession that captivates the unknown man and soon inspires him to seek her out…

I’ve never read any Anais Nin before but as with Mary Gaitskill I have since found quite a few of her works I’d like to read, particularly Delta Of Venus and Little Birds. This cover again is beautiful! The cover photograph is called Doe Eye by Erwin Blumenfeld 1950. Bloody gorgeous!

So there we have it! There will no doubt be more purchases made so there may be a part 2 to this post. Have you read any of these books? Any of them get your juices flowing!?…..OR do you have any more suggestions for me? I’m all ears!

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers – A Review

Publisher: W&N

Publication Date: 9th July 2020

I have to be honest and say that I was initially drawn to this book purely on the basis of that gorgeous cover! I mean look at it!

However, once I’d read the blurb I was drawn in even further and was lucky enough to get my hands on a proof copy. (I’m hoping the finished copy will be just as stunning).

Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers tell the story of Jean, a female journalist on a local paper in the late 1950’s. When word comes in that there is a woman claiming to have given birth to a baby ten years prior having had no physical contact with a man, Jean is assigned to the case. For Jean it is something way out of her usual comfort zone of household tips and advice columns but she’s up for the challenge.

Jean wants to prove that she can report on more than domestic items and launches herself into investigating this case of Gretchen Tillbury and her bold claim of parentogenisis (essentially virgin birth) fully expecting that she will encounter a fraud.

However when Jean meets Gretchen and her 10 year old daughter Margaret, she can’t help but wonder what Gretchen is hoping to gain from her story. A story in which she is 100% adamant that her child was the product of a virgin birth.

Jean sets out to speak to various people in Gretchen’s life to see if she can flesh out who Gretchen is as a person and what her motives may possibly be. It transpires that Gretchen was an inpatient in a convalescent home at the time she reportedly became pregnant and Jean sets out to speak the various patients and staff who worked there at the time.

In the process of her investigation she also speaks with Howard, Gretchen’s husband. A man who steadfastly stands by his wife’s claims and declares he has no reason to disbelieve her.

As medical tests begin on Gretchen and Margaret, Jean starts to become deeper and deeper embroiled with the Tillson family, growing ever closer to little Margaret and feeling as though Gretchen is strangely pushing her towards Howard.

But just how much will this outlandish claim affect Jean’s mundane life and the lives of those around her? And how far will she go to find her own happiness within a family unit?

What I loved about this story was the characterisation. I found Jean to be such a difficult woman to fathom at first. She comes across as prickly and standoffish and I found her hard to piece together but I enjoyed the challenge of her. She lives with her mother and they have a very regimented and orderly, if somewhat dull life. Set days for hair wash, set days for meals etc. Jean’s mother is very dependent on her and quite stifling. Jean finds this cumbersome and their relationship quite often curtails her social life. What little social life she has before she meets the Tillson’s anyway.

Despite wanting to do a great journalistic job of the story, Jean also yearns to have what the Tillson’s seem to have. A perfect family life.

The relationship between Jean and Howard as it progresses is such a joy to watch unfolding, despite the fact that Howard is obviously married to Gretchen.

The reasoning behind Gretchen’s apparent need to push them both together is finally unveiled and all becomes startlingly clear.

The standout moment in this book is the ending. It took me completely by surprise (such a clichè I know!) but I had been so wrapped up in Jean and Howard’s relationship that I’d completely forgotten what I’d read at the start of the book to bring everything full circle.

It’s an absolute gut punch!

Clare Chambers has written very believable characters against a backdrop of an unbelievable situation. I adore her writing style and I am so pleased that she has a back catalogue that I can now go back to.

I would very much recommend this book!

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

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

The Colour Collection: Yellow Edition

I’m always trying to think of ways to showcase some of the MANY books I have on my various bookshelves and two ram jam full book trollies, so when I noticed a few colours popping out at me recently I grasped that loose thread for blog content and didn’t let go!

I do think it’s nice though to have a little nosey through people’s bookshelves and I do have hundreds of books that I wouldn’t necessarily get to talk to you about unless I’ve read and reviewed them.

So today I’m bringing you my yellow books. A collection of six books (only one of which I’ve read) that maybe you’ve not seen before and might like to check out for yourself. So let’s crack on!

Keeper by Jessica Moor (Penguin Viking)


He’s been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes. 
Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside.

When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide. 

But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.

Will you listen to them?

I think the cover of this book is so eye catching! I’m not usually drawn to covers with real life people on them but I’ll definitely make an exception for this one. I do enjoy a good thriller every now and again to break up my usual reading taste of the dark and gothic. This one looks like an absolute corker and I’ve heard nothing but amazing things.

All About Sarah by Pauline Delabroy Allard (Harvill Secker)


It’s all about Sarah, her mysterious beauty, Sarah the impetuous, Sarah the passionate, Sarah the sulphurous, it’s all about the exact moment when the match flares, the exact moment when that piece of wood becomes fire, when the spark lights up the darkness.

A thirty-something teacher drifts through her life in Paris, raising a daughter on her own, lonely in spite of a new boyfriend. Then one night, at a friend’s tepid New Year’s Eve party, Sarah enters the scene like a tornado. A talented young violinist, she is loud, vivacious, appealingly unkempt in a world where everyone seems preoccupied with being ‘just so’. It is the beginning of an intense relationship, tender and violent, that will upend both women’s lives.

This is a very recent purchase after I heard Jen Campbell talking about it on Booktube during one of her haul videos. The synopsis gives me vibes of Pages For You and Pages For Her both by Sylvia Brownrigg which I enjoyed. It’s a short book at only 165 pages but I think it could be quite an intense read.

Tin Man by Sarah Winman (Tinder Press)


It begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things.

And then there are two boys, Ellis and Michael,
who are inseparable.
And the boys become men,
and then Annie walks into their lives,
and it changes nothing and everything.

Ahhhh this book holds so many memories. I read it a couple of years ago and loved it even though it broke my heart. I loved it so much that I told my husband that he should read it too. Now….he’s not a reader. He reads maybe one or two books a year BUT he took this with him one afternoon when we took our kids to soft play and he devoured it with tears in his eyes. At one point he had to put it down on the table and still reading because it was ‘too much’. I was sitting there all smug thinking ‘ah ha! Gotcha!’ It’s a short but brilliant book that packs the hugest of punches. I would definitely recommend it (but grab some Kleenex!).

The Long Song by Andrea Levy (Headline Review)


You do not know me yet. My son Thomas, who is publishing this book, tells me, it is customary at this place in a novel to give the reader a little taste of the story that is held within these pages. As your storyteller, I am to convey that this tale is set in Jamaica during the last turbulent years of slavery and the early years of freedom that followed.

July is a slave girl who lives upon a sugar plantation named Amity and it is her life that is the subject of this tale. She was there when the Baptist War raged in 1831, and she was present when slavery was declared no more. My son says I must convey how the story tells also of July’s mama Kitty, of the negroes that worked the plantation land, of Caroline Mortimer the white woman who owned the plantation and many more persons besides – far too many for me to list here. But what befalls them all is carefully chronicled upon these pages for you to peruse.

Perhaps, my son suggests, I might write that it is a thrilling journey through that time in the company of people who lived it. All this he wishes me to pen so the reader can decide if this is a novel they might care to consider. Cha, I tell my son, what fuss-fuss. Come, let them just read it for themselves.

I love Andrea Levy’s writing and thoroughly enjoyed Small Island and Every Light In The House Burnin’ both ate brilliant books. I picked up The Long Song from a secondhand book shop and didn’t really read the blurb, I just saw Andrea Levy’s name and knew I’d be in safe hands. I’ll update you more when I’ve read it!

The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson (Two Roads)


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

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

I recently read The Ninth Child by Sally Magnusson and my review is here (spoiler I LOVED it!).

I won a copy of The Sealwoman’s Gift a good while ago now on a Twitter Giveaway I had however had my eye on the book for a while so was thrilled to win a copy. I really must get around to reading it soon now that I know how great a writer Sally Magnusson is!

The Farm by Joanne Ramos (Bloomsbury)


Life is a lucrative business, as long as you play by the rules.

Ambitious businesswoman Mae Yu runs Golden Oaks – a luxury retreat transforming the fertility industry. There, women get the very best of everything: organic meals, fitness trainers, daily massages and big money. Provided they dedicate themselves to producing the perfect baby. For someone else. 

Jane is a young immigrant in search of a better future. Stuck living in a cramped dorm with her baby daughter and her shrewd aunt Ate, she sees an unmissable chance to change her life. But at what cost?

I was kindly sent a copy of the upcoming paperback release of The Farm which I’d had my eye on for a while. I recently saw Lauren from Lauren And The Books talking about how much she enjoyed this book over on Booktube and I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. I think it sounds like an absolutely fascinating premise.

So there we have it! Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?

I’ll be back soon with another colour collection….I’m sitting here eyeing up the oranges already…..

See you all soon and stay safe!

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

Finders, Keepers By Sabine Durrant – A Review

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publication Date: 9th July 2020

I have to hold my hands up and be very honest (as I always am). I had never read any Sabine Durrant books before I was offered this book.

I of course knew of her and had only heard great things and the premise of this book completely drew me in particularly the line ‘Like the ivy that creeps through the shared garden fence, their lives are all entwined now. And the knots can only get tighter….’

That was all I needed!

When this book arrived I had every intention of setting it to one side for at least a few days whilst I finished off a couple of other books I had on the go. However, I started to run a bath and thought to myself that I’d just read a page or two to get a feel for the writing style etc. Well…….a couple of hours and one bath later I was still reading.

Verity Baxter has lived in the same house in Trinity Fields for pretty much her whole life. It’s the house she grew up in with her sister Faith and the house she spent most of her adult life caring for her sick mother. Now her mother is dead and her sister is gone and it’s just Verity and her dog Maudie.

That is until a the Tilson family move in next door.

Ailsa, her husband Tom and their three children Melissa and twins Bea and Max have recently moved to Trinity Fields from Kent. They’ve gutted the house and given it a completely modernised renovation. Verity does a little research on the family before they move in, interested to find out who her new neighbours are. When they do arrive, there is an altercation between Tom and Verity over the state of Verity’s garden, but Ailsa acts as a buffer between them both and the two women develop a friendship.

Verity starts tutoring the Tilson’s teenage son Max, as she is a lexicographer and this is when she finds herself spending more and more time with the family. She is fascinated by their family dynamic but also witnesses some cruel displays from Tom and the way he treats both Aisla and the children. Ultimately she wants to feel useful and wanted by the family and feels the need to hang on to her tentative place within their family dynamic.

The two women continue to bond in an odd way. Both of them needing the investment in the friendship for their own reasons but both having secrets they would prefer were kept hidden.

But what effect will these secrets have on these two women and their lives and when tragedy strikes, who needs who more?

I cannot give anything else away plot wise! This book really does need to be read. I finished it in one sitting which took me until 1am on a school night no less! It was so worth the tiredness!

The main draw for me was the intriguing relationship between these two women and the juxtaposed nature of their lives. Ailsa with her family and husband and lovely modern minimalist home, Verity all alone in her house which is frozen in time and quite literally stuffed full of memories.

This is a slow burner of a story with ever increasing tension. Tension which doesn’t exactly ratchet up but rather simmers underneath the surface ready to boil over.

Sabine Durrant writes a taught thriller which is sharp and utterly, utterly compelling. Reading Finders, Keepers has made me so excited to explore Sabine’s back catalogue of books. I’ve been recommended a few since shouting about how much I loved this one. And I did love it!

Thank you to Jenny Platt and Hodder for my review copy and for having me along on the blog tour.

Check out what everyone else thinks on the rest of the tour dates:

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx