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Blog Tour: Thirteen Ways to Smell a Tree – David George Haskell

Thirteen Ways to Smell a Tree takes you on a journey to connect with trees through the sense most aligned to our emotions and memories. Thirteen essays are included that explore the evocative scents of trees, from the smell of a book just printed as you first open its pages, to the calming scent of Linden blossom, to the ingredients of a particularly good gin & tonic:

In your hand: a highball glass, beaded with cool moisture.

In your nose: the aromatic embodiment of globalized trade. The spikey, herbal odour of European juniper berries. A tang of lime juice from a tree descended from wild progenitors in the foothills of the Himalayas. Bitter quinine, from the bark of the South American cinchona tree, spritzed into your nostrils by the pop of sparkling tonic water.

Take a sip, feel the aroma and taste three continents converge.

Thirteen Ways to Smell a Tree also contains everyday practices the reader is invited to experience. For example, taking a tree inventory of your own home, appreciating just how many things around us came from trees. And if you’ve ever hugged a tree when no one was looking, try breathing in the scents of different trees that live near you, the smell of pine after the rain, the refreshing, mind-clearing scent of a eucalyptus leaf crushed in your hand.

David Haskell is a writer and biologist known for his integration of science, lyrical writing, and close observation of the living world. The late E. O. Wilson said of his writing that it is “…a new genre of nature writing, located between science and poetry”. Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize winner and director of the Knight Science Journalism program at MIT, wrote that he “may be the finest literary nature writer working today”.

Haskell’s books — The Forest Unseen, The Songs of Trees, Thirteen Ways to Smell a Tree, and Sounds Wild and Broken — are acclaimed for their attention to the richness of the living world and the ecological and evolutionary stories that bring this richness into being. They have won numerous awards including the US National Academies’ Best Book Award, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in non-fiction, Reed Environmental Writing Award, National Outdoor Book Award, Iris Book Award, and John Burroughs Medal.

Born in London, brought up in France, he has lived for the last thirty years in various parts of the United States, including Tennessee, Colorado, and New York. Haskell received his BA from the University of Oxford and PhD from Cornell University. He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, a Guggenheim Fellow, and Professor at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, where he has received numerous awards for excellence in teaching.

In a world beset by barriers, his work reminds us that life’s substance and beauty emerge from relationship and interdependence. Find him at dghaskell.com or on social media @DGHaskell (Twitter), DavidGeorgeHaskell (Instagram and Facebook).

My thoughts: this was a very interesting little book. In 13 essays exploring the history of trees, either individually or taken as a whole (there are chapters on books, gin and olive oil as well as oaks, gingko, and ash) and their vital importance, impact and role in our lives.

We probably don’t notice the trees around us the way we should, and although I’m not sure I’m quite at the sniffing trees stage, I certainly want to engage more with nature. London supposedly has enough trees to technically be a forest, although sometimes it can be hard to find them amid our concrete and glass.

But without trees human history would be very different and they remain so very central to life today. These essays cover a huge range of time, geography and uses – paper, food, fuel, health, that trees have been used for by us, while also providing homes and food for thousands of birds, animals and insects.

Whether you’re a nature lover or just curious about history or the environment, this book is worth a little read.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Book Blitz: Sex and the City: A Cultural History – Nicole Evelina

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Are You a Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, or Miranda? Read more about Sex and the City: A Cultural History by Nicole Evelina and pre-order a copy today!

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Sex in the City: A Cultural History

Expected Publication Date: November 15, 2022

Genre: TV/ Pop Culture

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

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An insightful look at the cultural impact of the television phenomenon Sex and the City.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, one word was on everyone’s lips: sex. Sex and the City had taken the United States, and the world, by storm. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha influenced how a generation of women think, practice, and talk about sex, allowing them to embrace their sexual desires publicly and unlocking the idea of women as sexual beings on par with men.

In Sex and the City: A Cultural History, Nicole Evelina provides a fascinating, in-depth look at the show’s characters, their relationships, and the issues the show confronted. From sexuality and feminism to friendship and motherhood, Evelina reveals how the series impacted viewers in the 1990s, as well as what still resonates today and what has glaringly not kept up with the times. The world has changed dramatically since the show originally aired, and Evelina examines how recent social movements have served to highlight the show’s lack of diversity and throw some of its storylines into a less than favorable light.

While Sex and the City had problematic issues, it also changed the world’s perception of single women, emphasized the power of female friendship, built brands, and influenced fashion. This book looks at it all, from the pilot episode to the spin-off movies, prequel, and reboot that together have built an enduring legacy for a new generation of women.

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About the Author

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Nicole Evelina is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction, non-fiction, and women’s fiction. Her six books have won more than 40 awards, including four Book of the Year designations. She was named Missouri’s Top Independent Author by Library Journal and Biblioboard as the winner of the Missouri Indie Author Project and has been awarded the North Street Book Prize and the Sarton Women’s Book Award. In addition to books, her writing has appeared in The Huffington PostThe Philadelphia InquirerThe Independent JournalCurve Magazine and numerous historical publications. She lives outside St. Louis, Missouri.

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Blog Tour: The Real Prime Suspect – Jackie Malton

The Real Prime Suspect is a jaw-dropping, gritty memoir from Jackie Malton, former DCI and the inspiration for legendary TV detective Jane Tennison in Lynda La Plante’s Prime Suspect.

Jackie Malton was a no-nonsense girl from Leicestershire who joined the police force in the 1970s. It was a time of sex segregation in the police force. Male recruits were given a truncheon; female recruits received a handbag and were assigned social work duties. But Jackie desperately wanted to become a detective. Feisty and determined, Jackie made her way into some of the most male-dominated departments of the police force. She worked in CID and the famous flying squad before rising to become one of only three female detective chief inspectors in the Metropolitan Police.

In The Real Prime Suspect, Malton describes the struggles she faced as an openly gay woman in the Metropolitan Police, where sexism and homophobia were rife. Utterly compelling, the book is rich with fascinating cases and intriguing characters from Jackie’s time on the force. Jackie dealt with rapists, wife beaters, murderers, blackmailers and armed robbers but it was tackling the corruption in her own station that proved the most challenging. Ostracised and harassed by fellow officers furious that she reported the illegality of some colleagues, Malton used alcohol to curb her anxiety. A chance meeting with writer Lynda La Plante five years later changed the course of her life. Together they worked on shaping Jane Tennison, one of TV’s most famous police characters, in the ground-breaking series Prime Suspect. Not long after, Malton recovered from alcoholism and now works as an AA volunteer in prison and as a TV consultant. Jackie Malton is a true trailblazer. She forged a path in a male-dominated world and through it all she remained true to herself. Jackie has spent her life working in crime. Now she’s ready to share her story.

Jackie Malton was a police officer for twentyeight years. During her career she worked in the drugs squad, CID, the flying squad (famously known as The Sweeney), fraud squad and as a hostage negotiator. She rose to become one of only three female detective chief inspectors in the Metropolitan Police.

Jackie has acted as an adviser on some of the most successful British crime dramas, including Prime Suspect, The Bill, Cracker, Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Trial and Retribution and Murder Investigation Team. In 2019 she presented the documentary series, The Real Prime Suspect in which she revisited some of the most notorious murder cases. Most recently, she was interviewed for BBC 2’s documentary Bent Coppers: Crossing the Line of Duty; she appeared in Steve McQueen’s BAFTA-award-winning documentary Uprising about the New Cross Fire; and made a guest appearance on the new BBC Sounds podcast, Lady Killers with Lucy Worsley. Jackie regularly gives talks on policing and currently volunteers in a male prison supporting offenders recovering from addiction. Twitter: @thursley.

Hélène Mulholland has been a journalist for over twenty years and previously worked at the Guardian as a political reporter. Hélène now works on a freelance basis. The Real Prime Suspect is her first book.

My thoughts: this was an incredibly fascinating insight into the recent history of modern British policing. From the sexism and homophobia she encountered, to the cases that have stayed with her, Jackie Malton’s voice rings through clearly. A determined, dedicated officer for many years, she rose through the ranks despite the many challenges of being a woman in an institutionally backwards organisation.

Her work in TV as an advisor was of less interest to me than her work as an addiction counsellor and volunteer in prisons. That was really interesting and she writes with respect and understanding of the men she works with.

She is also very mindful of the victims she writes about, listing their names and empathising with their relatives and friends, particularly in the case of the New Cross Fire, which has never been fully resolved.

Jackie had an illustrious career, working in the famous Flying Squad, as well as developing new ways of supporting victims of domestic violence when working in Hammersmith & Fulham. Her impact might not be judged for some time to come but I think she is probably seen as a role model by many young female police officers. Her life story is at turns inspiring and thrilling.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: Shape of a Boy – Kate Wickers

The perfect beach read, Shape of a Boy is a laugh-out-loud travel memoir featured in National Geographic Traveller’s best travel books of 2022

‘Have kids, will travel’ is veteran travel journalist Kate’s mantra. Her intrepid spirit is infectious in this warm, engaging account of her family’s adventures and misadventures. She shares the life lessons learnt on their travels, from overcoming disappointment in Thailand to saying sorry in Japan, discovering perseverance in Borneo and learning about conservation in Malaysia. Kate’s vivid evocation of the highs and lows of family time make you belly-laugh and bring a lump to your throat.

From the plains of the Serengeti to the cowboy towns of Cuba to the rainforests of Borneo, Shape of a Boy captures the essence of being a parent in the thick of it and learning on the hoof. Inspirational for anyone who has dreaded travelling with a baby, toddler or teen, it is life-affirming read for every wannabe-traveller.

My thoughts: as someone who went on their first long haul flight at 8 months old, I think my parents had similar ideas to Kate’s, at least to begin with, I really enjoyed this lovely, joyful book about wonderful holidays all over the world, with her husband and three boys at all stages of their lives.

Even when all her sons want to do is play in the pool and eat pizza, Kate plans excursions to some incredible places, exposing the boys to things some people will never experience. What a truly wonderful childhood.

Their adventures are often very funny, moving and heartwarming. Kate’s sons are kind, engaged boys and each reacts to new things differently, leading to some interesting conversations. And being boys, a lot of rude comments mostly about poo and animals extraordinary genitals!

Kate started taking the boys with them as a way to fit her travel writing assignments around her family, but in the end, all five family members are embracing the opportunity to see the world and explore. Having been starved of travel in the last few years, this was like a lovely burst of sunshine as I vicariously explored sights from Thailand to Cuba with the Wickers family through the years. Delightful.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: Stories My Grandmother Told Me – Gabriela Maya Bernadett

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Welcome to the tour for this fascinating memoir by Gabriela Maya Bernadett, called Stories My Grandmother Told Me: A Multicultural Journey from Harlem to Tohono O’dham. Read on for more info!

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Stories My Grandmother Told Me: A Multicultural Journey from Harlem to Tohono O’dham

Genre: Memoir

Publisher: City Point Press/ Simon & Schuster

The illuminating and deeply personal debut from Gabriela Maya Bernadett, Stories My Grandmother Told Me explores culture, race, and chosen family, set against the backdrop of the twentieth-century American Southwest.

In a hilly Southern California suburb in the late twentieth century, Gabriela Maya Bernadett listens as her grandmother tells her a story.

It’s the true story of Esther Small, the great-granddaughter of slaves, who became one of the few Black students to graduate from NYU in the 1940s. Having grown up in Harlem, Esther couldn’t imagine a better place to live; especially not somewhere in the American Southwest.

But when she learns of a job teaching Native American children on a reservation, Esther decides to take a chance. She soon finds herself on a train to Fort Yuma, Arizona; unaware that each year, the Bureau of Indian Affairs kidnaps the native Tohono O’odham children from the reservation and forces them to be educated in the ‘ways of the White man.’ It doesn’t take long for Esther to notice how Fort Yuma parallels her own grandmother’s story as a slave in the South—the native children, constantly belittled by teachers and peers, are forced to perform manual labor for local farmers.

One of two Black people in Fort Yuma, Esther feels isolated, never sure where she belongs in a community deeply divided between the White people and the Tohono O’odhams. John, the school bus driver and Tohono O’odham tribe member, is one of the only people she connects with. Friendship slowly grows into love, and together, Esther and John navigate a changing America.

Seamlessly weaving in the present day with the past, Stories My Grandmother Told Me blends a woman’s memory of her life, and that woman’s granddaughter’s memories of how she heard these stories growing up. Bernadett’s captivating narrative explores themes of identity, tradition, and belonging, showing what it really means to exist in a multicultural America.

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About the Author

Maya Bernadett grew up in California hearing the stories of her grandmother, Esther Pancho. She grew up in a multi-cultural household, as her father is Mexican American and White and her Mother is Tohono O’odham and Black. At the age of 18 she moved to New Haven, Connecticut to attend Yale University, from which she graduated in 2008 with a degree in the History of Science/History of Medicine. She lived in Tucson briefly, then moved to New York City, and finally returned to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona. She graduated in 2015 with a Master’s Degree in American Indian Studies with a focus on Education. She currently teaches GED classes at the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.

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Readalong Round-Up: The Plant Rescuer – Sarah Gerrard-Jones

A simple, stylish and complete guide for any houseplant owner
Whether you have just one or many houseplants, this is the book they need you to read. It is a clear and practical toolkit on all aspects of plant care from how to choose a plant to tips for everyday care. Changes in your plant’s appearance are often a cry for help and this book will help you understand their needs. Learn how to help your plants not only survive but thrive.

Sarah, also known as @theplantrescuer, is a self-taught houseplant obsessive who firmly believes every plant deserves a happy life. Her determination to see beyond the ‘perfect plant’ and to rescue unloved plants makes her the go-to guide.

My thoughts: I don’t have green thumbs, notoriously my plants die, although those that survive are clearly very stubborn. But I love plants so I keep trying. With my fingers crossed.

Like a lot of people I really got into house plants during lockdown, I had some before but I bought quite a few while unable to go out, bringing that lovely green into my flat. However not everyone survived, including me, tearing my hair out as some of the plants just gave up – despite me trying my hardest to keep them alive.

Then comes along this book, and a spark of hope for some of my slightly droopy plants. It’s full of explanations to why plants go brown, or limp, and die. And ways to save them that don’t include “cry, chuck in bin and buy a new one” – aka my go to method.

Instead of spending ages on Google trying to solve the droopy leaf crisis of 2022, I dipped into this book to diagnose my sad little plants and do some clever plant healing. Though the fact that plants suffer from over and under watering will continue to drive me mad – how can I stop this nonsense!

A really useful and informative guide to houseplants, I’m hoping this will encourage and help me be a better indoor gardener and give me at least a tiny bit of a green thumb, just a tiny bit of plant magic.

Below I’ve posted the readalong challenges, if you read this book, please share your thoughts. And tag me @ramblingmads in your plant photos on Instagram.

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Blog Tour: Lessons Learnt From Dating – Karla L. McCullum

Welcome to the book tour for Lessons Learned from Dating by Karla L. McCullum! Read on for more info and a chance to win a $50 Amazon e-Gift Card!

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Lessons Learned from Dating: Moving Past the Hurt Into Your Blessings

Publication Date: July 2021

Genre: Dating Guide/ Self-Help/ Non-Fiction

Lessons Learned from Dating is a nonfiction book written by Karla that tells the stories of her different dating experiences during various stages of life. Each dating experience had a unique lesson, but she didn’t take the time to pause and heed the teachings. After a really painful relationship, Karla finally realized she needed to pause from dating and reflect on herself. This led Karla to start the work to heal completely, practice self-discovery, and find peace and her life’s purpose. In her book, Lessons Learned from Dating, Karla reveals how she went from a place of hurt and pain to a healed place of receiving.

Available on FOJ and Amazon

About the Author

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Karla L. McCullum also known as Coach K, became a Certified Life Coach in 2020 through the Life Purpose Institute in San Diego, CA . Karla is a Veteran of the United States Army. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management.

Karla is the owner and founder of Full of Joy Life Coaching LLC, where she specializes in helping women work on their mindset, discover their purpose, and pursue their life goals to lead joyful and meaningful lives. Her most important job is being a mother to her beautiful teenage daughter. When Karla is not spending time with her daughter or providing Life Coaching Services, she loves traveling and seeing the world.

Karla is currently pursuing the Associated Certified Coach Credentialing through the International Coaching Federation (ICF).

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Blog Tour: Dálvi, Six Years in the Arctic Tundra – Laura Galloway

One woman’s story as an outsider in a reindeer-herding village in the Arctic Tundra, forging a life on her own in one of the most unknowable cultures on earth

An ancestry test suggesting she shared some DNA with the Sámi people, the indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic tundra, tapped into Laura Galloway’s wanderlust; an affair with a Sámi reindeer herder ultimately led her to leave New York for the tiny town of Kautokeino, Norway. When her new boyfriend left her unexpectedly after six months, it would have been easy, and perhaps prudent, to return home. But she stayed for six years.

Dálvi is the story of Laura’s time in a reindeer-herding village in the Arctic, forging a solitary existence as she struggled to learn the language and make her way in a remote community for which there were no guidebooks or manuals for how to fit in. Her time in the North opened her to a new world. And it brought something else as well: reconciliation and peace with the traumatic events that had previously defined her – the sudden death of her mother when she was three, a difficult childhood and her lifelong search for connection and a sense of home.

Both a heart-rending memoir and a love letter to the singular landscape of the region, Dálvi explores with great warmth and humility what it means to truly belong.

Laura Galloway is a writer and communications strategist. She began her career at the Los Angeles Times and holds a Master of Arts in Indigenous Journalism from the Sámi University of Applied Sciences in Kautokeino, Norway, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Southern California. An ardent animal lover, she and her partner live with her two reindeer-herding dogs and two cats.

My thoughts: after her mother dies when she’s very young, Laura’s father marries an emotionally abusive woman who rejects her husband’s children, causing Laura to spend much of her life looking for a sense of belonging, beginning with moving to LA as a teenager. And then eventually to the Arctic tundra in Norway, to live with a Sami reindeer herder in a small town near the border with Finland.

Life in the far north is tough, it’s dark for several months of the year and freezing cold. Laura doesn’t speak Norwegian or Sami and finds it hard to settle into a community so different from anything she’s ever known.

Even after her partner leaves her, she stays and starts to find her way in this strange place. There are lots of other incomers and it is with them she bonds, rather than with the Sami community, who prefer their own kind. Her cat goes missing, she gets several jobs doing things like teaching English, bonds with her neighbours and builds a life. The cat thankfully comes back.

After six years in the Arctic, she begins to wonder what else life could hold for her and looks to start afresh. But life among the Sami has taught her many lessons and helped her heal from the pain of her sad and emotionally sterile childhood.

I found this book moving and at times brutally sad, Laura has been let down badly by those who should have loved her, from her father to her ex-husband, she somehow kept going after terrible heartbreak and loss. A fascinating and rather incredible woman.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: The Love That Dares – Rachel Smith & Barbara Vesey

A good love letter can speak across centuries and reassure us that the agony and the ecstasy one might feel in the 21st century have been shared by lovers long gone. This is all the truer of LGBTQ+ love letters: love affairs and relationships that, until very recently, had to survive within sealed envelopes and behind closed doors.

In The Love That Dares, queer love speaks its name through the words of lovers from years gone by. Alongside the more famous names coexist beautifully written letters by lesser-known lovers, giving us an insight into queer love outside of the spotlight of fame or fortune. Compiled by Bishopsgate archivists Rachel Smith and Barbara Vesey, these letters give us a glimpse into the passion and courage it took to continue a gay relationship in times when it was at best improper, and at worst illegal.

Enlightening introductions to each set of letters give readers an idea of the historical context in which they were written.

My thoughts: this is a really lovely collection of letters from queer writers, artists, musicians and others from across history. From famously gay people to ones you might not have known about, from early philosopher Marcus Aurelius, via Oscar Wilde and Vita Sackville-West to modern voices. There’s also a selection from Dear Sappho, published originally in 1996.

Explanatory notes give context to the writers and their letters, a brief glimpse into the lives and loves of people often living under threat of censure and criminality.

I found this incredibly moving, the ways people expressed their love and desire, their hopes and fears in words to friends and lovers, sometimes simple banal everyday news to passionate expressions.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: After Agatha – Sally Cline

After Agatha: Women Write Crime is the first book to examine how British, American, and Canadian female crime writers pursue their craft and what they think about crime writing. Hundreds of women who identified as lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, able-bodied, disabled, feminist, left or right wing, who were black or white, who had experienced violence, sexism, homophobia or racism, and who came from big cities or small country villages had one thing in common: they read crime novels.

The book explores why so many women who face fear and violence in their daily lives, should be so addicted to crime fiction, many of which feature extreme violence. The book analyzes why criminal justice professionals including police officers, forensic scientists, probation officers, and lawyers have joined traditional detective writers in writing crime. It examines the explosions of crime writing by women between 1930 and today. It highlights the UK Golden Age women writers, the 1950s American women novelists, the 80s experimental trio, Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky, and Sue Grafton, who created the first female American private Investigators, and the important emergence of female police protagonists, as well as those central characters who for the first time were lesbian, disabled, black, or ethnic minority. After Agatha also examines the significant explosions of domestic noir thrillers and forensic science writers.

Most have taken to crime in order to reflect and comment on the social and political landscape around them. Many are creatively exploring the significant issues facing women today.

Agatha Christie – photo via BBC

Sally Cline, author of 13 books, is an award-winning biographer and fiction writer. She is Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Research Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, and former Advisory Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. Her biography on Radclyffe Hall, now a classic, was shortlisted for the LAMBDA prize; Lifting the Taboo: Women, Death and Dying won the Arts Council Prize for nonfiction; and she wrote landmark biographies on Zelda Fitzgerald and Dashiell Hammett. She is co-Series Editor for Bloomsbury’s 9 volume Writers and Artists Companions. Formerly lecturing at Cambridge University, she has degrees and masters from Durham and Lancaster Universities and was awarded a D.Litt in International Writing.

My thoughts: I am a huge crime fiction fan and adore Agatha Christie. I also studied English Literature at uni, including a module where we looked at crime fiction – all of the books on the reading list were written by men. Women writers were shunted off into their own module and focused on the Brontës, Austen and other 18th and 19th century writers. No crime fiction, no Golden Age.

Considering the immense popularity of crime novels, many written by women, and the history – which this book explores, that’s rather frustrating and I really hope that things have changed since the early to mid 00s, when I was studying.

This fascinating book has left me with an immense reading list (I’ve read many of the authors mentioned but not all and not enough as far as I’m concerned) and lots to think about. Digging deep into the legacy of Christie and her compatriots (Dorothy L. Sayers, Josephine Tey, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allington – aka The Golden Age writers) and following the growth, expansion and creation of the women who wrote and starred in hundreds of crime novels since then.

It looks at the sub-genres, like PIs, the psychological, forensic and others, as well as the fact that readers of crime fiction are overwhelmingly women and why.

Absolutely fascinating and crammed full of interesting information, this is a must read for anyone interested in the genre, in women’s writing and literary history.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.