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Plucked Highbrow (West Yorkshire)

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Flourish: A New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being - and how to Achieve Them
Flourish: A New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being - and how to Achieve Them
by Martin Seligman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Helps you flourish, 9 Oct. 2015
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The psychology of happiness and positivity is a growth industry in the current climate. Seligman was one of the first to explore the idea of using psychology to promote well-being and this book is the distillation of his work over a number of years. Working in a school I try to incorporate many of the ideas that Seligman explores in terms of attempting to give students a positive education which enables them to develop soft skills as well as academic skills.

Positive Psychology is the cure to all ills but it helps frame a mindset that has proven benefits in terms of reduced stress and better health. there are many who will view this as mumbo-jumbo, and indeed the book shows a few dissenters as well, but I think this is powerful thought.


Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir
Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir
by Wednesday Martin Ph.D.
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not so far from our closest cousins, 8 Oct. 2015
One of my guilty pleasures is to watch 'scripted reality' shows such as the Real Housewives of New York. They are silly and frothy and pure entertainment. Stories such as Sex and the City have given a fictional insight into the tribes of women who live in New York but they are fictional or they are designed to shock. In this book Wednesday Martin takes a two-pronged approach - she wants to tell the true stories which illustrate the pressures that these women face to keep their place in society and she also wants to relate this behaviour to anthropological research.

In this respect the Primates of Park Avenue is very clever. Martin is a newcomer to the scene and wants to fit in despite herself. She has family to help progress and a social status as the wide of a successful man. However she is also intelligent and used to thinking and working. In negotiating the social mores she can relate this to parallels in the life of the primates as studied in the wild. That's why I love the book it manages to fuse the lowest pleasures that I cannot give up with the intelligent look from a sociological perspective. Entertainment and education, what could be better.


Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth
Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth
by Lee Jackson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Never knew filth could be so interesting, 30 Sept. 2015
London in the 19th Century was a dirty place. Reliance on coal made air pollution a problem and the burgeoning population meant that waste from humans was an ever growing issue. In this book Lee Jackson explores how the Victorians approached dealing with the different forms of dirt and the impact that changes had on society.

From the plight of chimney sweeps to the 'Great Stink', this is a comprehensive look at the different forms of 'dirt' produced and the ever inventive ways that the Victorians had of dealing with it. How the garden cemeteries of London were a commercial venture spurred on by the disinterment of half rotted corpses in church graveyards, how sewers and baths became the norm rather than the exception and sad story of the women who shared single dresses and couldn't leave the house - Jackson has meticulously researched the facts and provides the evidence. This is an incredibly readable and entertaining book which has some key messages for society now as well.


The Museum of Things Left Behind
The Museum of Things Left Behind
by Seni Glaister
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gentle and lovely tale, 23 Sept. 2015
Lost in the midst of the Carpathian Mountains is the state of Vallerosa. Founded by a group of Cathars escaping persecution hundreds of years ago, Vallerosa is small and unknown with no international profile. Governed by a benevolent elected dictatorship in the form of the President Sergio and his team of officials who all inherit their positions, the people of Vallerosa live simple lives unaffected by the world. However a mistake in interpreting a letter means that well-meaning student Lizzie is mistaken for royalty and her trip to discover Vallerosa is treated as an official visit. What Lizzie finds in Vallerosa is country in need of guidance and not that of the circling corporate Americans.

This is an original premise and, after a slow start, engaging story. The idea of a country living without interference from abroad is unlikely but the cast of characters is interesting. What works well are the little set pieces including the museum of things left behind, a place to exhibit the detritus of other people's lives, and the competition between the bar owners. OK it is more of an allegory than a piece of serious literature but it is whimsical and completely beguiling.


Derby Day: A Victorian Mystery
Derby Day: A Victorian Mystery
by D J Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous 19th Century homage, 20 Sept. 2015
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In Victorian England the Epsom Derby was the race that the entire country looked forward to each year. Assiduously following the form and reports about the horses and their owners, fortunes were won or lost on the result and the the best horse didn't always win the race. One of the favourites for the race is Tiberius, owned by an impoverished Lincolnshire gentleman called Davenant. However Mr Davenant's debts mean that Tiberius falls into the hands of Mr Happerton, recently married to the only daughter of an eminent barrister but both he and his wife have their own plans.

This is a wonderful book populated by a cast of expertly drawn characters from all walks of society. The plot links an audacious burglary at a jewellers, a police inspector, a governess and her charge, an aged but honest jockey, fraudsters and con men, their wives and mistresses. It is complex but incredibly readable and very cleverly put together. The race itself barely features but the colour and atmosphere of the Epsom Downs is vividly realised and the machinations of finance in the Victorian era are explored. In a world without credit cards, people borrowed money by way of promissory notes ('paper') and these debts could be bought and sold at will. Vulnerable individuals were prey to hangers-on and every had their own plans and schemes. Taylor has used the best of Victorian literature to draw on but has produced a modern take on the genre which more than holds its own.


Only the Brave (A DS Allie Shenton Novel Book 3)
Only the Brave (A DS Allie Shenton Novel Book 3)
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A solid, entertain read, 13 Sept. 2015
DS Allie Shenton is struggling, her sister is dying and she is being taunted by her sister's attacker. Then she gets the call that Jordan Johnson has been murdered. Jordan and his brother Ryan work for Terry Ryder - the criminal kingpin in The Potteries. Whilst Ryder is behind bars the Johnson brothers have been helping to run things and 'look after' Ryder's daughter Kirstie. Ryan is devastated, he put a hit on his brother to injure him but someone has gone much further and now there is also a large amount of cash missing.

This is the third Allie Shenton book in the series and I have read two of them so far. There is much to enjoy about this book as it is a pacy police procedural. I particularly like the setting in the Black Country and the fact that the community that Sherratt writes about is obviously close to her heart. Whilst the plotline about the attacker of Shenton's sister is, at times annoying, it does provide an exciting end to the book. The plotline about the murder of Jordan Johnson is clever and links various background characters from the previous books as well as standing alone. Sherratt is a confident writer who is mastering her style and audience.


Sweet Caress: The Many Lives of Amory Clay
Sweet Caress: The Many Lives of Amory Clay
by William Boyd
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly readable and emotionally poignant, 12 Sept. 2015
Born into a dysfunctional upper middle-class family, Amory Clay's early life revolves around her father. When he tries to commit suicide and has a breakdown, Amory relies on her uncle Greville. Rejecting university, Amory becomes a photographer and the story follows her life through a series of events and relationships. Amory visits Berlin in the early thirties, moves to New York, then Paris during and after the war picking up lovers and experiences. After working in Vietnam Amory retires to the Scottish countryside and reflects on her life.
I have long been a fan of William Boyd's writing. He is an accomplished writer whose work sits somewhere between high literature and popular fiction in that it is both enjoyable to read and not too demanding but also tackles difficult questions. Here the reader is asked to question their views about war (there are three wars that affect the narrative) and also about the ending of life through suicide (again there are three characters involved). However reading the book, one doesn't initially look at the big picture as one is just relishing a really good story that is well told. This is the best sort of fiction, it doesn't preach, it doesn't try to make life hard for the reader through the use of obscure or overly complicated language, but it does leave the reader asking questions of themselves afterwards. A master at the peak of his powers.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 12, 2015 11:25 AM BST


Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles
Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles
by Bernard Cornwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally well told tale with immaculate research, 5 Sept. 2015
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It is 200 years since the Battle of Waterloo took place in Belgium and changed the course of history. Napoleon Bonaparte, the French Emperor, had escaped from his exile on Elba and had returned to Paris. The French Government and people greeted him and quickly overthrew the restored monarchy of Louis XVIII. Bonaparte gathered a huge army and marched over the French border. The victor of the Peninsular War against Bonaparte was Lord Wellington, a hands-on, admired General, everything Bonaparte was not. Along with his Prussian allies led by General Blucher, Wellington made a stand in an area around the village of Waterloo and over four days thousands of men fought bloodily and hard.
Whilst in the UK we celebrate Waterloo as a great victory this book outlines just how hard-fought the Battle was and how it could have gone either way. Before the decisive battle both the British and the Prussians had fought the French separately and had only been saved from defeat by questionable decisions made on all sides. In the final battle Wellington's troops sustained bombardment after bombardment and, at one point near the end, were very nearly overwhelmed.
Cornwell is not a scholar as such and this is what makes this book so good. In his fiction Cornwell uses research to give authenticity to his narrative, in this word of non-fiction he uses his narrative skills to colour the facts. This makes the book both learned and a good, pacy read.


The News from Waterloo: The Race to Tell Britain of Wellington's Victory
The News from Waterloo: The Race to Tell Britain of Wellington's Victory
by Brian Cathcart
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quirky and clever read, 5 Sept. 2015
The Battle of Waterloo was fought in Belgium on a Sunday in 1815. In England no-one knew the outcome of the battle and, even though it was desperately wanted, news was not able to travel quickly. As the country waited on tenterhooks a variety of characters appeared who claimed to have news of the battle - until official word was received from Wellington the public and the Government had no idea what to believe. It was not until later in the week that the official courier arrived and within days the whole country knew of the tremendous victory and the final overthrow of Napoleon.
In these days of rapid, even instantaneous, news reporting it is hard to remember that 200 years ago news was reliant on relatively slow methods of communication. Word had to travel by road, and the roads were poor, then by sea, sailing ships were governed by the weather. In this book Cathcart reminds us of these barriers and creates a wonderful sense of atmosphere. In London there is the need for news, news that will change the course of history either way, newspapers are vying to be the first. A cast of characters appear, purporting to have first hand knowledge but until Wellington's courier appeared no-one dared to believe. This book is very entertaining, it is not the story of the battle but an explanation of why, how and by whom, news traveled from the battlefield to capital.


The Alchemist's Daughter (Bianca Goddard Mystery) (Bianca Goddard Mysteries)
The Alchemist's Daughter (Bianca Goddard Mystery) (Bianca Goddard Mysteries)
by Mary Lawrence
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Second level historical mystery, 31 Aug. 2015
London in the 1540s and Henry VIII is on the throne. The King has just dispatched his fifth wife and is courting his sixth. In the slums of Southwark people are scraping a living in the only ways they can. A merchant ship, The Cristofur, tries to dock but when the customs officials find dead bodies in the hold and the ship overrun with rats they place it in quarantine. Meanwhile a former muckraker Jolyn visits her friend Bianca in order to find relief from her pains. Bianca makes physics and rat poison so when Jolyn dies she becomes the prime suspect for murder. How is the death of Jolyn related to the Christofur, to the plague of rats currently growing in London and to the mysterious occupants of a former bawdy house?

The rats are a central motif in this story and the descriptions are very realistic and unpleasant. Beyond that though there is nothing to distinguish this book from the glut of mediocre historical mysteries. Bianca Goddard is a quirky enough protagonist and the characters are quite well described but the story didn't really engage. I was left asking to many questions about the holes in the plot. Having said that Lawrence has researched well and her sense of time and place is pretty good.


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