Book Review: Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry

Don't Turn Around Book Cover

Two strangers, Cait and Rebecca, are driving across America.

Cait’s job is to transport women to safety. Out of respect, she never asks any questions. Like most of the women, Rebecca is trying to escape something.

But what if Rebecca’s secrets put them both in danger? There’s a reason Cait chooses to keep on the road, helping strangers. She has a past of her own, and knows what it’s like to be followed.

And there is someone right behind them, watching their every move…

What I Thought:

Earlier in the week I took part in a Blog Road Trip for Jessica Barry’s Don’t Turn Around, and so today – release day – it’s time for my review.

This book ticked a lot of boxes for me. On the face of it, this is a thriller told in a combination of current chapters and flashbacks, and as a thriller it is really excellent, but what made it stand out for me is that there is a strong feminist message right through it and it addresses debates over the agency of women over their own bodies that are supremely relevant at the moment.

I can’t go into things any more than that, as it would give too much away, but reading this book as a woman is guaranteed to provoke rage on several levels – but it is all done with a deft hand that ensures you’ll not want to put this book down!

Jessica Barry puts two very different women in the lead roles of this book and although they have their own reasons for ending up in a car together in the middle of the night, they find common ground as they fight for survival in the middle of the desert there are aspects of their characters that you will both love and hate, but that just makes them both so much more relatable and very real.

I did not see the end of this book coming, even though there were clues along the way. If you enjoy having your head turned by something shiny, while something else quietly slips your notice then this is the book for you!

Don’t Turn Around is published by Vintage.

To find out more about Jessica Barry, you can connect with her on Twitter, and while you’re there, I have a giveaway running to win a copy of Don’t Turn Around, so check it out.

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

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The Don’t Turn Around Blog Road Trip

We’re hosting something a bit different today. To celebrate the publication of Jessica Barry’s Don’t Turn Around, I am joining a host of fantastic bloggers in sharing some chapters of the book, and exclusive content from the author.

To read the first chapter, check out A Little Book Problem.

To read the chapter before this one (Chapter 9), check out Brown Flopsy’s Book Burrow.

To read on in the next chapter, check out Beverley Has Read from tomorrow.

Chapter 10

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

Patrick sat down heavily on the hotel bed and rubbed his tired eyes. The conference had promised a four- star, but from the feel of the cheap linen, it was probably more like three. It didn’t matter much to him. The places where they held these events were always the same: marble foyers— this one with a tinsel- laden artificial Christmas tree, to mark the season— and long echoing corridors and tiny soaps wrapped in paper. Tomorrow morning, there’d be breakfast with limp bacon and congealed eggs, and he’d eat it while people came up to his table and shook his hand. Some of them would linger, hoping to be invited to sit. He didn’t mind. This was what it was all about, wasn’t it? Connecting with people. Touching lives.

He checked the clock. Half past ten. It would be after midnight in Lubbock. She’d be asleep by now, or at least in bed. He knew she didn’t sleep much these days.

He reached for the phone. He wanted to hear her voice, even if it was just for a minute. The way things had been with them recently . . . it tore him up inside, it really did. If he could just make her see things the way he saw them, if he could just make her believe, they wouldn’t have to be like this with each other. He wouldn’t have to be like this. They could be happy, like they were before. Like they’d been back in San Francisco, all those years ago.

He clicked the call button and listened to the phone ring. She usually picked up on the second ring. Maybe she’d fallen asleep. Still, the phone should wake her up. He waited for the answering machine to pick up, but instead he heard the monotonous drone of an automated service. “We’re sorry, your call cannot be answered at the minute. Please leave a message after the tone.”

He held the phone in his hand for a second before disconnecting the call. Why hadn’t the answering machine picked up? Maybe the power had gone out and the machine had reverted back to factory settings. But that automated voice . . . he’d heard it before.

It was her cell phone. She’d tried to set up voicemail when she’d first gotten it, but she’d given up. “There are too many buttons on this thing,” she’d said, brandishing the Samsung in the air. “I give up. I’ll just have to be a robot.”

He checked the number he called. Definitely the house phone.

He scrolled down to her cell number and hit dial. It rang a few times and then the same robot told him to leave a message after the tone. He hung up and tossed the phone across the bed.

Why would she have forwarded the house phone to her cell? She’d promised him that she would stay at home while he was away. She needed rest. There was no reason for her not to be picking up the phone right now.

Unless.

He put his head in his hands. God, no. Please. No.

He reached over and grabbed his phone off the comforter, scrolled through his recent calls until he found Rich’s number. He’d still be awake. From what Patrick could tell, his campaign manager never slept.

Rich picked up on the first ring. “Hey, champ! How’s California? Did you knock ’em dead?”

“The conference went fine. Look, I’m sorry to call you this late— ”

“No apology necessary. You know I’m available to you twentyfour/seven.”

“I tried calling Rebecca at the house and she’s not answering. I think . . . I think we might have a situation on our hands.”

“Leave it with me. The wheels of justice are already in motion.”

“It might be nothing. She might be at home, asleep. She might have accidentally turned the ringer off or left the phone off the hook . . .” Even as he said the words, he knew they weren’t true.

“I’m probably just wasting your time.”

“You did the right thing by calling. Now go get some shut- eye, okay? You’ve got an early flight tomorrow, and we need you looking fresh for the judge.”

“Could you let me know when you find her?”

The line went dead. Patrick cradled the phone in his hand for a minute before placing it on the nightstand and walking across the room to the minibar. He took out a couple of miniatures, poured them into a glass, and bolted the whole thing. And then got down on his knees and began to pray.

If this has encouraged you to read on, you can do so with Beverley Has Read at the link above, or you can buy the book from 15th April. You can also check out my review of the book on 15th April.

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Blog Tour: The Girls from Alexandria by Carol Cooper

Memories are fragile when you are seventy years old. I can’t afford to lose any more of them, not when remembering the past might help with the here and now.

Nadia needs help. Help getting out of her hospital bed. Help taking her pills. One thing she doesn’t need help with is remembering her sister. But she does need help finding her.

Alone and abandoned in a London hospital, 70-year-old Nadia is facing the rest of her life spent in a care home unless she can contact her sister Simone… who’s been missing for 50 years.

Despite being told she’s ‘confused’ and not quite understanding how wi-fi works, Nadia is determined to find Simone. So with only cryptic postcards and her own jumbled memories to go on, Nadia must race against her own fading faculties and find her sister before she herself is forgotten.

What I Thought:

A tin of old postcards hold half a century of secrets in this excellent novel from Carol Cooper. The Girls from Alexandria reminded me very much of Elizabeth is Missing, as Nadia struggles with holes in her memory while trying to find out what happened to her sister Simone over fifty years before.

The book paints two very vivid pictures in its dual timeline and they could not be more different. A young Nadia lives a relatively affluent life in cosmopolitan Alexandria, even in the midst of political upheaval, while the elderly Nadia languishes in an over-stretched hospital, where compassion is hard to come by. This second location is hugely depressing, and you would hope that a lot of the elements were fictionalised to some extent!

Each section of the book set in Egypt is alive with the atmosphere of the late 50s as the pieces of Nadia and Simone’s stories leading up to Simone’s disappearance leave clues that Nadia desperately tries to pick at in her later years and it’s interesting to see her make connections as an adult between things that would never have occurred to a child.

This book is very much character-driven and Nadia is not all that she appears at the beginning of the book. It’s incredibly frustrating to see her trapped in a hospital bed, with the medical staff not even believing that she had a sister in the first place – the vindication when she is able to prove that Simone was real is incredibly rewarding!

I found the sections dealing with the political situation in Egypt fascinating, from Nasser to the Arab Spring, and there was a deep sense of injustice in the treatment of women in Egypt running all through the book – snippets of Nadia and Simone’s lives show their dissatisfaction with that status quo too.

It’s clear in every page of this book that Carol Cooper is writing what she knows, and that gives the book so much extra depth – I highly recommend it.

The Girls from Alexandria is published by Agora Books.

Author Biography: Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist, and author. Born in London, she was only a few months old when her cosmopolitan family took her to live in Egypt. She returned to the UK at eighteen and went to Cambridge University where she studied medicine and her fellow students. On her path to a career in general practice, she worked at supermarket checkouts, typed manuscripts in Russian, and spent years as a hospital doctor.

Following a string of popular health books as well as an award-winning medical textbook, Carol turned to writing fiction. Her first two novels were contemporary tales set in London. Ever a believer in writing what you know, she mined the rich material of her childhood for The Girls from Alexandria.

Carol lives with her husband in Cambridge and Hampstead. She has three grownup sons and three stepchildren.

You can connect with Carol on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of The Girls from Alexandria. For more reviews and exclusive content, why not check out the other blogs taking part below?

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

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Blog Tour: The Museum Murder by Katie Gayle

Dastardly deeds, daring deceptions and a dress to die for… Epiphany Bloom is back on the case!

Epiphany ‘Pip’ Bloom, would-be detective and London’s unluckiest woman, finds herself in a real costume drama when she unearths a theft at a fashion museum.

The missing dress is a proper piece of Hollywood history, worth a fortune. And as Pip investigates, she finds the museum staff all had reasons to want the garment gone. From fancy boutiques to sketchy back alleys, Pip discovers the fashion world is not all glitz and glamour as she hunts down her prize.

As if she doesn’t have enough on her plate, Pip also has her growing feelings for her housemate Tim to contend with, a family of cats to feed and her mother keeps phoning about a shipment of llamas arriving any day now from South America.

But there’s no time for distractions because Pip’s not the only one after the dress. And for the most dedicated collectors, a piece like this is worth any price – even murder…

What I Thought:

The sun is out, the clocks have gone forward, and yet it’s still just chilly enough to appreciate a cozy mystery of an evening. The duo behind The Kensington Kidnap, starring Epiphany ‘Pip’ Bloom is back with another great addition to what, I hope, will be a series that runs and runs!

The Museum Murder sees Pip tumbling very quickly downwards form the high we left her on at the end of her last adventure as it turns out Detective agencies are not too forgiving when it comes to spelling mistakes… Nevertheless, opportunity quickly falls in Pip’s lap as she becomes embroiled in the case of a missing dress – not just any dress I might add, but the very one worn by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman!!

Suspects are everywhere as Pip stumbles along on the tail of the thief and as she brushes with suspicious deaths along the way.

This book is an excellent follow up to The Kensington Kidnap. I am very much a fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum and, although the settings could not be more different, I get the same feel from the Epiphany Bloom books. In both series, there is a healthy dose of comedy, but the mystery plots are no less clever than in your more gritty crime thriller.

The supporting cast is back, and causing problems for Pip yet again with a blogging/vlogging sister who is so hot right now and a llama-purchasing mother who is conveniently out of the country, but there is help from the two men in Pip’s life, either one of which may or may not turn into an eager love interest…we shall see…

As I said, this book is just my cup of tea at the moment – they describe it as ‘cozy crime’, and cozy works for me!

The Museum Murder is published by Bookouture.

Katie Gayle is the writing team of Kate Sidley and Gail Schimmel. You can catch up with ‘Katie’ on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication on The Museum Murder, the second on the Epiphany Bloom series. Why not check out some of the other blogs taking part, below:

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

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Blog Tour: The Secret Diary of a New Mum (Aged 43 1/4) by Cari Rosen

Whatever your age, becoming a mum for the first time brings excitement, anxiety and numerous challenges. But how do you cope when, to top it all off, you discover you are almost old enough to be the mother of everyone else in your birth prep group? As one in five babies is born to a mum over 35, and the number of women over 40 giving birth has doubled, The Secret Diary of a New Mum (Aged 43 1/4) is Cari Rosen’s timely and hilarious account of becoming a first-time mother in her 40s.

Whether it’s deftly side-stepping questions about your age and baby number two, weeping as younger counterparts ping back into their size ten jeans within thirty seconds of giving birth, or your doctor suddenly referring to you as geriatric, Cari approaches the shared experiences of an ever-increasing number of mothers with insight, humour and honesty.

What I Thought:

Toot your horn and bang the drum, it’s a book that actually tells the truth about being a new mum!

And not only a new mum, Cari Rosen’s The Secret Diary of a New Mum is the result of her own experience in having a baby after 40. The number of women waiting until their late 30s and early 40s before having children is more than ever and for many and varied reasons. The shrieking headlines might blame women for selfishly focusing on their careers before finally reproducing, but we all know that that’s not the whole story.

Regardless of why women are having children later on than in previous decades, they are doing so and are dealing with a whole host of things that younger mothers don’t have to worry about at the same time, and Cari Rosen takes us through her own experiences with a smile – although I’m sure they weren’t quite so funny at the time.

Cari’s experience of being pregnant, giving birth and looking after a tiny baby will chime with all people who have done the same as she tells it like it is in a really accessible way – if you’re not a parent and maybe think this book isn’t for you, think again, as it speaks to some universal experiences of being an older woman and is very often hilarious!

Drawing on the embarrassing, the upsetting and the the wonderful experiences of being a mum, this book is a fantastic memoir that all parents will enjoy.

The Secret Diary of a New Mum is published by Duckworth Books.

To find out more about Cari Rosen, you can check out her website. Alternatively you can connect with her on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of The Secret Diary of a New Mum – there are some other fab blogs taking part, so be sure to check them out below.

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

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