Sunday, 9 September 2018

Book Review: The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay

Hey Guys!

In one of my previous posts, I discussed the current books I was reading: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire by J.K.Rowling (still reading) and The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay. Last week I finished Sinclair McKay's book and after reading the last page I knew I wanted to share with you guys the details of the book, my thoughts and whether it was worth the read ❤


The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The WWII Codebreaking Centre and the Men and Women Who Worked There is about the lives of those who worked at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, England in World War II codebreaking and decrypting German and Japanese messages. Sinclair McKay explores all the different aspects of life at the park from the Engima, Bombe and Colossus machines, recreational time, romance and relationships, the Blitz, D-Day and time after the war when Bletchley wasn't needed anymore. Throughout the book, he uses quotes from Bletchley Park veterans, memoirs and references from other published material to describe how it was personally for those who spent nearly six years as part of the Bletchley Park community.  


"Bletchley Park's cracking of the Enigma code was one of the greatest achievements of the war. Now, for the first time, here are the stories of the ordinary men and women who made it happen..."

"At the secret codebreaking centre of Bletchley Park, debutantes, factory workers, students and Wrens were thrown together with Britain's most brilliant brains, united in work of almost unbearable intensity, and even greater importance. But there was far more to their days (and nights) than the long hours spent decrypting enemy messages. "

"From world-class concerts by visiting musicians and amateur dramatics to ice-skating on the frozen lake and furtive romances sealed down quiet country lanes, Sinclair McKay's acclaimed book reveals what life was really like for the young people who clandestine efforts were instrumental in winning the war." 

My Thoughts

Personally, I love history and any fiction or non-fiction books based on the First and Second World War are my favourite. I've already got quite an extensive collection of books based in World War II, so I was excited to read something that wasn't fiction and instead based all on fact, memories and testimonies from those who experienced life at Bletchley Park during WWII. 

I visited Bletchley Park Museum in Buckinghamshire back in April. It was overwhelming learning how much these men and women actually did throughout the war and the pressure they were under to decrypt thousands of messages a day. From visiting the museum and grounds of the house it has helped me piece together parts of the book and understand what life at Bletchley Park was like for these men and women codebreaking. 

Sinclair McKay goes into such extensive detail about the mechanics of the machines (Engima, Bombe, Colussus, Heath Robinson) such as how each machine worked and how they were manned by Wrens and engineers with such skill in machinery that they were able to build more and have them moved to places of importance such as a location in Middlesex. They were using these machines to decrypt messages and following the stories of veterans like Sheila and Oliver Lawn, Jean Valentine, Mavis and Keith Batey and Sarah Baring really brought it to life. He describes how those who were decoding messages and signals from German High Command and from U-boats had the pressure of working hours on hours sometimes stuck on one message, trying to crack it and find out what moves the German navy, air force and army were going to make next. 

Sinclair McKay has the skill of delivering all this information, testimonies and facts without overstimulating you as a reader. Sometimes it was hard to read the book when I was tired as you are being given a lot of complex information on machines, decoding methods and the movements of the German army throughout the war. 

Reading this book with all the memoirs and recollections from veterans has opened my eyes to how it wasn't just the men in the field protecting our country and winning the war but also those who had to fight the war back in England finding out what the German, Japanese and their allied forces were planning. There were so many times throughout the book where I was in utter awe at what these men and women achieved in those years of war. With all the pressure and stress they were under they did an incredible job of maintaining motivation and efficiency, but I guess in wartime they had to!  

His attention to the smallest details shows throughout the book. 

He clearly put a lot of time into researching every part of life at Bletchley Park and getting even the smallest of facts. Collecting the memories of those who experienced it all first hand would have taken time and patience, so Sinclair McKay did a great job in getting all the information he possibly could from archives and the Bletchley Park Trust, giving the men and women of Bletchley Park the recognition they deserve! 

What other books do you recommend I read? Let me know in the comments below! 

See you on Wednesday ❤

Amy x 

Thursday, 30 August 2018

My Favourite Podcasts This Month | August 2018

Hey Guys! 

Over the past couple of months, I've been listening to podcasts instead of listening to music or watching YouTube videos while I'm getting ready in the morning. I love that with podcasts you don't have to physically watch it and can just put your headphones in or plug your speaker in and listen while multitasking. A few months ago I would listen to Estee Lalonde's podcast The Heart Of It while I was tidying my room or doing housework. After finishing her podcast series I started looking into other podcasts that I would enjoy, which led to me browsing through the popular section of Spotify podcasts. 

When I go to bed sometimes I struggle to fall asleep, so I've been finding different ways to help me relax. Sometimes I listen to soothing music or I put a Netflix show on just to have some noise in the background (I sometimes struggle to fall asleep when there is lots of silence. Bizarre I know!). After a while, I found podcasts were good to listen to when I couldn't sleep, so over the last couple of weeks, I've been switching between these three different podcasts when I'm getting ready in the morning or I'm struggling to fall asleep. 

On Spotify, there is such a huge selection of podcasts to choose from. There are so many different genres that there is something for everybody! 


Crime Junkie

I only started listening to Crime Junkie last week, but after a few episodes it automatically went on my favourites list. I'm a huge fan of murder mysteries and unsolved crimes/murders (highly recommend Buzzfeed's Unsolved True Crime videos with Shane and Ryan) so any stories of mysterious murders and bizarre crimes always capture my attention. When I first started listening to the podcast I wasn't sure if it would be as good as some other videos and podcasts I've listened to before about crime and murder. But the narration and stories are great! 

Crime Junkie is a weekly podcast where every Monday Ashley Flowers discusses a different crime story she has been researching. By dissecting all the facts and details she gives the full story behind the unsolved crime giving all the chilling information she has found while doing her research, which then leads on to who the suspects are and motives behind the crime or murder.   

The first episode I listened to was Episode 39: Serial Murder Todd Kohlhepp and straight away I was hooked! Ashley Flowers' narration is great. She gets straight to the point and gives all the facts straight up with suspense and chilling information. Each episode is different and the details she gives in each story is extensive and paints a full picture of the events taking place!

Some stories aren't as great as others and lack some suspense and thrill but I think that is more of a personal preference on what type of crimes and murder mysteries you find interesting. The Serial Murder Todd Kohlhepp was the most interesting I've heard so far due to the murders he committed and the number of people involved. Due to the fact it has more thrilling facts, I found it more gripping compared to other episodes. 

If you are crime-obsessed like me you'll love this podcast! They talk conspiracy theories, murders, wanted people and serial killers so definitely check them out over at Spotify

Happy Place

Happy Place is a podcast series by Fearne Cotton where she "talks to incredible people about life, love, loss, and everything in-between as she reveals what happiness means to them". Throughout the series, she discusses the subject of happiness, positivity and mental health with people such as Emma Willis, Gok Wan, Dawn French and Stephen Fry. It is a great series for those who need uplifting ❤

I started listening to Happy Place because I was looking for something that focused on positivity and getting over hardships. On Spotify, Happy Place is in their popular selection so I scrolled down the list and on seeing Dawn French pop up I clicked on her episode. I'm a huge fan of Dawn French from watching The Vicar of Dibley, French & Saunders, Absolutely Fabulous, Lark Rise to Candleford and from reading her autobiography a few years ago. I thought I knew a lot about Dawn French but actually, after listening to her conversation with Fearne I learnt quite a lot more about her and how she stays positive in the world of entertainment. Especially with divorce, journalists writing about her dad's death and her body image. 

I've also listened to Gok Wan's episode and I never knew he had such dark times in his life from his childhood to eating disorders and anorexia. He talked about when he left school because he got kicked out due to bad behaviour, working in his family's restaurant from the age of three and developing issues with self-confidence and body image. I've always known Gok to be a positive figure in entertainment, especially in helping women to learn to love themselves on his show How To Look Good Naked. But I never knew he had experienced such things as an eating disorder and had such a hard time when he was younger because he has always been so positive from what we see of him in the media and on television. But I think that just shows that nobody knows what is happening in someone's head and what they choose not to share. Gok Wan talks about many great things that keep him positive and it was so uplifting ❤

Another episode which really resonated with me was Stephen Fry's discussion with Fearne. As most people know Stephen Fry has battled with mental health for quite a while and now he is battling with prostate cancer. Listening to his episode was so enlightening. One thing he said was "why are we ashamed of the bodies we didn't choose to be given and have no control over" which I couldn't stop thinking about. He is so right and I think Stephen Fry is such a positive role model to those who have struggled because he reflects so much positivity. He has had the hardest of times due to coming out about his sexuality, getting criticised for marrying a man 30 years younger than him and then having to deal with his mental health and battle with cancer, and throughout this, he demonstrates how you can get through it with a positive attitude ❤

This series is great if you are feeling a little lost and need a boost to get you back in the right direction. Fearne Cotton narrating the podcast is great, she listens to each person's incredible story so attentively and lets them get everything off their chest without asking too many intrusive questions. 

Shane and Friends

Shane and Friends is a bit of an older series compared to Crime Junkie and Happy Place, starting in 2013 and ending back in 2017 with no new series appearing in 2018. Shane and Friends is also only available on Apple Podcasts instead of Spotify, so instead of my Spotify playlist, I also use my Apple Podcast app to listen to Shane and Friends and for looking up other podcasts that I might enjoy. 

 Narrated by YouTuber Shane Dawson and his co-host Jessie Buttafuoco (who is hilariously sassy) every Friday an hour-long episode would be uploaded which was described as "non-stop tea spilling, shade throwing and overall hilarity". Where Shane and Jess would "dig deep into the lives of their celebrity guests by asking brutally honest questions that others might not have the balls to ask". 

Shane has lots of guests on the show such as Joey Graceffa, James Charles, Tyler Oakley, Trisha Paytas, Tana Mongeau, Jenna Marbles, and the very well known Michelle Visage. He has had a lot of well-known influences on the podcast, most of them being fellow YouTube stars and some being viral internet sensations. The topics of discussion differ depending who they have invited on the show, so when Michelle Visage was a guest they discussed Celebrity Big Brother and Ru Paul's Drag Race. Whereas, with other guests, he'll discuss rumours that haven't been addressed, conspiracy theories, what is going on in popular culture, what is going on in their personal lives and what is happening with other celebrities. 

I haven't listened to all five seasons of the podcast as I tend to select the episodes I'd prefer to listen to with guests that I'm interested in, as some of the guests I'm not a fan of or the topic of discussion isn't something I'd find funny. The funniest one I've listened to is Episode 77 with Drew Monson and Garrett Watts, when those two and Shane are all together they are so funny and the conversation topics they have are hilarious! Another episode I really enjoyed was Episode 79 Conspiracy Theories and Trying Acupuncture because other than crime and murder mysteries I love conspiracy theories (especially Shane's conspiracy theory videos) so listening to different conspiracies is time well spent ❤

Shane's podcast isn't as PG as Crime Junkie and Happy Place as it is more of a comical podcast discussing crude topics and funny experiences, so there aren't as many serious topics discussed compared to the other podcasts I've been listening to. Shane and Friends is the podcast I go to when I need some comedy and something light-hearted to laugh about.  

Let me know in the comments below what podcasts you are listening to at the moment and if you have any recommendations ❤

See you soon!

Amy x

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