Blog Tour: 10 Things I Loved About Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole

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I’m thrilled to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole and to share with you my thoughts about this fantastic book. Reading this over the past couple of days, I feel as if I’ve been transported back to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Do check out the posts of the fabulous bloggers hosting the other stops on the tour.  If you’re in the US, via the tour page, you can enter the giveaway to win a SIGNED copy of Woman Enters Left (closes 6th October).


WomanEntersLeftAbout the Book

1950s movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: she has inherited the estate of Florence “Florrie” Daniels, a Hollywood screenwriter she barely recalls meeting. Among Florrie’s possessions are several unproduced screenplays, personal journals, and – inexplicably – old photographs of Louise’s mother, Ethel. On an impulse, Louise leaves a film shoot in Las Vegas and sets off for her father’s house on the East Coast, hoping for answers about the curious inheritance and, perhaps, about her own troubled marriage.

Nearly thirty years earlier, Florrie takes off on an adventure of her own, driving her Model T westward from New Jersey in pursuit of broader horizons. She has the promise of a Hollywood job and, in the passenger seat, Ethel, her best friend since childhood. Florrie will do anything for Ethel, who is desperate to reach Nevada in time to reconcile with her husband and reunite with her daughter. Ethel fears the loss of her marriage; Florrie, with long-held secrets confided only in her journal, fears its survival.

In parallel tales, the three women – Louise, Florrie, Ethel – discover that not all journeys follow a map. As they rediscover their carefree selves on the road, they learn that sometimes the paths we follow are shaped more by our traveling companions than by our destinations.

Format: Paperback, ebook (352 pp.)     Publisher: Ballantine Books
Published: 8th August 2017                     Genre: Historical Fiction

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk ǀ Amazon.com ǀ Barnes & Noble ǀ iTunes ǀ Indiebound ǀ Kobo
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Woman Enters Left on Goodreads


10 Things I Loved About Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole

  1. It’s built around three strong female characters and presents a wonderful and moving picture of female love and friendship.
  2. Its evocation of the glamorous and not so glamorous aspects of the Golden Ages of Hollywood – the studios, the actors, the screenwriters, the casting couch…
  3. The brilliantly observed period detail in each timeline. The clothes, the make-up, the cocktails, the food – creamed chipped beef on toast, slumgullion stew, shrimp wiggle, croquettes.
  4. The carefully-constructed narrative structure, with the story moving back and forth between the two timelines: the 1926 narrative told through Ethel’s and Florrie’s journals, each in their distinctive style, interspersed with excerpts from Florrie’s unpublished screenplay; the 1952 narrative told from Louise’s point of view, with other documents used to fill in the period between 1926 and 1952.
  5. The fascinating road trip along Route 66 with its campsites, dude ranches, motels and, dare I say it, cinematic scenery.
  6. The multi-layered narrative that, as well as the central story of the three women, covers issues as diverse as the blacklisting of screenwriters/actors in the 1950s and the activities of The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), workplace safety and sexual freedom (or lack of it), the Korean war and post-combat stress.
  7. Its themes: of unintended consequences and the guilt that can arise from these; missed opportunities in life, career and love; the need to seize second chances.
  8. The sparkling dialogue, particularly between Louise and Arnie, that’s straight out of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in, say, Woman of the Year
  9. The frequent allusions to life as a film script from the title itself, Woman Enters Left to the way the characters see themselves and interpret their experiences: ‘She can picture it now, a shot on the screen in Technicolor. The red car, the brown desert, the dark-haired actress running away from it all with her wicker suitcase.’  ‘But what does the scene call for? What would the script say?’
  10. The brilliant ending – pure Hollywood!

Not too difficult to guess that I adored this book. It has it all: romance, glamour, authentic period detail and a compelling narrative. If someone doesn’t snap up the film rights, they’re missing a trick.

Highly recommended…and all Jessica’s previous books just got added to my TBR.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of HF Virtual Book Tours in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Stylish, dramatic, compelling

Watch something similar… A Star is Born [1954], Hail, Caesar! [2016], Trumbo [2015]


JessicaBrockmoleAbout the Author

Jessica Brockmole is the author of At the Edge of Summer, the internationally bestselling Letters from Skye, which was named one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, and Something Worth Landing For, a novella featured in Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War. She lives in northern Indiana with her husband, two children, and far too many books.

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Blog Tour: 10 Things I Loved About Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech

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I’m thrilled that it’s finally my turn (along with the lovely Chapter in my Life) to host today’s stop on the blog tour for Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech.   It seems like everywhere I’ve looked for about the past two months other book bloggers have been raving about this book. Do you know what? They were right.   My first act after turning the last page – apart from having a little sniffle – was to move Louise’s previous two books (The Mountain in my Shoe and How To Be Brave) closer to the top of my TBR pile.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of Anne at Random Things Through My Letterbox and publishers, Orenda Books, in return for an honest review.

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MariaintheMoonAbout the Book

Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’

Thirty-one-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges… and changes everything.  Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

Format: Paperback (276 pp.)                     Publisher: Orenda Books
Published: 30th Sep 2017                            Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk ǀ Amazon.com ǀ iBooks
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Maria in the Moon on Goodreads

 


10 Things I Loved About Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech

  1. Using the 2007 floods in Hull as a pivotal event. Having, thankfully, never experienced such a traumatic event personally, it really brought home to me the long term consequences for people affected. From practical things – like the length of time it takes to dry out a home or the shortage of trades people to carry out repairs – to less obvious things – like the sense of displacement, the trauma associated with having your home and personal space invaded, the loss of possessions with a sentimental value and the emotional scars that can persist for years afterwards. “The rain caused all sorts of problems.” He slurped his coffee. “People clearing out their ruined belongings remembered things long buried: affairs, given-up babies, secret abortions. We hear these stories every day.”
  2. The callers to Flood Crisis.  I found their stories moving and Catherine’s response to their stories even more moving. Thank God, such resources exist and that people exist to volunteer to take on such roles.  Their stories also form an extremely clever aspect to the book in a number of ways. For example, Catherine’s compulsion to listen to others’ problems, to fill her memory with details of their troubles, is a way to block out her own. ‘I remembered all the calls. While my memory discarded my own history, it had no trouble with people who needed me to remember.’
  3. The significance of names. That nothing is more annoying than deliberately getting someone’s name wrong every time you meet them (especially if they’re particularly annoying themselves – hello, Sharleen/Celine, we’re talking about you).  That nothing is more embarrassing then referring to someone by the nickname you’ve secretly given them, especially if it’s rather cruel. That the meaning behind names is important – like whether you’re “Mum” or “Mother” – and that we are to a certain extent characterised (at least for ourselves) by our names. That certain words can trigger painful memories.
  4. The humour.  The nicknames – Aunty Hairy, Jangly Jane, Condom Kath.  Catherine’s banter with Christopher, which supports my theory that if you find someone with whom you share a sense of humour that’s a sign of a good relationship.
  5. The supporting cast. My particularly favourites were Catherine’s best friend, the outrageous Fern, and Catherine’s lovely Aunt Mary.
  6. The acute observation of the writing about everyday things.  Like the ritual of formal family meals, when everyone’s trying not to say or do anything out of turn, but it won’t be long before someone does. ‘They were all in the dining room. Like actors in a weekly soap opera they’d assumed the usual positions: Mother at the top near the walnut cabinet that displayed her pottery creations, me next to Celine, Graham opposite us with his back against the wall where the Constable print hung. The best blue-and-white swirly china was being given its weekly outing, and a silk cloth hid the plain table.’  Like the kitchen drawers that can only be opened one at a time. 
  7. The character of Catherine. Yes, she’s spiky, a bit scruffy, rude to her mother and step-sister, clumsy, moody, thoughtless at times. But who hasn’t put their foot in it by saying the wrong thing or making a joke at an inopportune moment or laughed without thinking or meaning to when you should have expressed sorrow or horror? And Catherine has a wonderfully witty sense of humour, resilience and fantastic empathy with the callers to the crisis line. Most of all, she’s unbelievably brave.
  8. It made me think. About the nature of memory. About the things we choose to remember, those we choose to forget and those things we’ve even forgotten that we’ve forgotten. “We forget nothing – memories are always there. We’re just afraid to look. But why? Fear is just fear. All we have to do is look, and we won’t be afraid.”
  9. The ending. After all the emotions the author put us through as readers, I reckon we deserved that ending. To my mind, the sign of a great book is when the characters live so vividly in your mind that you feel as invested in what happens to them as (whisper) your own family.
  10. Finally, I loved that Louise Beech took the time to name check so many book bloggers and reviewers in her Acknowledgments. But, really, she doesn’t need to thank us because the joy we get from reading books as wonderful as Maria in the Moon is thanks enough.

LouiseBeech2About the Author

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe, was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines.

Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.

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Book Review: 10 Things I Loved About Stranger by David Bergen

StrangerCoverAbout the Book

Íso Perdido, a young Guatemalan woman, works at a fertility clinic at Ixchel, named for the Mayan goddess of creation and destruction. Íso tends to the rich women who visit the clinic for the supposed conception-enhancing properties of the local lake. She is also the lover of Dr. Mann, the American doctor in residence. When an accident forces the doctor to leave Guatemala abruptly, Íso is abandoned, pregnant. After the birth, tended to by the manager of the clinic, the baby disappears. Determined to reclaim her daughter, Íso follows a trail north, eventually crossing illegally into a United States where the rich live in safe zones, walled away from the indigent masses. Travelling without documentation, and with little money, Íso must penetrate this world, and in this place of menace and shifting boundaries, she must determine who she can trust and how much, aware that she might lose her daughter forever.

Format: Hardback (272 pp.)   Publisher: Duckworth Overlook
Published: 7th Sep 2017           Genre: Literary Fiction

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk ǀ Amazon.com ǀ Barnes & Noble
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Stranger on Goodreads

10 Things I Loved About Stranger

  1. First of all can we talk about that gorgeous cover? As soon as I received the book from the lovely people at Duckworth, I knew this was a book I was going to pick up and read straightaway. There’s something about that face, those eyes and the rich colours that enticed me.
  2. The writing is beautiful: simple, concise, elegant and, at times, magical. ‘Thursday evening, alone, she walked and walked. At one point, crowds of people were walking against her, moving towards the stadium. She put her head down and pushed forward into the commotion, banging shoulders with the passersby, hearing them speak, and their bodies and their voices were like scraps of wood that she received, and with those scraps she fashioned a raft upon which she floated, and she turned the raft and moved downstream with the crowd.’
  3. I loved the insight into the culture and people of Guatemala: the food they eat, how they travel, their houses and shops, the music they listen to. I was enchanted by the picture the author creates of Íso’s lakeside village. ‘The sun had set. The houses were lit. Young boys walked hand in hand in the streets, and a child squatted near to her family’s tienda. Nearby, an old woman sat before her fruit press, her clean glasses stacked beside the basket of oranges. Íso greeted everyone she met, and they greeted her in return.
  4. I fell in love with Íso. She’s brave, clever, thoughtful, resilient and utterly determined to reclaim her child whatever obstacles are placed in her path. ‘She inspected her heart. The hatred had been exhilarating. And welcome. And crippling. And exhausting. And very dangerous. For passion, anguish, jealousy, and anger would produce nothing but mistakes, and false steps, and failure. A cold heart was necessary.’
  5. I adored Íso’s mother. She has such insight about humanity, with all its flaws. ‘There was something about living in a country where the language was not yours. You appeared to be stupid, and you weren’t noticed. Or if you were noticed, if was for your body, or to clean someone’s toilet, or to look after someone’s child. You turned into someone to chase or to scorn or to look down on. It was necessary, wherever you lived, to have the poor so that everyone else felt better.’ Senora Perdido’s own story is heartbreaking but the wisdom she takes from her experiences to pass on to her daughter is incredible: ‘You are smarter, and you are better inside, and you will not make the same mistakes I made. Do you see?
  6. Throughout Íso’s perilous journey in search of her child, the people who help her most are those who have least. The book creates an incredible picture of the generosity of spirit of people who possess little themselves but what they do have, they share.
  7. Stranger presents an eloquent but depressing picture of inequality in our world. There is the world of people sleeping in doorways, or in makeshift encampments or living in squats and scavenging for food in dumpsters behind supermarkets. And then there is the world of gated communities where Íso eventually finds work, patrolled by security guards with security cameras inside and out and where the occupants throw lavish dinner parties. ‘She learned that her employers…were fearful, not so much of the day to day, but of the possibility that what they had might be taken from them – their advantage, their security – and this being so, they celebrated their fragile security by living extravagantly, by throwing large parties, and by spending large amounts of money on objects they would never use.’
  8. Stranger depicts the brutal reality of the dangers faced by desperate people trying to enter the United States illegally via a kind of modern day Underground Railway, which operates by virtue of bribes and officials who look the other way, but whose organisers have no regard for the safety of the people they transport.
  9. I loved how the book explored the incredible bond between mother and child, whether it’s the touching relationship between Íso and her mother, or the maternal force so strong that it sustains Íso half way across America, through untold dangers, to recover her child.
  10. It made me think. About inequality, about the desperation that drives people to leave their homes in search of a better life and about how people see the world in different ways. Íso’s story will stay with me for a long time.

There you have it: my 10 reasons to read this book. I cannot recommend it too highly.

I received an advance reading copy courtesy of publishers, Duckworth Overlook, in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Moving, powerful, compelling


DavidBergenAbout the Author

David Bergen is the award-winning author of eight previous novels and a collection of short stories. A Year of Lesser was a New York Times Notable Book, and The Case of Lena S. was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. In 2005, Bergen won the Giller Prize for The Time in Between. The Matter with Morris was shortlisted for the Giller Prize in 2010, won the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award and the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, and was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Bergen currently resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba with his family.

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Book Review: Vindolanda by Adrian Goldsworthy

Gripping tale of rebellion and treachery in Roman Britain

VindolandaAbout the Book

Publisher’s description: AD 98 – The bustling army base at Vindolanda lies on the northern frontier of Britannia and the entire Roman world. In twenty years’ time, the Emperor Hadrian will build his famous wall, but for now defences are weak, as tribes rebel against Roman rule, and local druids preach the fiery destruction of the invaders. Flavius Ferox is a Briton and a Roman centurion, given the task of keeping the peace on this wild frontier. But it will take more than just courage to survive life in Roman Britain…

Book Facts

  • Format: ebook
  • Publisher: Head of Zeus
  • No. of pages: 416
  • Publication date: 1st June 2017
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

To pre-order/purchase Vindolanda from Amazon.co.uk, click here (link provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme)

Find Vindolanda on Goodreads


My Review

In Vindolanda, the author has created what feels like an incredibly authentic view of life on the far reaches of the Roman Empire.   Adrian Goldsworthy has a terrific pedigree in this regard as a respected historian who has published numerous non-fiction books on the Roman Empire. What comes across vividly in this book is the sense of the multiplicity of different nationalities making up the Roman Empire and its army, each with their own customs, loyalties and languages and only loosely held together by their oath to serve the Emperor.

Into this mix comes Flavius Ferox, a centurion in the Roman army but a Briton by birth, tasked with keeping the peace in the northernmost part of Roman Britain where a complex structure of different tribes exist. As Ferox observes: ‘I’m on the edge of the empire, almost the edge of the world, if you like. I can see where it ends.’ Added to this, there is word of an uprising that is not just a single tribe causing difficulty but a coalition of people with ‘a mishmash of beliefs from all over the world, twisted into one message of hate and destruction’, incited by a mysterious spiritual leader to engage in a ‘holy war’ against the Roman Empire.   For me, this had echoes of recent conflicts in parts of the world such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. If that wasn’t enough, there may be treachery afoot from those in the Roman nobility who wish to undermine the current emperor, Trajan and for whom such an uprising would aid their cause. In situations such as this who can you trust?

Flavius Ferox makes an ideal hero for this type of book. He’s clever, resourceful but a bit of a maverick and not afraid to challenge his superiors in order to uncover the truth. In fact, we learn this has got him into trouble in the past hence his current posting. There’s a hint of a past relationship that ended in sadness, he can be prone to periods of melancholy during which he finds solace in the wine jug and he has an eye for a beautiful lady. Really he could be a Roman Inspector Morse (but without the crosswords)!

‘Idleness did not suit Ferox, for it gave him too much time to brood and to sink into black moods, when drink seemed the only shelter.’

In the process of tackling the uprising and unravelling the mystery, Ferox gets involved in plenty of action which is vividly depicted with convincing detail about Roman military tactics and weaponry. So if you don’t know your gladius from your pilum, you soon will.   Everything is satisfyingly brought together at the close of the book. The final few lines give me hope that this is not the last we’ve heard of Flavius Ferox.

This was an absolutely cracking read that will be enjoyed by any historical fiction fan, especially those with an interest in Roman history. But really, if you enjoy books with plenty of action regardless of what time period they are set in, then do give this a try.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers Head of Zeus in return for an honest review.

To find out more about the history of Vindolanda, visit the Vindolanda Trust website:

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In three words: Gripping, realistic, action-packed

Try something similar…The Man from Berlin by Luke McCallin (completely different time period but I thought the two protagonists had similarities)


AdrianGoldsworthyAbout the Author

Adrian Goldsworthy was born in 1969 in Cardiff.  He was educated in Penarth and then read Ancient and Modern History at St. John’s College, Oxford, where he subsequently completed his doctorate in ancient history. His D.Phil. thesis was the basis for his first book, The Roman Army At War 100 BC – AD 200, which looked at how the Roman army actually operated on campaign and in battle. He is the bestselling author of numerous books about Ancient Rome including Caesar: The Life of a Colossus, The Punic Wars and How Rome Fell. He is now a full time writer, and no longer teaches, although he is currently a Visiting Fellow at the University of Newcastle. However, he frequently gives one off lectures and talks both to universities and other groups in the UK, USA, Canada, and Europe. He frequently appears as a talking head or presenter in TV documentaries and has acted as consultant on both documentaries and dramas. He will appear in six of the eight episodes of the forthcoming When Rome Ruled series for National Geographic. He often appears on radio.

Connect with Adrian

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Book Review: These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper

‘Within its walls, people kiss. They talk, they laugh; someone cries, perhaps. A few are glad to sit alone. Others wish that they did not.’ Meet the residents of Number 37

TheseDividingWallsAbout the Book

Publisher’s description: In a forgotten corner of Paris stands a building. Within its walls, people talk and kiss, laugh and cry; some are glad to sit alone, while others wish they did not. A woman with silver-blonde hair opens her bookshop downstairs, an old man feeds the sparrows on his windowsill, and a young mother wills the morning to hold itself at bay. Though each of their walls touches someone else’s, the neighbours they pass in the courtyard remain strangers.   Into this courtyard arrives Edward. Still bearing the sweat of a channel crossing, he takes his place in an attic room to wait out his grief. But in distant corners of the city, as Paris is pulled taut with summer heat, there are those who meet with a darker purpose. As the feverish metropolis is brought to boiling point, secrets will rise and walls will crumble both within and without Number 37…

Book Facts

  • Format: ebook
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
  • No. of pages: 250
  • Publication date: 16th May 2017
  • Genre: Literary Fiction

My Review (5 out of 5)

I was really, really impressed with this book; despite being a debut is it has such an assured feel to it. From the beginning I was drawn into the stories of the various individuals living at Number 37, storing up the nuggets of information provided by the author about each character. I felt a bit like James Stewart’s character in Hitchcock’s Rear Window, eavesdropping on the residents of the neighbouring apartments.

Number 37 seems to act as a microcosm of society, not just French society.   There are secrets, frustrations, unhappy memories, prejudice, loneliness, depression, love and loss. But there are also new beginnings, reconciliations and a coming together in adversity.

The author very cleverly connects the intimate personal stories to the wider political situation in France where tensions over unemployment, immigration and change threaten to boil over in the sweltering heat of a Paris summer. Reading this in the wake of the terror attack in London, the events depicted and the emotions that gave rise to them really resonated.

I absolutely loved this book and I can’t wait to read more from the author who I’m sure has a glittering career ahead of her. Highly recommended.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers, Hodder & Stoughton, in return for an honest review.

To buy a copy of These Dividing Walls from Amazon.co.uk, click here (link is provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme)

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In three words: Engaging, thoughtful, intimate


FranCooperAbout the Author

Fran Cooper grew up in London before reading English at Cambridge and Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She spent three years in Paris writing a PhD about travelling eighteenth-century artists, and currently works at a London museum. These Dividing Walls is her first novel.

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