#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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Blog Tour: Dreaming of Italy by T. A. Williams

Up for a dream promotion, Emma won’t let anything get in her way – not even love.

Working for a major Hollywood film company isn’t all glitz and glam. But when Emma gets sent to tour around Italy to scout the perfect location for a new blockbuster movie, she’s not going to complain. Especially when it could make or break her career…

Historical adviser Mark is a distraction that Emma does not need. As they explore the beauty of Italy, though, Emma starts to fall for the mysterious historian, finding herself torn between her job and her heart.

From the wild, northern mountains of Piedmont, down the vibrant coast of Cinque Terre and through the rolling hills of Tuscany, Emma’s journey becomes one of self-discovery as she questions her priorities in life.

What I Thought:

Sad to say that today I bring you the final book on the Dreaming of… series by T. A. Williams. Sad because this is a series of books I’ve really enjoyed, and I would happily read many, many more.

Dreaming of Italy takes a different approach to some of the others in the series, in that we are not in one individual city, but on a tour of this beautiful country, following a location scouting party for a new Hollywood movie. This is a great idea as it allows the book to weave through many contrasting locations over a long period of time and it also stays off the main tourist trails and introduces the reader to locations off the beaten track.

T. A. Williams obviously knows his stuff when it comes to Italy, as there is heaps of historical information, coupled with beautifully evocative descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells – some of the meals the party eats will have you drooling!

The romantic plots in these books alway deliver by the time the novel wraps up and this book in particular is quite touching. Emma, the main character in this book, is slightly older than the usual heroine and – I guess because I am feeling especially old as I come up to my birthday – this made me like her just that little bit more.

As I said, I’m sad that this lovely book series has come to an end, but that certainly won’t stop me picking up more from T. A. Williams as, for a read that will take you away from your troubles, his books definitely can’t be beat!

Dreaming of Italy is published by Canelo.

To find out more about T. A. Williams, you can check out his website. Alternatively, why not connect with him on Twitter?

This post is part of a blog blitz to celebrate the release of Dreaming of Italy – do check out the #DreamingofItaly hashtag for more reviews, exclusive content and giveaways…

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

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Book Review: The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith

Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto. 

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell… and Earth.

What I Thought:

What’s not to love about a book featuring a library and a librarian – and a kickass librarian at that? In picking up The Library of the Unwritten, I was immediately drawn in by the idea that every book that is started and never finished is contained within a library in Hell. As a chronic starter of bits and bobs of writing, this struck a chord with me – what if all of those terrible paragraphs that will hopefully never see the light of day are just sat somewhere, waiting to be finished??

This book is my kind of fantasy, that which has fantastical elements, but still retains enough of the contemporary. Our librarian travels to Earth to capture the Hero, but then she also travels from realm to realm in the afterlife on the hunt for a mystical book that a pair of mentally unhinged angels also seem to be after.

The world-building is excellent, weaving mythology with creative license to create settings full of menace and danger. I could see further adventures of Claire and her gang in these and many more realms of the afterlife.

Claire is such an interesting hero – she is in Hell, so she’s obviously complex, and I feel that there is much, much more of her to explore in future books – it’s no coincidence that one of the cover quotes alludes to a series – I hope there’s plenty more where this came from!

The Library of the Unwritten is published by Titan Books.

To find out more about A. J. Hackwith and her work (including the second book in this series), you can check out her website. 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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Book Review: The Vinyl Detective: Victory Disc by Andrew Cartmel

When one of his cats accidentally discovers a rare Victory Disc, the Vinyl Detective and his girlfriend Nevada are whisked into the world of big band swing music, and a mystery that began during the Second World War.

Hired to track down the rest of the highly sought-after recordings of the Flare Path Orchestra, our hero will discover that the battles of the last world war aren’t over yet. And if all this sounds simple, it’s only because we haven’t mentioned drive-by shootings, murderous neo-Nazis, or that slight case of being buried alive…

What I Thought:

Having read both of the earlier Vinyl Detective books, I was eager to read Victory Disc as I’ve found the books to be really fun adventure stories – this book was certainly in keeping. What starts as a chance discovery by one of the cats (I LOVE the cats in these books btw) leads to a full-scale search for WW2-era recordings, and the chance to solve a murder.

I think what I like most about these books is that the lead character (we still don’t know his name) is just an ordinary bloke. Starting out as a record collector and dealer and – thanks to the drunken printing of some business cards – becoming the go-to man for tracking down rare records is all done by accident, but he handles each situation with aplomb, helped in no short measure by his espionage-loving girlfriend and his quirky friends.

Victory Disc in particular appeals to me due to the WW2 connections. There is some good period detail as witnesses speak to the detective and the research into the Big Bands is excellent, as is the nitty-gritty of record collecting – it’s not an instruction manual by any means, but if you felt like collecting at any point, you could do worse than taking the detective’s advice!

The mystery plot, as ever, is very well put together, with details left along the way that you’ll not realise were important until you look back and, once things become clear, there is a flash/bang ending.

Luckily for me, there is a book 4 available, which I look forward to getting to soon!

Victory Disc is published by Titan Books.

To find out more about Andrew Cartmel and his work, you can check out his blog. Alternatively, why not connect with him on Twitter?

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

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