Bookish Chat About: Recent Reading

This time last week I was fed up.

This time last week I felt anxious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In short, I’M BACK!

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

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

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

BLURB:

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

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

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

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

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

BLURB:

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

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

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

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

See you soon.

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

I’m off for a Chai tea. Love you.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

 

 

 

 

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The Vet’s Daughter By Barbara Comyns – A Review

Publisher: Virago

This wonderful book came into my life via my Mr B’s Emporium monthly book subscription.  I trust their choices implicitly because they really took the time to listen to my likes and dislikes when I had my consultation with them before my subscription started. They gave me a good going over as it were!

The cover of The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns intrigued me and put me in mind of the cover of The Book Collector by Alice Thompson (and also gives a clue or two about what the book could be about but that’s all I’ll say on that!).

The story is told via the first person perspective narrative of seventeen year old Alice Rowlands, the daughter of a vet in an unnamed Edwardian London suburb.  Alice’s father is a tyrant, an evil tempered man who treats both Alice and her ailing mother with utter comtempt and as more or less slaves in the home.  Alice’s mother is a timid woman who is gravely ill.  She tries her best to tend to her brutal husband’s needs and keep the home in order.  When she can no longer disguise the pain she is in, they enlist the help of housekeeper Mrs Churchill, a no nonsense woman who Alice comes to rely heavily on. Alice’s father seems to despise her mother even more during her illness, particularly when she becomes bedbound.  He even has the audacity to send the undertaker round to measure Alice’s mother for her coffin before she has even died, Mrs Churchill sends him away with a flea in his ear!

‘ I didn’t look after Father as well as Mother used to, and he often hit me because the bacon was burnt or the coffee weak. Once, when I had ironed a shirt badly, he suddenly rushed at me like a charging bull in a thunderstorm, seeming to toss the shirt some way with his head. I held onto the kitchen sink, too afraid to move. He came up at me and I saw the whites of his eyes were all red. He was only wearing his vest and trousers and was dreadfully hairy. He seized the arms of the shirt and was trying to tie them round my neck with his great square hands, when the parrot suddenly started to give one of its awful laughs. Father seemed to go all limp and stumble from the room, while the parrot went on laughing’.

After Alice’s mother’s inevitable death, Alice is left to be the homemaker and is at the mercy of her Father’s violence and rage. When he takes up with a new lady friend, the brash and bawdy Rosa (dubbed The Strumpet From The Trumpet after the name of the cafe she waitressed at) Alice is further ostracised.  Alice doesn’t get on with Rosa, who is desperately trying to fix Alice up with a n’er do well waiter she knows, and when Alice is attacked by said waiter Rosa is expelled from the Rowland’s house.

Alice is then sent away to the country to become a companion to the mother of one of her father’s fellow veterinary colleagues a Mr Peebles (who Alice nicknames ‘Blinkers’).  It is here that she discover she has a dubious ‘gift’, something which she is able to do at will and which sets her apart as ‘peculiar’ to everyone else.  A skill she wants to hide and bury.   When tragedy strikes at the home of Mrs Peebles, Alice is boomeranged back to London and her Father’s house, where her striking ‘talent’ is discovered by her Father, who then attempts to exploit it for his own selfish gain.

Plot wise, that is all I want to tell you.  This is a book you need to discover for yourselves! a rare and brilliant gem!

There is such an underlying unease within the pages of this book, not only due to the magical realism which really comes to the fore in the latter half of the book, but also down to the sinister behaviour of Alice’s father and the odd and quirky peripheral characters who are larger than life but not always likeable!

Added to this there is the strange setting of the vet surgery being in the Rowland’s home.  The noisy parrot who pulls out it’s own feathers and has to be comforted in the bathroom, the cages of barking dogs and mewing cats, the cacophony of animal noise and odours and the mongoose who lives in the kitchen for a time.  There is also a creepy vivisectionist who makes regular visits to the surgery to collect any bodies of animals that the vet himself cannot re-home or have use for.

I have always said that I love books where things are slightly ‘off’, not quite right with a hint at the surreal.  This book is the absolute perfect example of this.  One review I read described Barbara Comyns’ writing as ‘offbeat’ and I would wholeheartedly agree with this.

It is arguably a grim read, depressing and gut wrenchingly sad in places, but the prose is so stark and unflinching.  I have often seen reviews that say ‘not a word was wasted’ and I think now for the first time having just finished this book,  I can fully understand the meaning behind this.

Alice herself is such a lovable character, she comes across as quite naive and maybe that is due to her age but also to her guileless sensibilities.  She seems to take life at face value and accept that of course her father will hit her, of course he will deride her and of course he will find her contemptuous.  There is almost an acceptance that this is how her life is meant to be, which of course is so sad in itself.

I read the end of this book whilst I was on my lunch break at work and immediately wanted to go and speak to somebody about it.  It is shocking and heartrending and still plays on my mind even now.

Since reading this book I have bagged myself 4 more of Barbara Comyns books. I took Sisters By A River out from my local library and read it within about 2 days, another quirky, dark tale but riddled with humour. Then I read The House Of Dolls (one of her later books written in the 80’s) telling the darkly humorous tale of a group of middle aged ‘escorts’ shall we say, who live on the top floor of one Mrs Amy Doll’s house.  Set in the 1960’s this is another quirky tale shot through with Comyns inimitable humour.

I have also bought The Juniper Tree and Our Spoons Came From Woolworths, they are secondhand copies which I have yet to read.  I don’t want to gobble them up too quickly, I want to savour them!  There are other Comyns books but some of them are quite rare and quite pricey so I’m going to have to do some research!

If you enjoy offbeat, quirky, sometimes darkly humorous fiction then you need to give Comyns a whirl! I feel so lucky to have discovered her, her writing is a complete and utter joy.

Let me know if you’ve read any of books. I’d love to chat about them.

 

See you all soon.

 

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

 

Bookish Chat About: My Blogging Blunders

‘To Err is human….’

Or so they say, right?

A little impromptu bonus blog post for you today which I’m going to look on as a kind of therapy for myself.  You lot are my counsellors, my confidants, my listening ears.

Forgive me bookish pals for I have sinned.

Well not so much ‘sinned’ as ‘ballsed up’. I mean we’re not talking big, swinging, hairy balls, we’re talking….well……just…normal sized balls I suppose.

But the point is, recently I have effed up a couple of times.  Nobody will be in the slightest bit bothered, they probably haven’t even noticed. We all make mistakes, BUT even so, I crriiiiiiiiinge inside when I think about them!

I pride myself on being RIGHT.  I check my posts for spelling and grammar errors as best I can, I check my tweets for the same, nobody wants to look like a berk.  Occasionally however, little things slip through and it irks me!

Up first we have The Great Mis-tag Mistake.  Yes, I tagged THE WRONG AUTHOR in my tweet about a book that a publisher recently sent to me.  It took someone to politely say ‘ermmmmm isn’t that the wrong author?’ before I even realised.  A quick delete and re-try was swiftly executed but I was inwardly cringing my nut off. Did the world end? No. But still! In my defence, their names were VERY similar….

Next up we have The Do Your Own Research Debacle. I watched a booktube video in which the channel host was talking about a book which I thought sounded right up my street. They handily said who it was published by and so off I tottered to approach said publisher to see if I could get my hands on a proof…….Now I asked very politely…….I was very respectful, I was very enthusiastic….however, and here’s the kicker….

THEY WERE NOT THE PUBLISHER FOR THAT BOOK.

Yes, I’d made the mistake of taking what the booktuber said as gospel.  If there is one lesson we can all take away from this it’s DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH! (ie don’t be lazy and gullible like little old me). Luckily the publisher was lovely but I wanted to go to bed and hide for a few days (weeks).

And today we have The ‘Dude Where’s Your Blog Post?’ Blunder.  On going to copy across my recent blog review to Goodreads, I realised that the last draft of the post had not updated properly and the post had been published with the final few paragraphs missing……no ‘thank you’ to the publisher, no sign off from me…..just a very abrupt ending!

This review had been up for over 24 hours…….PART FINISHED.

I know that these things don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but at the time they mattered to me.  But I’m not going to beat myself up about it and I can’t afford the air fare for a one way ticket to a remote island where I can cringe inwardly in peace, so…….

Do any of you want to stick your head above the parapet with me and confess to your blogging sins?

Come on…..don’t leave me hanging here like a complete and utter whelk……

See you soon, (when hopefully I’ll have my shit together)

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

 

Changeling By Matt Wesolowski – A Review

Publisher: Orenda

Publication Date: 15th January 2019

 

I’ve recently become changeling obsessed.

There I’ve said it.

I read Little Darlings by Melanie Golding a few weeks ago and was suckered in by the whole idea of changelings. (Man those babies in that book are creeeeeepy!).

So I put a little shout out to the Twitter book massive and asked for any other changeling based recommendations and lo and behold the lovely Karen at Orenda Books suggested Changeling by Matt Wesolowski. Not only did she suggest it, she also very generously sent me a copy! And that my friends is why I call her ‘the lovely Karen’.

I had seen this book along with Matt’s other books, Six Stories and Hydra doing the Twitter rounds with huge praise and stonking reviews but I think at the time I was caught up with other books and life and they kind of fell by the wayside. I have to admit that I was intrigued by the podcast audio narrative of the books and knew that at some point I would read them.

So….Changeling.  Lets get straight into it.

Scott King is the host of a podcast called Six Stories in which he investigates cold crime cases and looks at what happened through six different perspectives. Taking an old case and looking at it anew through the eyes of six people who were connected at the time.

When Scott receives a letter suggesting he investigate the case of 7 year old Alfie Marsden who disappeared from his fathers car in the Wentshire Forest on Christmas Eve 1988 and was never seen again, he has pause to think. Young Alfie had been sleeping in the back of his father, Sorrel’s, car on that fateful night.  Sorrel, on hearing a knocking coming from the car engine, pulled over to investigate just near a new construction site Great Escapes.  A matter of minutes later, Alfie was gone, missing without a trace.  He was officially declared presumed dead in 1995.

Surely everyone already knows about this case? what more can be gained by making it the focus of the Six Stories podcast?

But, Scott takes it on despite a reticence he feels deep inside about stirring this case up and bringing it back to life and starts speaking to 6 witnesses with connections to the case in some way.  We hear from Alfie’s parents Sorrel and Sonia, and amongst others we hear from a construction worker, a psychic, and a teaching assistant from Alfie’s school who spent a lot of time with him.

Each of these interviews, told in the Six Stories podcast audio narrative are sinister and eye opening in equal measure. I found two points of view particularly creepy, they made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end! Firstly, the narrative of Callum the construction worker who tells of the environment in which they were building Great Escapes and the strange and unnerving goings on there.

Wentshire Forest is already home to various myths and legends, most of which are firmly rooted in the sinister, surrounding tales of ‘The Wentshire Witch’ and changelings. But when Callum starts to experience odd occurrences in the isolated, dense forest he begins to wonder just how much of these tall tales are actually myths after all…..

It was the knocking – on the doors, the windows, the ceilings of the vehicles. I remember going and sitting in with someone once, so they could prove they weren’t losing their mind. It was fucking insane. That knocking came from anywhere you weren’t looking. Above your head, behind your back, over your shoulder, it was horrible. If you tried to look around it would move. It was like it knew……

 

I read this section on the bus. A jam packed bus full of people minding their own business and yet I was transported to Wentshire Forest in the expert hands of Matt Wesolowski and I felt like I was there, experiencing all that Callum and his colleagues had. So much so that when the bus driver’s radio crackled loudly into life I nearly jumped out of my skin!

This uneasy feeling didn’t abate when I got to the safety of my own home however….

I usually keep a book in my bag for the bus journey to work, lunchtime reading in the office and then to keep me company on the bus journey home, I rarely read my ‘bus book’ at home.

HOWEVER! I couldn’t put Changeling back in my bag and just not think about it! So out it came and I carried on reading.

The next voice we heard from was the late Delyth Rice who had recorded her own audio files for her dissertation on behaviour in young children from a time when she worked closely with a ‘difficult’ child in the school she was employed at. This child is referred to as Child A throughout, but it is assumed that this troubled boy is Alfie Marsden.

These passages told through Delyth’s audio accounts are some of the most atmospheric in the whole book. I was so tense reading them!My shoulders were up around my ears! Delyth tells of the encounters and experiences she’s had with Child A when she is supervising him alone in the classroom in a one on one situation.

It feels like hours, we sit there. Stalemate. I remember thinking, fine, just fine. I’ll get plenty of stories from the staffroom. That’s when I hear it. Tap-tap-tap. I almost drop the book. It sounds like it’s coming from right under Mrs Moss’s desk. I look straight at Child A, expecting not to see him in his seat, but there he is. The same position, no sign of movement. I stare at him for a little while longer, willing him to raise his head, to grin….anything. Nothing. I am shaken, a little bit. You see with kids, when they do something naughty, they can’t help looking at you, to see if you’ve noticed. Crafty, I think. Not like a normal child at all. Tap-tap-tap. Louder this time, and I nearly cry out. I swear, it’s like there’s someone underneath the desk. I even push my chair back to look – to see for myself that someone isn’t lying there, tapping the underside of the desk with a pencil. That’s what it sounds like. Of course there’s no one there. Of course there isn’t. I look back up, pull back into the desk. And I see that Child A has moved…

Now……I looked up whilst reading this to see my teenage child standing at the window staring at me with his face painted like The Joker (it had been sports day at school). I nearly died!

Children can be so creeeeepy!

In all seriousness though, I’m quite good with creepy, unnerving stuff. I’m quite partial to a horror film but for me to feel so deeply invested and sucked right into the story enough to block out everything around me is testament to how evocative Matt Wesolowski’s writing is.

Scott King carries on his investigation. Analysing the different narratives, the opposing perspectives and trying to piece it all together. We go on to hear from Sonia, Alfie’s mother, a troubled woman with an alcohol problem, a woman who stayed away from the eyes of the press at the time of Alfie’s disappearance. A woman who appeared to all intents and purposes to be quite detached and cold. Conversely we then have Sorrel, Alfie’s heartbroken father. A man who still makes the journey to the Wentshire Forest to try and find his son, even now, years after the event.

But what can Scott glean from all this information? Can he find any new leads that may help put the mystery of Alfie’s disappearance to bed? is he really just raking over old ground? And will he regret unearthing past secrets that maybe should have stayed buried?

The sinister undertone running throughout every single part of this story is what had me hooked! I love my fiction dark and I adore being expertly transported into a place where I don’t feel safe. I can honestly say this book got under my skin in a very real way and is unlike any thriller I have ever read before.

The fresh and contemporary feel of the podcast narrative made for a propulsive read. This was the ultimate ‘I couldn’t put it down’ book. Because really and truly I couldn’t! The ending, when it came was a shocker to me too!  Looking back on it now I’m wondering whether I should have known what had happened all along…..but I really didn’t, and I’m so pleased it happened that way.

I am now so excited to move on to Six Stories and Hydra, Matt Wesolowski is undoubtedly a very skilled writer and I can’t wait to give myself over to his capable hands as it were, and immerse myself in the intriguing world of Scott King.

Thank you very much as always to Karen at Orenda for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

 

 

Bookish Chat About: Birth Date Books

I mentioned at the start of the year that I wanted to show you some of the books I have on my shelves.

I’m all too aware that I can tend to only show you the brand spanking new proofs I am lucky enough receive and my reviews of these. But I have shelves and a book trolley packed with books I’ve had in my possession for a good old while!

It’s my birthday tomorrow so I thought it would just be a bit of fun to show you the books on my shelves that correlate to the numbers in my birth date…..I know right, genius.

So….my date of birth is 22/07/1978 and I’ll be 41 (shut up about it) so I have selected books 22, 7, 19, 78 and 41.

I purposefully didn’t choose from the trolley which houses the new proofs and I also didn’t include my forever shelves as these are the books I’ve read and loved and I probably talk about them a luh-hot.

This is a good selection of 5 books I haven’t read yet, all of which I’m now thinking need to be pushed up the TBR!

So let’s get crackin (I’m going to include blurbs by the way, soz).

First up we have:

Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume – published by Windmill

 

BLURB:

A misfit man finds a misfit dog. Ray, aged fifty-seven, ‘too old for starting over, too young for giving up’, and One Eye, a vicious little bugger, smaller than expected, a good ratter. Both are accustomed to being alone, unloved, outcast – but they quickly find in each other a strange companionship of sorts. As spring turns to summer, their relationship grows and intensifies, until a savage act forces them to abandon the precarious life they’d established, and take to the road. 

I read Sara Baume’s A Line Made By Walking a couple of years ago now. I found her writing style really stark and to the point yet still quite lyrical. I’ve heard good things about this one and have read some great reviews from people who’s taste I trust (Susan at A Life In Books wrote a great review here). It’s a fairly short read and I am looking forward to finally picking it up!

The Edible Woman By Margaret Atwood – Published by Virago.

BLURB:

Marian is determined to be ordinary. She lays her head gently on the shoulder of her serious fiancee and quietly awaits marriage. But she didn’t count on an inner rebellion that would rock her stable routine, and her digestion. Marriage a la mode, Marian discovers, is something she literally can’t stomach …

Please don’t think ill of me……I’ve NEVER read any Margaret Atwood…

I know!

I’ve not even made it all the way through watching The Handmaids Tale on the TV either! Shocking.

However, I did pick up this secondhand copy of The Edible Woman because I trust in Margaret Atwood’s writing despite never having read any of her books. Millions of people can’t be wrong can they?!

This one sounds intriguing and just putting the blurb in this post has piqued my interest more…..hmmmm I need to get to this one soon too!

 

The Sealwoman’s Gifts by Sally Magnusson – Published by Two Roads.

BLURB:

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.

Now this one is a beauty! I think I won this one in a Twitter giveaway but I’d already had thoughts of buying it anyway. I like anything linked with sea myths (a blog post to come about this subject soon) and I’m hoping this one has hints of that. We’ll see!

There Were No Windows by Norah Hoult – Published by 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.

This is my one and only Persephone book. I went to London at the end of last year to do my judging stint for The Sunday Times Young Writer Of The Year Award and we did a little whistle stop tour of some of the iconic London bookshops (you’ll find a post on this here).

We of course had to make a stop at Persephone (just before it closed!) and I plumped for this book. I could have chosen soooo many others though! They have beautiful endpapers and matching bookmarks. I could go wild in there!

Finally we have:

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton – Published by Trapeze

BLURB:

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

Did she get it wrong all those years ago? 
Or is there something much darker at play?

Now I’m so surprised that I haven’t got around to reading this one yet. I think it’s because when a book is super hyped, as this one was, I feel like waiting a while and not reading it when everyone else is….do you ever get like that?

I’ve heard great things about it and I know it will be right up my street, so really, what am I waiting for?!?

There we have it. A brief insight into some of the books on my shelves.

Have you read any of them? What were your thoughts?

I’ll be off now, don’t tell anyone I’m 41 tomorrow will you? I’ll never live it down.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Birthday Bookish Chat xx

Witches Sail In Eggshells by Chloe Turner – A Review

Publisher: Reflex Press

Publication Date: 11th June 2019

I love me a short story collection. You are all no doubt very aware of this by now!

When I saw Witches Sail In Eggshells by Chloe Turner mentioned on Twitter by Chloe herself I was intrigued by the title and did a little bit of googling…..

Did you know that if you don’t smash up your empty eggshells after you have used the egg, witches will steal the shells, use them as boats to sail across the seas casting spells and causing untold damage?…..

Seems legit!

The point is I LOVE superstition and folklore like this and I got a really good vibe about the collection just from this awesome title. This vibe cranked up a notch when I investigated further and found that there was a sample story from the collection on the Reflex Press website. A story called Hagstone which I urge you to read here.

This story had just the right amount of magical realism and folklore for me and I had the excited tingly feeling when you know a book is going to be right up your street!

The guys at Reflex very generously said I could have a gifted copy to review and the rest as they say, is history.

I feel I like I was constantly wanging on about this collection on Twitter and Instagram so most of you will already know my thoughts and feelings, but for the rest of you, strap in and brace yourselves whilst I try and assemble my thoughts.

I find reviewing short story collections somewhat of a challenge but I’ll try my utmost to convey my thoughts coherently and do this amazing book justice!

There are 17 stories in this collection each ranging from around 3 pages to around 10 pages.  The overarching themes are of ‘love, loss, the little ways we let each other down, and how we can find each other again’.

I don’t like to talk about each individual story in a collection as I think it’s very important for a reader to discover for themselves.  I do however like to pick out stories that particularly resonated with me and ones that have stuck in my mind.  Although having said that, I flicked through the collection after reading it and knew immediately, just by the title alone, what each of the stories were about.  This is not always the case after I finish a collection.  I can sometimes forget what a particular story was all about and have to read bits to remind myself. I have also been known to confuse stories with other collections by different authors!

The stories which stand out in my mind (and still give me the tingles now!) are:

A Raft Of Silver Corpses, which tells the story of a coastal town where strange things are happening to the sea life.  Starting with the octopuses being found inland, the star fish literally being thrown out of the sea, dead, making 5 pronged imprints in the concrete, the fish dying almost as a collective.  We learn of the residents reaction to the sea giving up it’s dead, and the lengths they will go to to make sure the evidence remains hidden.

The stories swiftly turned sour when the octopuses began coming up the beach. Just at night, at first: evening dog-walkers talked of finding them mired in sand right up at the tideline, mantles expanding and contracting, blue blood leaking from their beaks. Then, two were found on the lifeboat slipway in broad daylight, heaving themselves towards the boat shack like old women walking into the wind. One lively specimen made it all the way to the Spar in the clutch of shops set back from the harbour wall. It had backed itself into a gap between the fridges, flashing through colour changes as if it were trying to pass on a message in code.

This story is a very brief 3 pages long and the shortest story in the collection I think, but for me it is the one that had the biggest impact on me. I love anything relating to the sea, be that myth or folklore or strange happenings and this story packs such a punch for such a short story.  I have read it several times since.

This leads me neatly on to the next story which still haunts me:

The Wetshod Child, which tells the story of Lewis, a fisherman who stumbles upon a strange turn of events down at the shoreline one evening when going to moor up his boat during a storm. What he finds down there amongst the rocks, changes his and his wife Sal’s lives for all too brief a time, leading to a heartbreaking conclusion.  Again this story is steeped in sea based myth and folklore and put me firmly in mind of the story The Pied Piper which appears in the short story collection Some New Ambush by Carys Davies which I recently read and loved.

Not all of the stories in the collection have a magical realism/folklore edge.  Some are firmly based in reality, in the here and now of the real world, which lets face it can be more heartbreaking and horrifying and downright odd at times!

Collecting Her Thoughts On The Prison Steps tells of a woman who has a habit of collecting things, glass bottles, thimbles, men…..when one of the men makes her collect something she really doesn’t want, she finds herself having to accept the dire consequences.  This story really tugged at my heartstrings and left me feeling a bit choked, told through the eyes and observations of her close friend, this story really got under my skin for some reason.

In Show Me What You’re Made Of Di’s partner Michael with his catchphrase of ‘show me what you’re made of’ becomes somewhat involved in getting to the heart of the matter. Destroying objects and insects just to ‘see what they are made of’. But what is he working on alone in his workshop, and does he want to see just what Di is made of?

As I’ve mentioned, I could sit and talk about each of these stories but I do believe it’s important just to get a flavour of a collection and go and discover it for yourself.

What I loved about it, aside from Chloe Turner’s captivating writing style is the fact that there is a mixture of stories with magical realism, folklore and fairytale in with contemporary stories rooted in reality. This meant that you never quite knew what to expect going into a story. You are kept on your toes as a reader.

Add to this the fact that there is also a lovely blend of stories which have open endings, where you have to make your own assumptions and read between the lines and stories which are neatly tied up with satisfying conclusions. Quite often a short story collection will contain either one or the other, and don’t get me wrong, I do like both types of ending. I like to push my imagination boundaries and think about a possible conclusion for a story, and also try to discern what the author meant to portray as their ending. But I also enjoy the neat, boxed off roundedness (if that is indeed a word!) of a fully concluded story.

I don’t know if I’ve articulated that very well but I hope you know what I’m driving at!

There are some memorable characters who appear briefly but capture your heart. The nuanced relationships, most of which are not perfect, are fascinating. Some of the stories almost feel like modern day cautionary tales about how not to go about relationships!

I adored this collection and know that it will take pride of place on my bookshelf. I am extremely excited to read more of Chloe Turner’s work.

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

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

The Other Mrs Miller By Allison Dickson – A Review

Publisher: Sphere

Publication Date: 16th July 2019

I do love a thriller every now and again folks! If you know me at all, you’ll know my usual favoured genre would be dark, gothic historical fiction, however sometimes a pacy thriller is the perfect antidote to all the darkness.

The Other Mrs Miller by Allison Dickson tells the story of Phoebe Miller, a reclusive wealthy woman who likes to while away her days by her swimming pool, self medicating with glass after glass of wine. Her marriage is faltering over the subject of children, Phoebe is against the idea of starting a family whereas her husband Mark is hoping to do everything in his power to persuade her otherwise.

Also, Phoebe’s high profile businessman father has become embroiled in very public controversy surrounding his conduct around women. Phoebe is rightly mortified about her father’s behaviour and the subsequent spotlight it has thrown on other areas of his life, mainly her. This is why she chooses to stay indoors, away from prying eyes.

But how safe is she behind the walls of her secure home? Just recently she has noticed a blue car parked outside her house, daily. She cannot see who the slight figure is inside the vehicle but she keeps a notebook logging the times the car arrives, how long it stays and the time it leaves.

When a new family move in across the street, Phoebe’s mind is taken off the car and it’s mysterious driver for a while. Vicki and her doctor husband Roy arrive in the neighbourhood with their son Jake and Phoebe suddenly has a reason to leave the house again. A tentative friendship with Vicki during which they share their woes surrounding their respective marriage troubles, and a clandestine relationship with Jake added to the mix.

But just why did the family choose this exact neighbourhood? Why did they have to leave their previous home so quickly? and why do they appear to have money worries? Phoebe feels that there is a lot more going on behind closed doors than Vicki cares to let on.

When an explosive event occurs, everyone’s lives are changed forever, not least the mysterious stalker who has had eyes on Phoebe all along.

I have to be entirely honest with you, as I always am. I very nearly gave up and put this book down a little way into part 2. Now don’t get me wrong, part 2 starts with an absolute jaw-dropping bang! I was NOT expecting that opening. After a fairly gentle first part, I was surprised and excited by the turn of events going into part 2. However, things took a little unbelievable turn which pushed the boundaries of credibility and I did a little eye-roll.

BUT ……here’s the thing. Despite plans being formulated which WOULD NEVER WORK IN A MILLION YEARS, I was still wholly invested in this book and desperate to see what the hell was going to happen! What did it matter if the realms of possibility were in question? I was thoroughly enjoying this book!

I even took to Goodreads to see what other folk were saying and was heartened to see that I wasn’t the only one shouting ‘Oh come on!’ It’s always nice when your thoughts are validated and you don’t feel so ‘out there’ on a limb, alone.

So the upshot of this is I continued to read the book. Of course I did. I NEEDED to know if this madcap scheme would pay off!

The other thing I felt slightly uncomfortable about was that I was finding certain parts quite lighthearted and amusing despite them featuring some really grim content……I rooted out the press information that came with the book and was relieved to see it described as ‘darkly humorous’.

HUZZAH! I wasn’t a complete sicko after all!

The front of the book does say that it is soon to be turned into a TV series and I can totally see why. I’m getting slight Fargo/Santa Clarita Diet vibes in terms of style. I hope so anyway!

I think this is a book that could potentially divide opinion but in a buzz creating way. The second part flies at a pace, with characters mistrustful of each other, trying to trip each other up and discover the truth. There is a particularly well constructed, awkward dinner party scene where the characters are all sitting around the table knowing each others dark secrets and knowing that the others know they know each others dark secrets! Crikey!

I had read some reviews which said that the ending was questionable but I really don’t agree.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and think that it played out in a very satisfying way.

To sum up, I don’t think this book will be for everyone, but I would urge you to give it a try anyway.  Suspend your disbelief for a wee while and just go with it!

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

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx