Title: A Woman Lived Here

Author: Allison Vale

Pages: 192 Pages

Publisher: Robinson

The Blurb

At the last count, the Blue Plaque Guide honours 903 Londoners, and a walking tour of these sites brings to life the London of a bygone era. But only 111 of these blue plaques commemorate women.

Over the centuries, London has been home to thousands of truly remarkable women who have made significant and lasting impacts on every aspect of modern life: from politics and social reform, to the Arts, medicine, science, technology and sport. Many of those women went largely unnoticed, even during their own lifetimes, going about their lives quietly but with courage, conviction, skill and compassion. Others were fearless, strident trail-blazers. Many lived in an era when their achievements were given a male name, clouding the capabilities of women in any field outside of the home or field.

A Woman Lived Here shines a spotlight on some of these forgotten women to redress the balance. The stories on these pages commemorate some of the most remarkable of London’s women, who set out to make their world a little richer, and in doing so, left an indelible mark on ours.


The Review

A Woman Lived Here is a non-fiction book focusing on the little blue plaques that adorn places of import in London. They signify that someone important lived at this address. This is a book with intent to highlight the many famous women (whose plaques are dramatically outnumbered by men) and how the contribution of women needs to be celebrated more. Vale highlights the disparity in numbers of these plaques whilst also reminding us to rejoice in the ones that we have.

A Woman Lived Here is only a little book, one I like to think of as a palette cleanser and you really are introduced to some fascinating women. It also highlights how sad it is and what a shame it is that there aren’t more women features in the blue plaque scheme.

Personally, I want to read more of these books. I want to know more about the women who shaped culture from Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham. I think Allison Vale needs to write more books of this ilk.

A Woman Lived Here by Allison Vale is available now.

For more information regarding Allison Vale (@allisonvpvale) please visit her Twitter page.

Title: Unfollow – A Journey from Hatred to Hope, Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

Author: Megan Phelps-Roper

Pages: 304 Pages

Publisher: Quercus Books

The Blurb

It was an upbringing in many ways normal. A loving home, shared with squabbling siblings, overseen by devoted parents. Yet in other ways it was the precise opposite: a revolving door of TV camera crews and documentary makers, a world of extreme discipline, of siblings vanishing in the night.

Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church – the fire-and-brimstone religious sect at once aggressively homophobic and anti-Semitic, rejoiceful for AIDS and natural disasters, and notorious for its picketing the funerals of American soldiers. From her first public protest, aged five, to her instrumental role in spreading the church’s invective via social media, her formative years brought their difficulties. But being reviled was not one of them. She was preaching God’s truth. She was, in her words, ‘all in’.

In November 2012, at the age of twenty-six, she left the church, her family, and her life behind.

Unfollow is a story about the rarest thing of all: a person changing their mind. It is a fascinating insight into a closed world of extreme belief, a biography of a complex family, and a hope-inspiring memoir of a young woman finding the courage to find compassion for others, as well as herself.

The Review

I didn’t know much about Megan Phelps-Roper before I picked up Unfollow to read. I hadn’t seen the Louis Theroux documentary and I hadn’t watched the television series so I really was going into this memoir blind. My only clue was that sometimes the ideologies of a church – any church – can often be at odds with the modern world. Wow, that was putting it mildly.

Megan Phelps-Roper grew up within the Baptist community where every member of her family played some role within the religious group. She was fed the ideology on a daily basis and believed everything that was told to her. She believed that people of the LGBT community deserved to die and that soldiers who died in service were killed because of God’s divine retribution and the parents of the soldier must have sinned for this to have happened.

It all seems completely mad. However, I spent the majority of the memoir feeling sorry for Megan Phelps-Roper. She is a product of what she has been taught. Just like the old adage that people aren’t born racist. People aren’t born with these views. It is learned behaviour. What you find with Phelps-Roper is that she is genuinely sorry for thinking the way she did but is still so torn with loving her family who for all intents and purposes gave her a stable and loving upbringing yet she fundamentally disagrees with their point of view.

Unfollow is a fascinating read to see how people can change and how being indoctrinated into one way of life does not mean that it is your permanent destination. You have the ability to change and see the world from a different angle.

Unfollow – A Journey from Hatred to Hope, Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper is available now.

For more information regarding Megan Phelps Roper (@meganphelps) please visit www.meganphelpsroper.com.

For more information regarding Quercus Books (@QuercusBooks) please visit their Twitter page.

Title: The Operator

Author: Gretchen Berg

Pages: 352 Pages

Publisher: Headline

The Blurb

It’s 1952. The switchboard operators in Wooster, Ohio, love nothing more than to eavesdrop on their neighbours’ conversations, and gossip about what they learn. Vivian Dalton is no different (despite her teenage daughter’s disapproval), and always longs to hear something scandalous. But on the night of December 15th, she wishes she hadn’t. The secret that’s shared by a stranger on the line threatens to rip the rug of Vivian’s life from under her.

Vivian may be mortified, but she’s not going to take this lying down. She wants the truth, no matter how painful it may be. But one secret tends to lead to another . . .

This moving, heart-felt and ultimately uplifting novel brilliantly weaves together an irresistible portrayal of a town buzzing with scandal, and an unforgettable story of marriage, motherhood and the unbreakable ties of family.


The Review

Small town sensibility is the subject of The Operator by Gretchen Berg. It is about how life was very different in the 1950s and how even being in a world without social media we are still fascinated by the gossip and lives of others.

The story centres on Vivian who works at the switchboard. Vivian is obsessed with being seen and being values in society but when she listens in to a switchboard phone call and finds out a secret that is about her Vivian begins to understand the adage be careful what you wish for. Her small town world is about to be completely rocked.

Whilst this is a fascinating look at the lives in a small town in America – one that demands social etiquette and rules – I did find the whole thing rather boring and slow placed, however, it is arguable that given the time frame things didn’t work at a speedy pace, it wouldn’t make sense to do so.

Either way, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted too. I think that the cover oversold the story which is a shame.

The Operator is an interesting read but it did not blow me away.

The Operator by Gretchen Berg is available now.

For more information regarding Headline (@headlinepg) please visit www.headline.co.uk.

Title: Born to Run

Author: Bruce Springsteen

Pages: 528 Pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The Blurb

In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Super Bowl’s halftime show. The experience was so exhilarating that Bruce decided to write about it. That’s how this extraordinary autobiography began.

Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs.

He describes growing up Catholic in Freehold, New Jersey, amid the poetry, danger, and darkness that fueled his imagination, leading up to the moment he refers to as “The Big Bang”: seeing Elvis Presley’s debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band. With disarming candor, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work, and shows us why the song “Born to Run” reveals more than we previously realized.

Born to Run will be revelatory for anyone who has ever enjoyed Bruce Springsteen, but this book is much more than a legendary rock star’s memoir. This is a book for workers and dreamers, parents and children, lovers and loners, artists, freaks, or anyone who has ever wanted to be baptized in the holy river of rock and roll.

Rarely has a performer told his own story with such force and sweep. Like many of his songs (“Thunder Road,” “Badlands,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “The River,” “Born in the U.S.A.,” “The Rising,” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” to name just a few), Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography is written with the lyricism of a singular songwriter and the wisdom of a man who has thought deeply about his experiences.


The Review

I love Bruce Springsteen. My favourite song in the world is Born to Run. I was lucky enough to see him perform at Glastonbury in 2009. Yet I have had his autobiography sitting on my bookshelf for a few years now. I picked it up a few times and then opted for something else instead.

Eventually, I did sit down with the book (a mixture of physical book and audiobook) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Springsteen’s lyricism goes far beyond the song and his way with words plays out in his life story. It is almost like it is one big lyric. I don’t think he knows how to be anything but poetic.

It was interesting to learn about Bruce Springsteen’s earlier life and the events that shaped him to become who he is today. It was also quite moving to be there for the moments that I knew about such as Clarence Clemmons’ death.

Overall, it is a warts-and-all biography worthy of 528 pages of your time.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen is available now.

For more information regarding Bruce Springsteen (@springsteen) please visit his Twitter page.

For more information regarding (@simonschusterUK) please visit www.simonandschuster.co.uk.


Title: She is Fierce – Brave, Bold and Beautiful Poems by Women

Author: Ana Sampson

Pages: 304 Pages

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

The Blurb

A stunning gift book containing 150 bold, brave and beautiful poems by women – from classic, well loved poets to innovative and bold modern voices. From suffragettes to school girls, from spoken word superstars to civil rights activists, from aristocratic ladies to kitchen maids, these are voices that deserve to be heard.

Collected by anthologist Ana Sampson She is Fierce: Brave, Bold and Beautiful Poems by Women contains an inclusive array of voices, from modern and contemporary poets. Immerse yourself in poems from Maya Angelou, Nikita Gill, Wendy Cope, Ysra Daley-Ward, Emily Bronte, Carol Ann Duffy, Fleur Adcock, Liz Berry, Jackie Kay, Hollie McNish, Imtiaz Dharker, Helen Dunmore, Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver, Christina Rossetti, Margaret Atwood and Dorothy Parker, to name but a few! Featuring short biographies of each poet, She is Fierce is a stunning collection and an essential addition to any bookshelf.

The anthology is divided into the following sections: Roots and Growing Up Friendship Love Nature Freedom, Mindfulness and Joy Fashion, society and body image Protest, courage and resistance Endings


The Review

As I have gotten older I have come to appreciate poetry more than I did as a child. However, my love isn’t for the written word it is for the chosen nuances. I like studying the poem, looking at the writer and discovering why it was written. What is great about the She is Fierce collection is that some of the work is already done for you. You have the poem, you have it categorised into what type of poem it is and then you have a breakdown of the writer. Brilliant.

She is Fierce is a wonderful collection that is compromised of fantastic female voices. Some poems are familiar but the majority are ones that I certainly hadn’t come across before. It was wonderful to find some new and interesting voices.

This is a perfect collection for the feminist poetry lover in your life.

She is Fierce – Brave, Bold and Beautiful Poems by Women by Ana Sampson is available now.

For more information regarding Ana Sampson (@AnaBooks) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Macmillan Children’s Books (@MacmillanKidsUK) please visit www.panmacmillan.com.