Insatiable By Daisy Buchanan – A Review

Publisher: Sphere

Publication Date: 11th February 2021

I’d had Insatiable by Daisy Buchanan on my radar for a good while. I talked about it in the Autumn issue of NB Magazine and it appeared in my Most Anticipated Reads of 2021 blog post here.

You guys know I can usually be found lurking around anything dark, gothic and historical but occasionally I enjoy a burst of fresh contemporary fiction.

Insatiable tells the story of Violet, a twenty something woman living in London and working in the lower echelons of the art world and struggling to make ends meet (due mainly to her shopping habits and maxed out credit cards). Whilst attending an arty party one evening having acquired some tickets, Violet feeling out of place and awkward is drawn to an enigmatic, beautiful and serene looking woman who introduces herself as Lottie. Lottie turns out to be looking for someone to deal with the socials for her and her husband Simon’s new start-up company and invites Violet to a meeting.

Violet does some Instagram stalking and realises that not only is Lottie beautiful and Simon is ‘Gandy’ handsome but they also live a very privileged life. Their initial meeting to discuss the job is fizzing with sexual tension, and when the good quality wine is flowing Violet becomes entranced by this power couple.

Violet swiftly becomes embroiled in their opulent world, including their Friday night sex parties with two other couples, Max and Mimi, and Richard and Sasha. Violet is almost pimped out at the beginning, brought in at a moments notice to business meetings with potential investors as a kind of eye candy treat. Whilst she feels used she goes along with whatever Lottie and Simon want because not only does she so desperately want to be part of their world, she really really needs the job they are dangling in front of her.

Violet’s past relationship and the fact that she cancelled her wedding, losing her best friend and the respect of her parents (plus hundreds of pounds in deposits!) means that she is desperate to belong somewhere and feel loved and needed by someone. When she is drawn into this world of sex and wealth, Violet has to decide if it’s what she really wants.

There is a lot of sex in this book. A lot of really well written sex in my opinion. Violet is having a lovely old time! However there is also sexual assault, the reaction to which is not as you would expect so just bear that in mind.

Daisy Buchanan writes characters that feel fully three dimensional and you become invested in this strange world of people who have very tenuous and often very tense and strained connections. Violet herself is loveable yet wholly frustrating! There were times when I wanted to shake her to open her eyes to these people who were flawed and toxic in varying degrees. She makes some stupid decisions and is highly flawed herself but I found myself rooting for her and hoping she made the right decisions in the end whilst being willing to forgive her if she didn’t!

This is a fresh, gutsy and vibrant story about love, female desire, ambition and women’s agency over their own bodies and desires. Daisy has a quick wit and this book is funny and sexy and super sharp.

‘After showering, I try to cover my body in mango scented moisturiser. It sits on top of my damp, sweaty skin. I look like bait for a yoghurt fetishist. I spy a rogue hair sprouting from the middle of my neck, a pube tourist that has taken a series of wrong turns. I tweeze it out and my neck starts bleeding and won’t stop. After failing to staunch the wound I pluck my eyebrows until there are barely any left. I try to fix them with a pencil. In a few strokes I go from Cara Delevingne to Bert from Sesame Street.

I’ll admit I was a little worried that I might be too old at 42 to read and enjoy a story about a bit of a hapless millennial having rampant sex with people she barely knows but to hell with that! Age is but a number! I loved it.

If you want an eye opening and filthy romp with love and belonging at its heart then you need to get your hands on a copy immediately. I was absolutely right to include this book on my Most Anticipated list.

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

See you all soon

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

A Crooked Tree by Una Mannion – A Review

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Publication Date: 28th January 2021

This book was always going to potentially be either a hit or a miss for me but I was willing to take the chance. I have always made it known that I struggle with books told from the perspective of a teenage female protagonist. I knew this book infact had several young female characters and I was dubious. Having said that, the synopsis explained that the story starts when a mother driving her children home from school gets into a fight with one of her daughters and eventually kicks her out of the car, leaving her at the side of the road in her school uniform with nightfall fast approaching. Now what intrigued me about this was actually the mindset of the mother and not so much what happened to the daughter.

The opening scene in the car told from 15 year old Libby’s perspective is absolutely dripping with tension. You can feel the anger rippling through the car carrying her and her four siblings Marie, Tommy, Ellen and Beatrice. Her mother’s facial features and erratic driving during the journey perfectly depict the mounting tension within the vehicle. When Ellen is eventually kicked out of the car, the other children can’t quite believe what has happened and yet they don’t dare to question their mother and her actions.

When 12 year old Ellen takes the naive decision to hitchhike, her actions reverberate through the rest of her siblings as they try to conceal her naivety from their mother, the consequences of which are potentially disastrous.

However, keeping things from their mother is not too arduous a task as she appears to be quite distant, works a lot and shuts herself away somewhat when she is at home. On top of this she favours young Beatrice, the daughter of a man she is having an affair with and not the offspring of her deceased husband.

The consequences of Ellen’s decision to try to hitchhike home flow out through the rest of the family and certain people in the wider community. I don’t really want to say too much more than that plot wise as it will just spoil the whole thing for you.

I didn’t struggle with the teenage female perspective at all really which was such a relief. Libby is a sharp young girl and I found her a very interesting character. In fact each of the siblings have their own very distinct characters and personalities which set them apart from each other whilst also showing their strong sibling bonds.

If after reading the synopsis you are expecting to be picking up a thriller, you’d be wrong. This is more an exploration of family, siblings and the small fractures that open out within any family with problems. It’s also a story of a harried mother, a woman bringing up five children alone after the death of her husband and the breakdown of her marriage before that.

I really enjoyed Una Mannion’s writing style and thankfully connected with the main narrative voice.

I’m very pleased I took the plunge with this one!

Thank you to the publisher for my review copy.

See you soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

How The One Armed Sister Sweeps Her House By Cherie Jones – A Review

Publisher: Tinder Press

Publication Date: 21st January 2021

I was drawn to this book initially by the intriguing title but after reading the blurb and discovering How The One Armed Sister Sweeps Her House tells the multigenerational tale of mother’s and their relationships with their daughters I was drawn in even further.

The book is set in a beach town in Barbados and opens with Wilma, a grandmother, telling her teenage granddaughter Lala the cautionary tale of the one armed sister. This tale serves as a warning to young girls who let curiosity get the better of them and who defy warnings.

We then move forward in time a handful of years and find Lala, now a beach hair-braider for the tourists, married to Adan and heavily pregnant. In the early hours of the morning Lala goes into premature labour and sets out in search of Adan who has left her alone to go and do a ‘job’.

She eventually finds him exiting one of the large beach front houses owned by the wealthy. She asks no questions and goes on to give birth to a daughter of her own. When it becomes clear that a wealthy white businessman has been murdered, Lala has to protect her husband.

Lala’s marriage has its foundations in violence. Adan has a fierce temper and Lala has suffered greatly at his hands. When their taut and fractured relationship is the catalyst for a hugely devastating event, Lala’s life spins further out of control.

We also hear from Mira Whalen, the wife of the murdered businessman. Mira’s life has been destroyed by her husband Peter’s violent death and she no longer feels safe in their beachfront home.

We go on to learn about Lala’s dead mother Esme and the violence she suffered at the hands of men, in particular her own father, Wilma’s husband, Carson. Carson rapes his daughter Esme and Wilma essentially does little else to protect her daughter other than make her sleep in a locked shed to try and keep Carson away.

There are generations of women abused and hurt by men. Violence which is quite often turned a blind eye to and taken as being just how it is. Women keep their mouths shut and put up with their husbands deplorable behaviour. This is also a story of how women and mothers let their own children down by pandering to the needs of the men in their lives and neglecting their own flesh and blood.

This book is packed with characters even though Lala is our main protagonist. There are various peripheral characters who have small sections of narrative but you can feel their personalities jumping right off the page in their few short paragraphs. We have The Queen Of Sheba, a prostitute working the beachfront, looking for business with tourists. She is a feisty and bold woman who has a tricky relationship with the local detective Beckles.

There’s also Rosa, Mira Whalen’s maid who is a force to be reckoned with. A woman who takes control and looks after not only Mira, but Mira’s step children in the wake of their fathers death. A powerhouse of a woman who keeps the household together in the toughest of times.

The pacing of this book is super fast with lots going on. It jumps back and forth in time but remains mainly in the 70’s and 80’s. The various changes in narrative move the story on at quite a pace and initially I was a little worried that I wouldn’t keep a handle on who was who and how they were related but this was not the case. Each character is distinctive enough to stand on their own.

It’s a very tough read at times and I must give trigger warnings for rape, domestic violence, miscarriage, and infant loss. Whilst it remains difficult to watch these women struggle through the most horrific times, and witness their almost stoic acceptance of their lot, they do not come across as victims. There is such strength in these women. They may have to dig deep to access this strength within themselves but it is most definitely there in spades.

I flew through this book super fast and was totally absorbed. I would thoroughly recommend it.

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

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

Some Of My Most Anticipated Reads for Q1 2021

Well here we are!

A brand new year and a brand new set of books to get our juices flowing! Aren’t we lucky!

I have had a peruse of the available publisher catalogues online, I have been screenshotting like a demon on Twitter and Instagram and I have been making notes aplenty of some books I am super pumped for in 2021.

Now, the list was quite sizeable up to June/July so I will break it down into blog posts covering each quarter. This post obviously deals with books being published in Jan/Feb/March. I will present them in publication date order and I will apologise now for this post being a little blurb heavy but I haven’t read these books yet so I can’t accurately sum them up for you and I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone! I’m not a huge advocate of including blurbs in blog posts but we work with what we’ve got don’t we!

Onwards!

First up….

Luckenbooth by Jenny Fagan- William Heinemann – 14th January 2021

BLURB:

Stories tucked away on every floor. No. 10 Luckenbooth Close is an archetypal Edinburgh tenement. The devil’s daughter rows to the shores of Leith in a coffin. The year is 1910 and she has been sent to a tenement building in Edinburgh by her recently deceased father to bear a child for a wealthy man and his fiancée. The harrowing events that follow lead to a curse on the building and its residents – a curse that will last for the rest of the century. Over nine decades, No. 10 Luckenbooth Close bears witness to emblems of a changing world outside its walls. An infamous madam, a spy, a famous Beat poet, a coal miner who fears daylight, a psychic: these are some of the residents whose lives are plagued by the building’s troubled history in disparate, sometimes chilling ways. The curse creeps up the nine floors and an enraged spirit world swells to the surface, desperate for the true horror of the building’s longest kept secret to be heard.

I think this looks PHENOMENAL. It couldn’t sound anymore gothic and unsettling! You lot know I am HERE for books like this. I am also a huge fan of stories set in one house over decades. My pre-order is in and I CANNOT WAIT!

The Shape Of Darkness by Laura Purcell – Bloomsbury 21st January

BLURB:

Silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another… Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them. But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back…

If I’m honest, Laura Purcell could write some words on the back of a fag packet and I’d read it. I have absolutely loved her previous three books and they live very happily on my forever shelf. They are books I would recommend again and again and have bought for various people. I will pick up The Shape Of Darkness as my next read and I can’t wait to dive in!

Insatiable by Daisy Buchanan- Sphere 11th February 2021

BLURB:

Stuck in a dead-end job, broken-hearted, broke and estranged from her best friend: Violet’s life is nothing like she thought it would be. She wants more – better friends, better sex, a better job – and she wants it now. So, when Lottie – who looks like the woman Violet wants to be when she grows up – offers Violet the chance to join her exciting start-up, she bites. Only it soon becomes clear that Lottie and her husband Simon are not only inviting Violet into their company, they are also inviting her into their lives.Seduced by their townhouse, their expensive candles and their Friday-night sex parties, Violet cannot tear herself away from Lottie, Simon or their friends. But is this really the more Violet yearns for? Will it grant her the satisfaction she is so desperately seeking?

I’ve already talked in NB Magazine about how much I’m looking forward to this one. I’m quite often to be found wading in the murky waters of gothic historical fiction but every now and again I like a contemporary story with a bit of a sexy fizz, ya get me? Anyway, I’m fizzing for this one and will be getting to it very soon.

Nightshift by Kiare Ladner – Picador 18th February 2021

BLURB:

When twenty three year old Meggie meets distant and enigmatic Sabine, she recognizes in her the person she would like to be. Giving up her daytime existence, her reliable boyfriend, and the trappings of a normal life in favour of working the same nightshifts as Sabine could be the perfect escape for Meggie. She finds a liberating sense of freedom in indulging her growing preoccupation with Sabine and plunges herself into another existence, gradually immersing herself in the transient and uncertain world of the nightshift worker.

Now this one sounds dark and gritty and just a little bit unsettling which is exactly what gets my blood pumping! I can’t wait to immerse myself in Meggy and Sabine’s nighttime world.

Before My Actual Heart Breaks by Tish Delaney – Hutchinson 18th February 2021.

BLURB:

When she was young Mary Rattigan wanted to fly. She was going to take off like an angel from heaven and leave the muck and madness of troubled Northern Ireland behind. Nothing but the Land of Happy Ever After would do for her. But as a Catholic girl with a B.I.T.C.H. for a Mammy and a silent Daddy, things did not go as she and Lizzie Magee had planned. Now, five children, twenty-five years, an end to the bombs and bullets, enough whiskey to sink a ship and endless wakes and sandwich teas later, Mary’s alone. She’s learned plenty of hard lessons and missed a hundred steps towards the life she’d always hoped for.Will she finally find the courage to ask for the love she deserves? Or is it too late?

This book actually popped up at me when I was Googling another book. I love it when then happens. I love fiction set in Ireland and I think this one could be a bit of a gut wrencher!

Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding – Bloomsbury 4th March 2021

BLURB:

Being Tommy’s mother is too much for Sonya. Too much love, too much fear, too much longing for the cool wine she gulps from the bottle each night. Because Sonya is burning the fish fingers, and driving too fast, and swimming too far from the shore, and Tommy’s life is in her hands. Once there was the thrill of a London stage, a glowing acting career, fast cars, handsome men. But now there are blackouts and bare cupboards, and her estranged father showing up uninvited. There is Mrs O’Malley spying from across the road. There is the risk of losing Tommy – forever.

Oh you lot know I love a story of a struggling mother. There’s just something about them that (dare I say it) I relate to! I also can’t wait to find out more about ‘Mrs O’Malley spying from across the road’…..

Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley – John Murray Press 18th March 2021

BLURB:

Pungent, steamy, insatiable Soho; the only part of London that truly never sleeps. Tourists dawdling, chancers skulking, addicts shuffling, sex workers strutting, punters prowling, businessmen striding, the homeless and the lost. Down Wardour Street, ducking onto Dean Street, sweeping into L’Escargot, darting down quiet back alleyways, skirting dumpsters and drunks, emerging on to raucous main roads, fizzing with energy and riotous with life.

On a corner, sits a large townhouse, the same as all its neighbours. But this building hosts a teeming throng of rich and poor, full from the basement right up to the roof terrace. Precious and Tabitha call the top floors their home but it’s under threat; its billionaire-owner Agatha wants to kick the women out to build expensive restaurants and luxury flats. Men like Robert, who visit the brothel, will have to go elsewhere. Those like Cheryl, who sleep in the basement, will have to find somewhere else to hide after dark. But the women won’t go quietly. Soho is their turf and they are ready for a fight.

I read and really enjoyed Elmet by Fiona Mozley when I was a judge for the Sunday Times Young Writer Of the Year Award 2018. She’s such a super sharp but emotive writer and I think I will always want to read what she creates. Hot Stew is no exception and I can’t wait to get to it.

Girl In The Walls by A J Gnuse – 4th Estate 18th March 2021

BLURB:

Elise knows every inch of the house. She knows which boards will creak. She knows where the gaps are in the walls. She knows which parts can take her in, hide her away. It’s home, after all. The home her parents made for her. And home is where you stay, no matter what. Eddie calls the same house his home. Eddie is almost a teenager now. He must no longer believe in the girl he sometimes sees from the corner of his eye. He needs her to disappear. But when his older brother senses her, too, they are faced with a question: how do they get rid of someone they aren’t sure even exists? And, if they cast her out, what other threats might they invite in?

This has been described by Jess Kidd as ‘a uniquely gothic tale of grief, belonging and hiding in plain sight’. Just the word gothic and I’m there. I’ve had an early copy of this book on my shelf for so long now and I’m savouring it until closer to publication. I think it’s going to be an absolute belter.

The Good Neighbours by Nina Allan – Riverrun 18th March

BLURB:

Cath is a photographer hoping to go freelance, working in a record shop to pay the rent and eking out her time with her manager Steve. He thinks her photography is detective work, drawing attention to things that would otherwise pass unseen and maybe he’s right . . .

Starting work on her new project – photographing murder houses – she returns to the island where she grew up for the first time since she left for Glasgow when she was just eighteen. The Isle of Bute is embedded in her identity, the draughty house that overlooked the bay, the feeling of being nowhere, the memory of her childhood friend Shirley Craigie and the devastating familicide of her family by the father, John Craigie.

Arriving at the Craigie house, Cath finds that it’s occupied by Financial Analyst Alice Rahman. Her bid to escape the city lifestyle, the anxiety she felt in that world, led her to leave London and settle on the island. The strangeness of the situation brings them closer, leading them to reinvestigate the Craigie murder. Now, within the walls of the Craigie house, Cath can uncover the nefarious truths and curious nature of John Craigie: his hidden obsession with the work of Richard Dadd and the local myths of the fairy folk.

I read The Doll Maker by Nina Allan some time ago which had really creepy dark fairytale-esque stories interspersed in the main narrative. They would have made a fantastic stand-alone short story collection all in their own. The Good Neighbours hooked me in with the photographing of murder houses and the mention of local myths of ‘fairy folk’. YES PLEASE.

So there we have it. Just a selection of the books I’m most looking forward to reading in the next three months.

Have you seen any you like the look of?

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

Best Books Of The Year 2020

Well here we are. The end of the year.

And. What. A. Year.

Let’s not dwell too much on the negative and celebrate the positive! I’m here today to bring you my top reads of the year. Books that have stuck in my mind or given me ‘the feeling’. I always include books I’ve read during the year regardless of publication date. So there are books on this list that aren’t published until 2021. I have included fiction, non-fiction and short story collections.

So…..without further ado, let’s get going! In no particular order…..

The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld – Jonathan Cape

I read this book early on in the year and it was an absolute treat. It has lingered with me all year. A triple timeline narrative told by three very different women set against the backdrop of The Bass Rock in Scotland. My review is here

Boy Parts by Eliza Clarke – Influx Press

When I first read this book I think I went on Twitter and described it as a ‘shot of adrenaline right in the arse cheek’ and I stand by that quote even now. Another book I read early on in the year which has burrowed its way under my skin and stayed there festering away….in a great way! My review is here

Rest And Be Thankful by Emma Glass – Bloomsbury

This is another book that found its way under my skin and I can still remember how I felt when I read it. A depiction of an exhausted nurse who is barely keeping a hold on her life and her sanity. It’s stark and hard hitting but has a dreamlike ethereal quality to the writing. My review is here

Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers – W&N

This is one of those books that I read and really enjoyed at the time but has since grown and grown in my heart and whenever I see anyone talking about reading it I find myself feeling a little jealous that they’re getting to read it for the first time. A story of a journalist who has been tasked with exploring and reporting on a case of a ‘virgin birth’ and who gets more involved with the family than she anticipates. My review is here

A Place For Everything by Anna Wilson – HQ

I listened to this one on audio and I raced through it. I don’t listen to many books on audio at all, but with this one I found myself wanting to get back to it every time I was away from it. A very touching yet honest account of Anna’s mother’s autism and the late in life diagnosis of this. It’s heartbreaking and hopeful and utterly fascinating.

What Have I Done by Laura Dockrill – Square Peg

This memoir of Laura’s struggle with Post Natal mental illness after the birth of her son Jet really resonated with me. I suffered with PND after the births of both of my children and some of the thoughts and feelings Laura had were the exact same for me. It felt raw and honest but had a real humour to it too. I highly recommend this one.

The Push by Ashley Audrain – Michael Joseph

Another book about motherhood but this time fictional. The Push is one of those books I want to push on everyone (no pun intended). This is the story of a woman who fails to connect with her baby daughter Violet. She knows from her past that the women in her family do not take naturally to motherhood so when she has doubts about her daughters strange behaviour she questions whether the fault lies with Violet or herself. I remember physically covering up the last couple of paragraphs with my hand when I was reading it because I didn’t want the ending to be revealed too quickly and my eyes kept flicking to the final paragraph. A paragraph which is a sucker punch! Brilliant stuff.

This Little Family by Inès Bayard – 4th Estate

Yes, another book about motherhood! This one is so dark and compelling and is by no means an easy read. It opens with the murder of a young boy and his father at the hands of the mother. Our protagonist is a woman who suffers a brutal rape by her work colleague and falls pregnant. She spirals down into mental illness believing her child to be the devil. It is achingly sad and a real eye-opener. It’s a tough read but worth it.

Famished by Anna Vaught – Influx Press

Let’s take a detour from motherhood through food shall we?! Famished is the short story collection I was waiting for. Anna Vaught writes these dark, delicious and disgusting nuggets of fiction that really worm their way into your brain! They are at once stomach churning and tastebud tingling and I loved them! My review is here

The Harpy by Megan Hunter – Picador

That cover still blows me away. I’ve chosen this one because the ending still sticks with me even now. This is the story of a woman who discovers that her husband has been having an affair. But far from being the typical ‘woman scorned’ fiction, this tale takes on a dark and sinister twist. Interspersed with harpy folklore this is a taught and claustrophobic tale that I would heartily recommend. My review is here

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell – Tinder Press

An oldie but a goody! I’ve read one or two Maggie O’Farrell books in my early twenties but this one blew me away. I love a dual timeline narrative, I love a struggling mother, I adore family secrets…..boom! This book had all three elements. Maggie O’Farrell is a wonderful storyteller (you all know this!) and my next foray into Maggie’s writing will be Hamnet which I have had on my shelf for too long.

Here Is The Beehive by Sarah Crossan – Bloomsbury Circus

Another tale of an extra marital affair but this time told from the perspective of the other woman. However, this affair is ill fated and the man our protagonist is in love with dies. This story told in verse explores what you do when a secret relationship ends and you have to deal with your grief quietly and alone. Such an interesting concept that Sarah Crossan deals with beautifully. My review is here

The Inverts by Crystal Jeans – Borough Press

This book is every bit as bold and colourful as its cover. The Inverts tells the story of good friends Bart and Bettina who are both struggling with their sexuality. As a cover for their true feelings, they embark on a ‘lavender’ marriage whereby they use each other to conceal their true sexuality. This is a tale that spans decades and deals with love and friendship brilliantly. Both poignant and very funny in places. Bart and Bettina have a little place in my heart. My review will be up closer to publication in April 2021.

Hungry by Grace Dent – Mudlark

This memoir of northern working class Grace Dent was absolutely dripping in nostalgia for me. I could draw so many parallels between Grace’s upbringing and my own that it really touched me. Heavily focussing on food, family and nostalgia, this book was touching, funny and just a joy to read.

The Sound Mirror by Heidi James – Blue Moose Books

Heidi James has become a new favourite author this year. Not only is she lovely she is an absolutely wonderfully immersive writer. The Sound Mirror is a multi generational exploration of family, motherhood and identity which absolutely drew me and had me utterly absorbed. My review is here

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex – Picador

Sorry folks but you’re going to have to wait until March 2021 for this one to be published. Such a tease! I love a book which is based on a real life event as this one is. When three men disappear from a lighthouse they are manning and the door is locked from the inside, the clocks have stopped and the table is laid ready for a meal, it leaves everyone wondering what on earth could have happened to them?…….brilliant stuff.

The Last House On Needless Street by Catriona Ward – Viper

This is an absolute mind bender of a book! And again you’re going to have to wait until March 2021 for this one I’m afraid! I can’t even tell you anything about it as it will spoil the whole book (the review was hellish to write!). Just trust me that you need this book in your life!

Lullaby Beach by Stella Duffy – Virago

Another 2021 release that you should all have on your radar. I stayed up way too late reading this one and I had zero regrets. This book has a protagonist who I still think about and miss regularly. I love you Kitty! Please please look into this one. My review will be up closer to publication in February.

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart – Picador

Ahhhhh Shuggie……I know I said that this list was in no particular order but I have to say that if I was asked what my book of the year was it would hands down be Shuggie Bain. This is a book I will think about ALWAYS. I don’t do re-reads but I’m DYING to get back to this one. Shuggie has a huge place in my heart and Douglas Stuart has written an absolute masterpiece. My review is here

So there we go! A brilliant bookish year where I read some absolute corkers!

I just want to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy new year and thank you for your continued support of my little blog and my bookish blatherings elsewhere. You really do make my day and I don’t know where I would have been this year without you all.

As always many thanks to the very generous publicists and publishers who allow me to read their books in advance. I’m a very lucky girl!

Big love.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

Book Haul: 1950’s Martini Swigging, Pill Popping Housewives.

I realise that the title of this blog post is very niche but bear with me….

After watching and LOVING The Queens Gambit on Netflix recently, I had a hankering after books set in the 1950’s/60’s which include repressed, boozie, pill popping suburban housewives (think Beth’s Mum).

I put a quick tweet out asking for recommendations and those guys over there killed it! Some absolutely stellar suggestions which I immediately purchased. I have to tell you that I don’t think I’ve been more excited for a stack of books in a good while. So excited in fact that I have already read 2 of them and have started a third. I am positively eating these books up!

Not only do they all sound perfect, there are some bloody gorgeous covers in here (and some pretty bangin’ fonts too……come on we all have a favourite font right?)

So without further ado, let’s get right on with the books.

The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper – Manilla Press (4th Feb 2021)

BLURB:

It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor. While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved?

This is the only book in the stack that hasn’t been published yet. Forgive me for that. I’d had my eye on this one anyway but my lovely Bookish pal Clare from Years Of Reading Selfishly suggested it on the Twitter thread and the lovely Francesca Pearce offered to send me a copy. This is actually the book I’ve just picked up despite saying that I’m not reading 2021 proofs until January. I just couldn’t wait! It sounds so good!

The Corrections By Jonathan Franzen – 4th Estate

BLURB:

After fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity, and their children have long since fled for the catastrophes of their own lives. As Alfred’s condition worsens and the Lamberts are forced to face their secrets and failures, Enid sets her heart on one last family Christmas.

This one is a chunky one (with a very pleasing on the eye font…..ok, ok i’ll stop now). I like the sound of Enid…..she sounds like my kinda character! But I’m sensing there may be some heartbreak in this one too…..we shall see.

Valley Of The Dolls by Jacqueline Susan- Virago

BLURB:

Dolls – red or black; capsules or tablets; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight. For Anne, Neely and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three beautiful women become best friends when they are young and in New York, struggling to make their names in the entertainment industry. Only when they reach the peak of their careers do they find there’s nowhere left to go but down – to the Valley of the Dolls.

This was another recommendation from the lovely and very knowledgeable Clare from Years Of Reading Selfishly. I’d heard of this one but I wasn’t aware of what it was about. I didn’t know ‘Dolls’ meant pills and that is precisely what I’m after. I love this minimalist but very effective cover.

Tigers In Red Weather by Liza Klaussman – Picador

BLURB:


Liza Klaussmann’s Tigers in Red Weather tells the story of Nick and her cousin Helena who have grown up together, sharing long hot summers at Tiger House. With husbands and children of their own, they keep returning. But against a background of parties, cocktails, moonlight and jazz, how long can perfection last? There is always the summer that changes everything.

This is one of the books I’ve already read and to be honest I have a feeling it may make it into my books of the year list. It’s a sultry and secretive look at a relationship between two cousins Nick and Helena, their troubled marriages and their experiences with motherhood. But there was also a little surprise thread of mystery running through which was a real treat. It’s atmospheric, it’s soaked in martini and whisky and it was a real gripping read.

On Green Dolphin Street by Sebastian Faulks – Vintage

BLURB:

America, 1959. With two young children she adores, loving parents back in London, and an admired husband, Charlie, working at the British embassy in Washington, the world seems an effervescent place of parties, jazz and family happiness to Mary van der Linden. But the Eisenhower years are ending, and 1960 brings the presidential battle between two ambitious senators: John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. But when Frank, an American newspaper reporter, enters their lives Mary embarks on a passionate affair, all the while knowing that in the end she must confront an impossible decision.

This is the second book in the pile that I’ve already read and it’s another corker. This one is a little bit different in that the roles are reversed and it’s the husband who struggles with alcohol and pill addiction. There’s a melancholy vibe with this one but the central relationship between Mary and Charlie is touching and startlingly honest. Mary is a fascinating character, she’s a strong woman who can handle most of what life throws at her whilst her husband falls apart before her eyes. Again there’s lots of tossing back the booze and clandestine rendezvousing in dark bars….I loved it.

Rabbit, Run by John Updike – Penguin

BLURB:

It’s 1959 and Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom, one time high school sports superstar, is going nowhere. At twenty-six he is trapped in a second-rate existence – stuck with a fragile, alcoholic wife, a house full of overflowing ashtrays and discarded glasses, a young son and a futile job. With no way to fix things, he resolves to flee from his family and his home in Pennsylvania, beginning a thousand-mile journey that he hopes will free him from his mediocre life.

This book was suggested by a few people. I’ve never read any John Updike but this one sounds like it fits the bill perfectly with the ‘fragile alcoholic wife’. Have any of you read any John Updike before? I’ll report back with my thoughts on this one when I get to it.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham – Harper Perennial

BLURB:

In 1920s London, Virginia Woolf is fighting against her rebellious spirit as she attempts to make a start on her new novel.A young wife and mother, broiling in a suburb of 1940s Los Angeles, yearns to escape and read her precious copy of ‘Mrs Dalloway’ And Clarissa Vaughan steps out of her smart Greenwich village apartment in 1990s New York to buy flowers for a party she is hosting for a dying friend.Moving effortlessly across the decades and between England and America, this exquisite novel intertwines the stories of three unforgettable women.

Again, this was a suggestion which cropped up a few times so I had to buy it. I don’t know much at all about Virginia Woolf so I’m intrigued by this one. I’m not usually a huge fan of ‘real people’ on book covers but this one really draws me in. I’m hoping the contents will be just as compelling.

So there we have it. As I said I’m hugely excited by this pile of books and I can’t wait to get to them all and report back for you. Have you read any of them? Do you fancy reading any of them? Let me know!

I’m taking a little blogging break in December to recharge my bookish batteries so this is my last post until New Years Eve when I’ll be back with my Best Books Of 2020 post.

See you all then and I hope you all have a safe, happy and book filled Christmas.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

Browse My Bookshelves: The Husband Edition

Hello! How are you all bearing up?

For today’s post I thought I’d let my non-reading husband loose on my bookshelves with the instruction of just browsing and seeing which books took his fancy. It could be an eye catching cover, an author he knows of of a blurb that intrigues him.

Off he went on his little book browsing mission and back he came with the following ten books that piqued his interest for one reason or another. So let’s take a look at his choices shall we?

Fates And Furies by Lauren Groff (Windmill)

BLURB:

Every story has two sides. 
Every relationship has two perspectives. 
And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. 

At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but behind closed doors things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed.

His thoughts: This book was the first book he was drawn to purely for the hugely colourful spine. Actually when he picked it up he wasn’t all that fussed about the blurb and that leads me neatly on to ….

My Thoughts: I have had this secondhand copy of Fates And Furies on my shelf for a couple of years now. I very nearly got it out of the library quite a few times but something always held me back. I’ve also come perilously close to unhauling this one a number of times but something always stops me….I’ve heard great things but each time I think I might fancy reading it, I pick it up and read the blurb and I’m distinctly underwhelmed! Have you read it? Should I keep it? Let me know!

Unnatural Causes by Dr Richard Shepherd (Penguin Michael Joseph)

BLURB:

Meet the forensic pathologist, Dr Richard Shepherd.

He solves the mysteries of unexplained or sudden death.

He has performed over 23,000 autopsies, including some of the most high-profile cases of recent times; the Hungerford Massacre, the Princess Diana inquiry, and 9/11. 

He has faced serial killers, natural disaster, ‘perfect murders’ and freak accidents.

His evidence has put killers behind bars, freed the innocent, and turned open-and-shut cases on their heads. 

Yet all this has come at a huge personal cost. 

Unnatural Causes tells the story of not only the cases and bodies that have haunted him the most, but also how to live a life steeped in death. 

His Thoughts: He was drawn to this one purely out of grim fascination. He thought that the premise sounded fascinating.

My Thoughts: this is another book I’ve had in my shelves for a good long while! I think I picked it up with the same grim fascination but I have yet to gather the courage to read it. I can veer one of two ways with books like this one, I can either throw myself in and become completely absorbed or I get scared of even dipping into it incase I get affected too much by what I’m reading. It wholly depends on my mental state at the time. The fact that this book has remained unread on my shelves for a number a years now perhaps speaks volumes about my mental state!

The Chalk Man by C.J Tudor (Penguin Michael Joseph)

BLURB:

You can feel it in the woods, in the school and in the playground; you can feel it in the houses and at the fairground. You can feel it in most places in the small town of Anderbury . . . the fear that something or someone is watching you. 

It began back in 1986, at the fair, on the day of the accident. That was when twelve-year-old Eddie met Mr Halloran – the Chalk Man. 

He gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages for his friends and it was fun, until the chalk men led them to a body. 

Thirty years later, Ed believes the past is far behind him, until an envelope slips through the letterbox. It contains a stick of chalk, and a drawing of a figure. 

Is history going to repeat itself? 

Was it ever really over? 

Will this game only end in the same way?

His Thoughts: He chose this one initially because he was drawn to the interesting little chalk drawings on the eye catching spine but actually was really intrigued once he’d read the blurb. We both enjoy watching scary films together (although we do watch through our fingers and screwed up eyes a lot of the time! Him more than me because I’m hardcore of course!), so this seemed like a good choice to him.

My Thoughts: I absolutely know that I will enjoy this book but I haven’t read it yet purely because lots of people have read it and raved about it. Do you ever get that with a much publicised and praised book? I almost have to leave it until a good long while after the hype has died down before I pick it up and judge for myself (I’m currently feeling this way about Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell). So this book has (perhaps stupidly) remained unread on my shelf.

The Resident by David Jackson (Viper)

BLURB:

THERE’S A SERIAL KILLER ON THE RUN
AND HE’S HIDING IN YOUR HOUSE

Thomas Brogan is a serial killer. Having left a trail of bodies in his wake, and with the police hot on his heels, it seems like Thomas has nowhere left to hide. That is until he breaks into an abandoned house at the end of a terrace on a quiet street. And when he climbs up into the loft, he realises that the can drop down into all the other houses on the street through the
shared attic space.

That’s when the real fun begins. Because the one thing that Thomas enjoys even more than killing, is playing games with his victims. And his new neighbours have more than enough dark secrets to make this game his best one yet…

Do you fear The Resident? Soon you’ll be dying to meet him.

His Thoughts: He was drawn to the premise of this one, plus that eye on the cover is…..well……eye-catching!

My Thoughts: I have to be very honest (as I always am) and say that since the choosing of these books I have actually tried to read this book and didn’t really get on with it. I’ve seen lots of people singing it’s praises though, it just wasn’t for me I’m afraid. You can’t win ’em all!

American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis (Picador Classic)

BLURB:

Is evil something you are? Or is it something you do?

Patrick Bateman has it all: good looks, youth, charm, a job on Wall Street, reservations at every new restaurant in town and a line of girls around the block. He is also a psychopath. A man addicted to his superficial, perfect life, he pulls us into a dark underworld where the American Dream becomes a nightmare . . .

His Thoughts: If he’s honest, he’s only really chosen this one because of the controversy and the the fact that we’ve in recent months watched the film (loved it). Since writing this post he’s started reading this book and has made good headway.….watch this space.

My Thoughts: I read it. I watched it. I enjoyed it (if ‘enjoyed’ can be the right word to use!).

There Were No Windows by Norah Hoult (Persephone)

BLURB:

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

His Thoughts: He chose this one based on a memory of me buying it. We went to London in 2018 (wow was it really that long ago!?) for me to attend a judging meeting for The Sunday Times Young Writer Of The Year Award

My Thoughts: This is my first and only Persephone book which is heinous! I also haven’t read it yet! 2 years it’s been languishing on my shelf and I really should get around to reading it! (Ps it also has beautiful end papers).

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson (Pandora)

BLURB:

This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God’s elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts. 

At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves. Innovative, punchy and tender, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a few days ride into the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession.

His Thoughts: This was a pick based on the fact that he’d seen the television show. Nothing more, nothing less!

My Thoughts: I remember (vaguely) the television show back in the 1980’s, and I recently read Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson which I really enjoyed. But for me I bought this book because I just loved the edition. I’ve still not read it!

Chatterton by Peter Ackroyd (Penguin)

BLURB:

What is the mystery of Thomas Chatterton? A young poet and elderly female novelist try to decode the clues found within an 18th-century manuscript, only to discover that their investigation is disclosing other secrets for which there is no solution.

His Thoughts: well……Chatterton is our surname…….that’s it. Very superficial.

My Thoughts: I don’t even think I had a hand in the purchase of this one! Will I ever read it? Probably not. Will he ever read it? Highly doubtful. But there we go!

Eggshells by Catriona Lally (The Borough Press)

BLURB:

Vivian is an oddball.
An unemployed orphan living in the house of her recently deceased great aunt in North Dublin, Vivian boldly goes through life doing things in her own peculiar way, whether that be eating blue food, cultivating ‘her smell’, wishing people happy Christmas in April, or putting an ad up for a friend called Penelope to check why it doesn’t rhyme with antelope. But behind her heroic charm and undeniable logic, something isn’t right. With each attempt to connect with a stranger or her estranged sister doomed to misunderstanding, someone should ask: is Vivian OK?

His Thoughts: He’s actually reading this one at the moment. When I say ‘reading this one’ I mean he started reading it around 18 months ago, really loved it, laughed his little head off then put it down and didn’t pick it up again despite only having a few chapters left! Infuriating? Why yes.

My Thoughts: I absolutely adored this book and it made my best books of 2018 list. Vivian is a character I will never ever forget.

Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk (Vintage)

BLURB:

Cassie Wright, porn princess, intends to cap her legendary career by breaking the world record for serial fornication. On camera. With six hundred men. Snuff unfolds from the perspectives of Mr 72, Mr 137 and Mr 600, who await their turn on camera in a very crowded green room…

His Thoughts: He’s watched Fight Club, the film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s book of the same name so this is why he was drawn to this one……nothing to do with the porn of the sexy lady on the cover……honest guv.

My Thoughts: I read this one a while back and knew what I was getting myself into after reading Chuck Palahniuk’s short story ‘Guts’. If you have a strong constitution look it up online. Snuff was equally disturbing in its own way. It was certainly a reading experience.

There we have it. Those were his choices. I think it’s quite interesting to see what a self-confessed ‘non-reader’ is drawn to.

Do you let other people browse your shelves?

See you all again soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

The Swallowed Man By Edward Carey – A Review

Publisher: Gallic Belgravia

Publication Date: 5th November 2020

Edward Carey’s Little was one of my favourite books of 2018. The story of Madame Tussauds was such an absolute treat with its swarthy characters and it’s amazing illustrations. You should check out my review here.

I’d had The Swallowed Man on my radar for such a long time and had been desperate to get my hands on it. Luckily the lovely folk at Gallic Belgravia sent me a copy and here we are!

‘I am writing this account, in another man’s book, by candlelight, inside the belly of a fish. I have been eaten. I have been eaten, yet I am living still…..’

Surely everyone knows the story of Geppetto and the boy he carved out of wood who came to life and became his son. Everyone knows Pinocchio! The Swallowed Man tells the story of how Geppetto ended up in the belly of a whale on a mission to find his only son.

Set completely inside the whale, Geppetto writes a diary in the one notebook he has found onboard a ship the whale has swallowed. Keeping himself alive inside the beast using the various items he finds onboard the ship, including boxes of candles.

Through the words in the diary we learn of how Pinocchio came into existence and how he and Geppetto forged a tentative ‘father/son’ relationship before he goes missing. If you’re thinking this tale is akin to the cutesy Disney story you couldn’t be more wrong! In fact there’s quite a sinister and dark edge to how Pinocchio comes to life and how Geppetto is frightened by what he has created, even calling Pinocchio ‘the thing’ and at times wishing he hadn’t brought him into existence.

‘I flinched; I shuddered. But it was too late to stop. I was in a passion of creation – I was under command of the wood – and so I carved on. I gave him legs. Feet. And the feet, on divining life kicked with life. Kicked, that is, my shins. This terrible thing! You are an object I cried. Behave like one! And it kicked once more, for it was loathe to follow the rules of objects. Rather, it threw down the book of rules and stamped upon it. Oh god! I said to myself, for I was quite alone in my room. What have I done! The thing moved. I screamed in terror…..

There’s somewhat of a power struggle between the two but they settle into their roles and start to develop a bond. However, this strange father/son bond is broken when Pinocchio runs away and Geppetto in the search for his boy ends up swallowed by the huge sea creature.

During his isolated existence deep in the belly of the whale, Geppetto can only comfort himself with thoughts of his past. We get a whistlestop tour of the handful of women he has loved as he reminisces about each of the important relationships in his life. We also learn about his childhood and family life.

All the while he is trapped inside the whale he is pining for his son. Hoping he gets to see him again but conversely dreading him being swallowed up too. His note taking in the book becomes ever more erratic and we witness what can only be described as a descent into a madness of which he cannot escape. Brought on by loneliness, isolation, loss and grief.

He experiences strange occurrences on the swallowed ship and we as the reader cannot gauge whether they are borne of his delusions as we sink further with him.

There is such a great ending which I won’t spoil but will say I was very relieved that it all tied together so nicely. A wonderful denouement very befitting of this wonderful book.

Edward Carey sure knows how to make familiar characters jump off the page. His writing is fairytale-esque with a dark edge, shot through with a wry humour.

The illustrations and imagery in this book are just brilliant and lend so much more atmosphere to the story. I was always so excited to turn the page and see what treat awaited me next…..such a joy!

If you’re expecting the original Pinocchio story then buckle up and adjust your expectations. You’re in for quite a ride!

Another Edward Carey triumph that I would absolutely recommend treating yourself to.

Thank you so much to the publisher for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

A Spooky Book Haul

You lot know me well enough by now to know that I love a dark, spooky or twisted read. I have kept my eyes and ears to the ground recently in terms of picking up spooky book recommendations and trying to extend my ghostly reads well past the Halloween season.

So today I’m bringing those books to you before I make a start on scaring myself witless. Maybe you’ll see something that tickles your fancy, maybe you don’t like being scared (in which case you better leave this post now and I’ll see you next time) but for those of you with strong nerves, let’s crack on!

The Haunting Of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale (Bloomsbury Circus)

BLURB:

London, 1938. Alma Fielding, an ordinary young woman, begins to experience supernatural events in her suburban home. Nandor Fodor – a Jewish-Hungarian refugee and chief ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical research – begins to investigate. In doing so he discovers a different and darker type of haunting: trauma, alienation, loss – and the foreshadowing of a nation’s worst fears. As the spectre of Fascism lengthens over Europe, and as Fodor’s obsession with the case deepens, Alma becomes ever more disturbed.

A bit of non-fiction for my first choice. I love a good real life haunting and this book looks corking! I’m drawn to the fact that it’s from the 1930’s, I’m drawn to the poltergeist element and I’m drawn to an investigation. This book has my name written all over it. I have a feeling it’ll be a good ‘un!

Hag – Forgotten Folk Tales Retold (Virago)

BLURB:

Here are sisters fighting for the love of the same woman, a pregnant archaeologist unearthing impossible bones and lost children following you home. A panther runs through the forests of England and pixies prey upon violent men. From the islands of Scotland to the coast of Cornwall, the mountains of Galway to the depths of the Fens, these forgotten folktales howl, cackle and sing their way into the 21st century, wildly reimagined by some of the most exciting women writing in Britain and Ireland today.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to get stuck into this one. Some of the authors in this short story collection are amongst my most favourite. Daisy Johnson, Naomi Booth, Kirsty Logan, Imogen Hermes Gowar….YES PLEASE. I love a dark folktale and apparently this collection has a ‘feminist tang’ which I am here for! Let’s not even get me started on that cover! Stunning!

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon (Anchor Books)

BLURB:

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate have abandoned the comforts of suburbia to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this beautiful property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the local legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. With her passion for artifacts, Helen finds special materials to incorporate into the house–a beam from an old schoolroom, bricks from a mill, a mantel from a farmhouse–objects that draw her deeper into the story of Hattie and her descendants, three generations of Breckenridge women, each of whom died suspiciously. As the building project progresses, the house will become a place of menace and unfinished business: a new home, now haunted, that beckons its owners and their neighbors toward unimaginable danger.

I saw this one being discussed on Booktube and I was interested in the premise which kind of turns the traditional ‘old haunted house’ story on its head a little. This house is a new build and the ghostly aspects are actually brought into the building from the outside. I don’t think I’ve ever read a haunted house book without it being an old gothic mansion steeped in history. This time it’s items brought in that hold the mystery. It also starts with this killer paragraph: ‘It has started when Hattie was a little girl. She’d had a cloth bodied doll with a porcelain head called Miss Fentwig. Miss Fentwig told her things – things that Hattie had no way of knowing, things that Hattie didn’t really want to hear…’ I’ve never read any Jennifer McMahon but I have heard good things about The Winter People too. I’ll give The Invited a whirl and maybe visit her backlist.

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (Titan Books)

BLURB:

Ricky, Gabe, Lewis and Cassidy are men bound to their heritage, bound by society, and trapped in the endless expanses of the landscape. Now, ten years after a fateful elk hunt, which remains a closely guarded secret between them, these men and their children must face a ferocious spirit that is coming for them, one at a time. A spirit which wears the faces of the ones they love, tearing a path into their homes, their families and their most sacred moments of faith.

Again this was a Booktube recommendation which I was drawn to by the idea of a vengeful spirit targeting specific men after an incident in the past. I recently read The Nesting by C.J Cooke which had elks in and I think this drew me in too.

The Grip Of It by Jac Jemc (Titan Books)

BLURB:

A chilling literary horror novel, Jac Jemc’s THE GRIP OF IT tells the story Julia and James, a young couple haunted by their new home. The move – prompted by James’s penchant for gambling, his inability to keep his impulses in check – is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to leave behind their usual haunts and start afresh. But the house, which sits between lake and forest, has plans for the unsuspecting couple…The architecture becomes unrecognisable, decaying before their eyes. Stains contract and expand, mapping themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of bruises; mould taints the water that James pours from the sink. As the couple search for the source of their mutual torment, they become mired in the history of their peculiar neighbours and the mysterious previous residents of the house.

Again this was another booktube recommendation (you gotta love Booktube!). I love the idea of a house having physical affects on the residents and almost becoming a dark living thing. The only other book I’ve read that involved a house having an effect on someone’s health is The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray Browne, which I would highly recommend. Also ‘peculiar neighbours’ was an instant hook for me too. Sign me up! Looking forward to this one.

Florence & Giles by John Harding (Borough Press)

BLURB:

1891. In a remote and crumbling New England mansion, 12-year-old orphan Florence is neglected by her guardian uncle and banned from reading. Left to her own devices she devours books in secret and talks to herself – and narrates this, her story – in a unique language of her own invention. By night, she sleepwalks the corridors like one of the old house’s many ghosts and is troubled by a recurrent dream in which a mysterious woman appears to threaten her younger brother Giles. Sometimes Florence doesn’t sleepwalk at all, but simply pretends to so she can roam at will and search the house for clues to her own baffling past. After the sudden violent death of the children’s first governess, a second teacher, Miss Taylor, arrives, and immediately strange phenomena begin to occur. Florence becomes convinced that the new governess is a vengeful and malevolent spirit who means to do Giles harm. Against this powerful supernatural enemy, and without any adult to whom she can turn for help, Florence must use all her intelligence and ingenuity to both protect her little brother and preserve her private world.

Someone recently asked on Twitter for the most scary books people had read. I offered up Naomi’s Room by Jonathan Aycliffe (honestly, look into it), and then I sat back and watched other people’s suggestions in the thread. Florence & Giles by John Harding was a suggestion that came up and the comparison to The Turn Of The Screw was enough for me. Gothic house? Tick. Dead governess? Tick. Strange phenomena? Tick tick tick. Yes please!

The Lost by Jonathan Aycliffe (Constable)

BLURB:

British born Michael Feraru, scion of a long line of Romanian aristocrats, leaves his country of birth and his love, to reclaim his heritage – a Draculian castle deep in the heart of Transylvania. He plans to turn his inheritance into an orphanage in the new post-Ceausescu, post-communist country. There he enlists the help of a young local lawyer, Liliana Popescu, to search for the missing Feraru millions, and battle through the complex maze of old bureaucracy in the scam-rich, newly-born state. Feraru describes his journey into the heart of the Romanian countryside, wasted by years of neglect and caught in a time-warp, as though the twentieth century had never reached it. When he eventually arrives at his inheritance, he finds the castle of the Ferarus, in a sunless valley in the Carpathian Mountains, is home to much more than memories…

I really wanted to try more of Jonathan Aycliffe’s work after he scared me witless with Naomi’s Room. The Lost was suggested on the spooky book Twitter thread I mentioned above so I thought I’d give it a go. To be honest after reading the blurb it probably wouldn’t be a book I would naturally pick up but I’m willing to trust other people’s judgement on this one and give it a whirl!

So there we have it. Have you read any of these? Do any of them tickle your fancy? And perhaps more importantly, can any of you recommend some more dark and spooky reads to me? I’m all ears!

Until next time…..don’t have nightmares.

See you soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

Women’s Weird 2 – More Strange Stories By Women 1891 – 1937

Publisher: Handheld Press

Publication Date: 30th October 2020

That cover!

When I saw that Handheld Press were bringing out a follow up collection to Women’s Weird I was so excited! I read and loved the first collection edited by Melissa Edmundson and reviewed it here.

When Handheld Press offered me a copy of Women’s Weird 2 More Strange Stories I snapped their hands off. What a perfect time to scare yourself rigid with some brilliantly spooky and chilling ghost stories with Halloween just around the corner. Of course it’s not just during Halloween season that I enjoy a good ghost story. You lot know I’m a huge fan of anything dark and gothic and this book has both of these things in spades and is the kind of book I’d dip into all year round. I’m always up for a spooky tale!

What I love about both of the editions of Women’s Weird is the amount of research that has gone into finding the perfect stories from brilliant women authors. The book starts out with an introduction from editor Melissa Edmundson who discusses the background of women’s supernatural fiction through the years, the ongoing appeal of the ghost story and what keeps us coming back for more.

This second volume of stories has widened the scope of writers in that instead of just including writers from Britain and the US there are now stories from authors from Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand, which serves to expand the possibilities of setting and place. I found this a very fascinating prospect.

There are also biographical notes on each of the authors which are in themselves very interesting reading. it helps to gain a background knowledge of each woman’s personal life, writing life and possible struggles. These can then be taken forward with you and sit in the back of your mind as you read the individual stories.

So what about those stories?….well! They are just as chilling as the first volume and just as likely to make the hairs on your neck stand up!

Within this collection we have the usual take on the age old ghost story. And by that I mean the apparition. Who doesn’t love an actual ghost sighting?! But we also have haunted objects such as The Green Bowl with its exploration of witchcraft with the green bowl at its centre.

There are also strange supernatural creatures appearing in these stories, such as cursed fish and fairies….

The story that sticks in my mind (and isn’t that a true test of a good ghost story) is The Hall Bedroom by Mary E Wilkins Freeman (1905) in which a boarding house landlady tells of the strange happenings within the hall bedroom she rents out. The story then shifts to the diary of a gentleman occupant who documents the strange happenings in the hall bedroom each night which he believes are linked to a mysterious picture on the wall. When the diary entries come to an abrupt halt and the man disappears, what can be made of his writings and what on earth could have happened to him?….

‘This finishes the journal which Mr Wheatcroft left in his hall bedroom. The morning after the last entry he was gone. His friend, Mr Addison, came here, and a search was made. They even tore down the wall behind the picture, and they did find something rather queer for a house that had been used for boarders, where you would think no room would have been let run to waste. They found another room, a long narrow one, the length of the hall bedroom but narrower, hardly more than a closet. There was no window, nor door, and all there was in it was a sheet of paper covered with figures, as it somebody had been doing sums…….’

Even when there is no definitive ‘ghost’ or supernatural object there are stories with a building sense of unease. As in the tale entitled ‘A Dreamer’ by Barbara Baynton (1902) set in the Australian bush where an unnamed protagonist is making a journey through very inhospitable terrain, where nature and the elements become the enemy to battle against.

‘Then again that indefinite fear struck at her. Restlessly she pushed on till she stumbled, and, with hands outstretched, met some object that moved beneath them as she fell. The lightning showed a group of terrified cattle. Tripping and falling, she ran, she knew not where, but keeping her eyes turned towards the cattle. Aimlessly she pushed on, and unconsciously retraced her steps….’

And of course no collection of ghost stories would be complete without the haunted house. There are a few stories surrounding haunted properties in fact. I loved The Red Bungalow by Bithia Mary Croker (1919) set in India where a bungalow has not been rented for some years and the locals have their reasons to keep away….

This is a throughly spooky selection of stories in their own right but to have the biographical background of each of their female authors gave the stories more weight and intrigue in my opinion.

I will be keeping this collection on my Forever Shelf to dip in and out of when I fancy in years to come.

If you would like to get your hands on a copy of the first collection Women’s Weird, Handheld press have kindly given me a discount code for you to use. Use VEIL at the checkout for £2.99 off your copy. The code will be valid until midnight on November 15th. Go on! Treat yourself!

Thank you to Handheld Press for my review copy and for the discount code.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx