Blog Tour: Magnificent Women and Their Revolutionary Machines by Henrietta Heald

In 1919, in the wake of the First World War, a group of extraordinary women came together to create the Women’s Engineering Society. They were trailblazers, pioneers and boundary breakers, but many of their stories have been lost to history. To mark the centenary of the society’s creation, Magnificent Women and Their Revolutionary Machines brings them back to life.

Their leaders were Katharine and Rachel Parsons, wife and daughter of the engineering genius Charles Parsons, and Caroline Haslett, a self-taught electrical engineer who campaigned to free women from domestic drudgery and became the most powerful professional woman of her age. Also featured are Eleanor Shelley-Rolls, sister of car magnate Charles Rolls; Viscountess Rhondda, a director of thirty-three companies who founded and edited the revolutionary Time and Tide magazine; and Laura Willson, a suffragette and labour rights activist from Halifax, who was twice imprisoned for her political activities.This is not just the story of the women themselves, but also the era in which they lived. Beginning at the moment when women in Britain were allowed to vote for the first time, and to stand for Parliament and when several professions were opened up to them Magnificent Women charts the changing attitudes towards women in society and in the workplace.

What I Thought:

The Victorian era and early 20th Century seems to have been a golden age for technological advancement and invention, but all too often we hear about the inventiveness of men, and history tends to gloss over the contribution made to techological advancement by women.

In Magnificent Women and their Revolutionary Machines, Henrietta Heald tries to put that right by introducing us to a generation of exceptional female engineers on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES).

For a start, this is such a readable book, as it makes connections between many well-known inventions and inventors, and then shows where the women involved in these things were subtly written out of the narrative. With the main thrust of the book being the founding of the WES after the First World War, there is a chapter dedicated to those women who answered the call to fill in in the munitions factories when the men were called to war, and were then unceremoniously dumped once the war ended. With blunt instruments like the Restoration of Pre-war Practices bill, there was a sweeping move to put women firmly back into the kitchen but these women were not ready to go quietly.

There is much to induce rage in this book – not least of which is the bill I mentioned above – including women not being granted degrees from Cambridge University until 1948, like a large number of women being turned down for fellowship of industry bodies and many other instances where women were considered to be inferior in brainpower and strength to men, but there are also countless inspirational women who not only break through into their chosen professions, but also hold the door open for younger women to follow them.

From Naval and aeronauctical design, to flying solo around the world, so many different women in a diverse range of fields are represented here in a tribute to the pioneering spirit of the women of the early 20th Century and, with an afterword by Dawn Childs, current President of the the WES, there is much more to look forward to from more Magnificent Women. Although this does come with a caveat – still, only 11% of professional engineers in the UK are women, hopefully a number that will continue to grow with the help of WES and organisations like it.

This is a timely book given recent initiatives to increase the number of women and girls studying STEM subjects and it’s definitely an eye opener. Highly recommended from me, another fantastic project published through Unbound.

To find out more about Henrietta Heald and her work, you can connect with her on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of Magnificent Women and their Revolutionary Machines – do be sure to check out some of the other fantastic blogs taking part:

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

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Book Review: The Foundling’s Daughter by Ann Bennett

In 1934, Anne Foster, the wife of a British Army Officer, privately harbouring pain and remorse, sets sail from Bombay on a fateful journey home, a letter from a charismatic stranger — orphanage superintendent, Reverend Ezra Burroughs — in her pocket.

Seventy-six years later, Connie Burroughs, Ezra’s daughter, now in her nineties and in a care home, still lives in fear of her dead father. She guards his secrets loyally, but with a lifetime of regrets.

Sarah Jennings, escaping an unhappy marriage, moves to be near her ageing father. She buys Cedar Lodge, the crumbling former home of the Burroughs family, a renovation project she hopes will bring peace of mind to trying times. But she’s not prepared for the shocking secrets she uncovers. Determined to track down the past, Sarah embarks on a quest to expose the chilling events that took place at Ezra Burroughs’ orphanage in the 1930s; a quest that will ultimately change her life.

What I Thought:

Having read Ann Bennett’s excellent trilogy of novels based in South-East Asia, I was delighted to pick up The Foundling’s Daughter.

Although we’ve moved from Thailand and Malaysia to India, the evocative descriptions of rainforest, busy Indian cities and deserted jungle palaces are just as well-written, providing a clear sense of place and time.

The historical part of the story takes place at the height of the British Raj, but rather than glorifying the British in India (which goes on far too much these days for my liking), it shows something of the seemier side of that society, and the realities of young women embroiled in scandal moving to the other side of the world to snag themselves a husband and respectability.

To be fair to Anne, although that is what ends up happening to her, it is clearly not her initial intention, which we learn through diary entries cut between the more modern parts of the book.

I liked Sarah, the main, modern character and it was fun to follow her through her discoveries as she delved more into the Burroughs orphanage and its connections to her own life. Her collaboration with Connie Burroughs, whose fear of her father’s influence had kept her silent for so many years was an interesting dynamic, as Connie fought her own distrust, to eventually open up after a shocking discovery.

As I said, I’ve enjoyed Ann’s previous novels, and this is a thrilling and mysterious addition to her collection.

To find out more about Ann Bennett, her work and her love of India, you can check out her website. Alternatively, you can connect with her on Twitter.

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

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Blog Tour: The Love Delusion by Nicola Mostyn

LOVE IS . . . A MYTH?

The Love Delusion Cover

That’s the belief of Frida McKenzie, devoted member of The Love Delusion movement, determined to cure humans of our ridiculous obsession with love.

But there’s something she’s forgotten…

When Frida finds a mysterious picture of herself with a man she barely knows, the certainties she has about her world begin to unravel.

What are the sinister roots of the cult that seems to have gripped humanity? Why can’t she remember anything about her life before – including the strange(ly attractive) man in that picture? And just when exactly did she take up fantasy role play?

As a battle approaches that’s been millennia in the making, it’s beginning to look like there’s only one question that really matters: if love conquers all, what happens when it’s gone?

What I Thought:

I try not to judge a book by its cover, but I am ashamed to say that I picked up Nicola Mostyn’s The Love Delusion solely based on the fantastic, bright, bold cover. Lucky for me then that the book inside more than matched up to the cover design!

Although I was not aware at the time, The Love Delusion is the second in the Gods of Love series, which brings the myths and legends of ancient Greece screeching into the present day. I will admit to sometimes feeling as though I was missing something by not reading the first book first, but it didn’t really detract from what was a thrilling and original story.

I went back and bought The Gods of Love, as I loved Nicola Mostyn’s writing and the characters of Frida and Dan. If you know your Greek Gods, then you’ll be miles ahead of the curve, but it isn’t really necessary, as their back stories are expertly explained in the book.

We all get stuck in a reading rut from time to time and, recently, I’ve fallen into the trap of reading quite a few books that are similar in theme, but this book was a refreshing change, with lots to love about it.

I think the most interesting thing in the book was how quickly and easily the Love Delusion cult was able to grow. I know this is fiction, but it’s easy to see how these things get started and whip people up – take a regular person and tell them that the reason they are unpopular/have a crappy job/don’t have any money is that society is unfairly based around couples and you can see how easy it might be for the disaffected and vulnerable to be swayed. This may be an extreme example, but we see similar things everyday, especially on the internet. Whether she intended to or not, Nicola Mostyn has made an interesting comment on these things…

Definitely recommended, I’ll feed back about The Gods of Love at a later date…

The Love Delusion is published by Piatkus Books.

To find out more about The Love Delusion and Nicola Mostyn, you can check out her website, or you can connect with her on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate The Love Delusion. Why not check out some of the blogs below for more reviews and other exclusive content?

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

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Blog Tour: The Road to Cromer Pier by Martin Gore

Janet’s first love arrives out of the blue after thirty years. Those were simpler times for them both. Sunny childhood beach holidays, fish and chips and big copper pennies clunking into one armed bandits.

The Wells family has run the Cromer Pier Summertime Special Show for generations. But it’s now 2009 and the recession is biting hard. Owner Janet Wells and daughter Karen are facing an uncertain future. The show must go on, and Janet gambles on a fading talent show star. But both the star and the other cast members have their demons. This is a story of love, loyalty and luvvies. The road to Cromer Pier might be the end of their careers, or it might just be a new beginning. 

What I Thought:

As traditional as chips and a 99, The Road to Cromer Pier takes us to a struggling summer show at the height of the financial crash. It’s a clever move, setting this at a time when the ‘staycation’ was becoming popular, as it allows the plot to advance, while recalling the glory years of seaside resorts such as Cromer.

At first, I was not sure what was going on in this novel, but as I realised that the various chapters were from the points of view of the main characters, seemingly unrelated at first, but tying up nicely as the book went on, it became a much easier read.

Commenting on such things as football scandals, the farce of TV talent shows and – as I said – the financial crash, The Road to Cromer Pier covers a lot of very interesting ground but still, at heart, remains a very human story of teenage love and loss, and also has an element of ‘The Show Must Go On’ beloved of many mid-century British movies. There is even a dastardly villain who gets his comeuppance to boo and hiss.

Evoking what’s best about the British seaside, this book firmly taps into the nostalgia market, but with a fairly modern edge to it – perfect for the summer reading pile.

To find out more about The Road to Cromer Pier, and Martin Gore, you can catch up with him on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the release of The Road to Cromer Pier. There is some more great content and reviews at the blogs below, so do make sure to check them out…

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

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A Blog A Day: All Done!!

Well – I set out on the month of June, hoping to post almost every day, and clear some of the reviews that I’d promised and also write a few bits and bobs about other things.

I think I missed 2 days, aside from the scheduled Sundays, so I’m going to call it a win!

Writing about Matilda had me looking forward to seeing it again (which I am this week) and taking a look at the Lacey Flint books reminded me to re-read them in the near future, as they are just so good!

I’d be interested to know which, if any, posts caught your eye this month…

I did say at the beginning that I would run a giveaway this month – I didn’t get to it, so I will do it now to celebrate finishing up. Head over to my Twitter and check out the pinned post to see what you can win…

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