Book Review: Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce #ReadWithMe 2020 #21

Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…

Just one more night. Then I’ll end it.

Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle.

I did it. I killed him. I should be locked up.

Alison’s client doesn’t deny that she stabbed her husband – she wants to plead guilty. And yet something about her story is deeply amiss. Saving this woman may be the first step to Alison saving herself.

I’m watching you. I know what you’re doing.

But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything…

What I Thought:

It’s not often these days that I come across a book that I could cheerfully read in one sitting, but Blood Orange is the epitome of ‘thriller’!

At first it appears to be a domestic drama, as we meet Alison a hard-working, hard-drinking barrister whose family life could come crashing down at any moment. Her husband supports her career by taking on most of the childcare and home care duties, while accepting her very late working, and her drunken returns home after an evening of ‘networking’.

And then suddenly, Alison receives a text message – someone knows about her affair with a colleague. Is this a prelude to blackmail??

What begins to unravel after this is a tense and page-turning story in which Alison is transformed from a not very likeable woman into a woman fighting for her life.

I can’t really say much else without introducing spoilers, but suffice to say I was absolutely gripped! It’s without doubt the best thriller I’ve read in ages, and it left me thinking about it for a long time. As I said, Alison was not an especially likeable character at the start, but when the text messages are explained, you can’t help but go to bat for her.

I’ve already happily recommended this book, to friends, and to a random woman who was looking at books in the supermarket, and would do so again in the strongest possible terms.

Blood Orange is published by Wildfire.

To find out more about Harriet Tyce – and her new novel, which is out in August, check out her website. Alternatively, she is also active on Twitter.

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Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne #ReadWithMe 2020 #20

Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself falling for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets. 

What I Thought:

You may know that I’m a sucker for a Jane Austen retelling, but that also extends to books that take their inspiration from Austen, and move the action to an original location – hence, I really enjoyed The Stars We Steal.

This book is loosely guided by Austen’s Persuasion, but the setting could NOT be more different, being set as it is in a future world where humans have abandoned the Earth and live in a cluster of spaceships. I know, right?? This is such an original take on a story that seems firmly rooted in the past, that to move it into the future is a brilliant idea.

I’ll ‘fess up – I’ve not actually read Persuasion (I may correct this this year with a category on #40for2020) so I don’t know how the books really compare. Having said that, you could read this book without having any idea of the Austen connection and still find it a compelling read.

There’s a bit of everything here – sci-fi, romance, social justice and more than one suspicious death – but despite the many ongoing threads, the narrative is clear.

The Earth in space is also clearly described and planned out, so we know exactly who is aligned to who (for the most part – mystery and smugglers too, you see) and what kinds of games are being played.

I also really enjoyed the central romance plot – the will-they-won’t-they between Elliot and Leo is delightfully maddening and it’s not a spoiler to say that it resolves to everyone’s satisfaction…

Overall, I would recommend this book (and actually have done already) and I would not be disappointed to see more set in this world, and from these characters.

The Stars We Steal is published by Titan Books.

To find out more about Alexa Donne, you can check out her website or, alternatively, why not connect with her on Twitter?

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Please note: I was sent this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole

1952. Louise Wilde’s movie career and marriage have stalled when she learns she’s inherited the entire estate of screenwriter Florence Daniels, a woman she never met. Her confusion grows when she discovers old photographs of Daniels with her late mother, Ethel.

1926. Friends Ethel Wild and Florrie Daniels embark on a cross-country adventure. Florrie is going to start a new life working in Hollywood, while Ethel wants to reach her husband in Nevada who is intent on a divorce. Diary entries, letters and film scripts all reveal that the most profound journeys rarely follow a map.

What I Thought:

Despite reading and loving Letters from Skye, I’m ashamed to say that it took me an inordinately long time to pick up Jessica Brockmole’s Woman Enters Left.

As with Letters from Skye, Woman Enters Left is a dual-history novel but here, we follow three women making emotional and almost last-ditch journeys across the US in two very different time periods. In the first, the 1920s are still roaring and women are starting to take charge of their own lives and make demands of their families, their employers and their society while in the second, women have made strides into independence, but the shadow of McCarthyism looms long. The image of the perfect housewife is making a post-war comeback, despite the many other things that women may have to offer.

The lives of Louise Wilde, her mother Ethel, and Florence Daniels are slowly revealed through a combination of letters, diaries and prose and I love that approach. It gives a much more intimate feel to the book as we learnt the innermost thoughts of the characters in a diary entry, but see what they have to hide from the recipient of a letter. I’ll never get tired of these types of novels; ones that seem to have been made up of historical documents.

Although this novel is primarily an intimate portrayal of the three women, the historical format also allows the author to touch on some social history too when we discover – and Louise discovers – that her mother and Florrie were radium girls; those women who were employed to paint watch dials with radium and, while licking the paint brushes to a fine point, ingested high levels of radium. While they were assured that this was safe, their employers were lying to them and when the women began to get sick, they tried to make the whole thing disappear.

This case is both fascinating and tragic as these women who had a first taste of freedom in having a reasonably well-paid job, outside of service, ended up dying earlier than they should have through criminal negligence. I’ve linked here to the Wiki article, but there is plenty more to find out on the internet and there was also a film released in 2018.

What I love about the two books of Jessica Brockmole’s that I’ve read is the personal relationships. Although there are big issues touched upon in the book, ultimately two women try to hang on to what remains of their marriages no matter the cost, no matter how far they have to travel and it’s this aspect that really shines through for me.

Woman Enters Left is published by Allison & Busby.

You can find out more about Jessica Brockmole and her work on her website or, alternatively, why not connect with her on Twitter?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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#ReadWithMe 2020 #19 – The State of the TBR

Good morning one and all! Today I thought I would do a round up, as the book I mostly read this week is not due for a review until next month.

That book was The Old Girls’ Network by Judy Leigh. I’ve got this one for a blog tour, but I think I have several of Judy Leigh’s other books, still unread – I’ll correct that soon though, as this was a lovely book! I’ll expand on that in the review, but I just want to mention here that what struck me most is that the main characters are all in their seventies, but still portrayed as, three-dimensional people with space in their lives for romance. This makes a lovely change from the older characters being shrill old harridans who are well past it. I’ll definitely be recommending, and reading more.

This morning, I’ve started I Left My Tent in San Francisco by Emma Kennedy, a non-fiction book about the time she and a friend travelled across the USA on no money! I’m not far in, but I already like the writing style…

I’m hoping for some reading time today (despite home schooling and the ASDA shop) as it’s my birthday! One of my presents was the DVD of Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears, the feature-length movie starring Kerry Greenwood‘s lady detective, Phryne Fisher – I love the books and TV series, so am really looking forward to watching.

Stay well all…

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Book Review: The Secret Lives of Codebreakers by Sinclair McKay #ReadWithMe 2020 #18

Bletchley Park looked like any other sprawling country estate. In reality, however, it was the top-secret headquarters of Britain’s Government Code and Cypher School-and the site where Germany’s legendary Enigma code was finally cracked.

There, the nation’s most brilliant mathematical minds-including Alan Turing, whose discoveries at Bletchley would fuel the birth of modern computing-toiled alongside debutantes, factory workers, and students on projects of international importance.

Until now, little has been revealed about ordinary life at this extraordinary facility. Drawing on remarkable first-hand interviews, The Secret Lives of Codebreakers reveals the entertainments, pastimes, and furtive romances that helped ease the incredible pressures faced by these covert operatives as they worked to turn the tide of World War II.

What I Thought:

As we approach the 75th anniversary of VE Day, it’s timely (although a coincidence) that I’ve read a book which explores the contribution and enduring legacy of the people who saw out the war at Bletchley Park.

The Secret Lives of Codebreakers is an incredibly personal book, featuring as it does interviews with the people who actually worked there. You get a vivid impression of what it was like to be working on crucial codes and ciphers, maintaining and air of secrecy, but also of being young people living through a war.

There is the potential for this sort of book to be very dry but, although it touches on some of the technological features of Bletchley’s work, and the advances in computing that came out of it, it focuses more fully on the human stories, which I really enjoyed.

It seems unfathomable these days that you could be eighteen or nineteen years old, and be serving your country, living far away from your home but not able to tell anyone about it. This is what struck me most about the reminiscences – the fact that many of the veterans of Bletchley Park were never able to even tell their parents or spouses of what they had done in the war.

Thankfully, more and more of what went on at Bletchley, and the life-saving work they did there, is coming out and is represented by the Bletchley Park Trust – you can even visit Bletchley Park now, as it’s a popular museum, and see recreations of the conditions there and some of the technologies used during the war.

This book is an excellent contribution to the many books written about Bletchley, and if you want to approach the more personal aspects of this incredible story, it’s highly recommended.

Please note: I received this book via Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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