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Plucked Highbrow (West Yorkshire)

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Tiny Budget Cooking: Saving Money Never Tasted So Good
Tiny Budget Cooking: Saving Money Never Tasted So Good
by Limahl Asmall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.24

3.0 out of 5 stars Nice food but not so sure about budget, 28 Aug. 2017
The premise of this book is to empower readers to cook nutritious, simple food within a budget. That is very laudible and so I was interested in receiving a preview sample copy. In the sample I read there was a meal plan for a week and the food looked both delicious and simple to prepare, so far so good. Helpfully there is a shopping list which enables one to buy the ingredients needed to create that week's menus and this is further split so that time poor individuals like myself who don't have 30 mins in a morning to prepare a cooked breakfast but are quite happy with porridge or muesli can leave out the breakfast ingredients. This is where the premise breaks down...the shopping list is long and having just done a rough estimate I know that I would at least double my weekly food spend to fulfil it. So great food but wouldn't save me money!


Watling Street: Travels Through Britain and Its Ever-Present Past
Watling Street: Travels Through Britain and Its Ever-Present Past
by John Higgs
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating tales linked by a road, 28 Aug. 2017
Watling Street is one of the four ancient roads that cross England and date back to pre-Roman times. Extending from Dover in the South-East to Anglesey in North Wales, Watling Street is a road with history at every turn and one which also provides a microcosm of life in England from the past to the present. John Higgs travels this road and visits various places of interest, telling the stories of each and how they have influenced life as we know it.

This is one of my favourite genres of book, the sort that almost defies description. On Amazon this book is classed as 'history' but it's much more, part travelogue, part exploration of culture, part social biography, part conversations with interesting people and part memoir. The tales meander a little too much at times but always there's something of interest upcoming. A bit like the road itself this book covers a lot of ground and there's lots to experience.


The New Mrs Clifton
The New Mrs Clifton
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars More complex than first appears, 26 Aug. 2017
Gus returns from the war a changed man, no longer the middling barrister he has seen and done things he regrets. Now has a new role working for the Foreign Office and a new wife, the fragile and German Krista. This comes as a shock to his sisters, Julia widow of an RAF officer and Tilly a damaged bohemian, and also the family friends, Teddy a solicitor and Nella who is Gus' jilted fiancee. Krista finds it hard to settle into life in the bomb-damaged Clapham terrace that is the situation of the family home, she finds it hard to deal with the prejudice post-war and feels that she doesn't have place in either country. However Krista is a survivor, she has learned that, and when she has a baby she is determined to protect him at all costs.

This book has a great opening, a body found in a Clapham garden in the 1970s and the only clue is that it is of a woman in her late twenties who has had a baby. The rest of the book tells the story of Krista's first year in Clapham but the reader is constantly thinking back to the opening and trying to work out what will happen. There are four women in the story of the right age and there are a lot of red herrings before the twist at the end. However that should not distract from what is a very sad tale about the lives of women after the end of the war. Julia is an attractive woman who lost the man she loved and wants more physical intimacy. Tilly had freedom during the war but cannot cope with life during peacetime. Nella lost the man she loves to another woman and cannot see why. Krista has been through hell but is not a sympathetic character. This is quite a clever book and can be read at different levels.


Can you hear me?: A viciously gripping holiday read set during a scorching Italian summer
Can you hear me?: A viciously gripping holiday read set during a scorching Italian summer
Price: £4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Claustrophobic, 24 Aug. 2017
Elia Furenti is sixteen and living in small Italian village with his mother and father, it is 1978. His father has lost his job and started to behave strangely, his mother pretends not to notice and a young boy disappears in the area. By the height of the summer life in the village is hot and tense, then Anna returns with her son. Elia becomes friends with the son but falls heavily for Anna, a woman over twice his age. Then a young girl disappears and Elia is sure he knows what has gone on.

This is a short and tense book. I didn't particularly get engrossed in the story which affected my enjoyment but I can see why many readers really love this tale. There is a sense of tension in the spare writing which adds to a sense of menace but ultimately it was not enough for me.


Kitty Peck and the Daughter of Sorrow (Kitty Peck 3)
Kitty Peck and the Daughter of Sorrow (Kitty Peck 3)
by Kate Griffin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.58

4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric setting, great characters and a lot of fun, 23 Aug. 2017
1881 and London is sweltering in the hot summer heat. Kitty Peck is trying to make a go of running The Paradise, the huge empire of trade in the Docklands that she has inherited from her grandmother, Lady Ginger. However Kitty is struggling and haunted my memories of her trial to enter 'The Barons', a taste for opium is her only solace. The aftermath of the burning of The Gaudy haunts her and with only one hall operational Kitty is frustrated. However Kitty is being harassed, filthy pictures of her appear on walls around The Paradise and The Barons are intend on finding her brother. As her grandmother reaches the end of her life, there is still more about The Paradise that Kitty needs to learn.

Not having read the first two books in the series was quite a handicap for me in tackling this instalment. It is to Griffin's credit that she doesn't spend vast tracts of the novel rehashing the plots of the previous books and there was definitely enough information to enable me to pick up the gist of the story so far. The handicap was more that I was enjoying the story and the characters created and it made me want to start the series from the beginning. This is escapist popular fiction with a historical setting but it doesn't purport to be history, just a rollicking good tale set in a particular time and place. Kitty is a flawed heroine and the plot is as twisty as one could want.


The Girl in the Glass Tower
The Girl in the Glass Tower
by E C Fremantle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.26

5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting subject and well-researched, 22 Aug. 2017
Arbella Stuart is of the royal blood and potentially an heir to Elizabeth I. In order to keep her safe, Arbella is in the care of her grandmother Bess of Hardwick and kept far away from court and any Catholic sympathisers who may wish to influence her. Whilst young Arbella tries to rebel, her older self becomes resigned to her fate. Upon the death of Elizabeth Arbella is summoned to court as a cousin of the new king, however falling in love with a distant relative is seen as defiance. Arbella's tale is told by Amaelia Lanyer, a disgraced female poet who lived at court but now must make her way in the world as best she can.

Having read the terrific biography of Arbella Stuart by Sarah Gristwood, I was aware of the character, her connections to the throne and the miserable life she seems to have led. Whilst this book is a completely fictionalised account, it does show evidence of excellent research. I particularly liked the idea that Arbella identified with Katherine Grey and this is an explanation of how Arbells seemed to slip into madness and starve herself to death. The interesting character is Bess of Hardwick, a woman who married well and ended up as one of the richest people in England, she was powerful and complex before her time. Amaelia Lanyer is a character about whom little is known but she was a successful poet and some think she is the 'dark-eyed beauty' of Shakespearean fame. Steeped in knowledge of everyday life at court, in the houses of rich and poor alike, this is excellent historical fiction.


The Betrayals: The Richard & Judy Book Club Pick 2017
The Betrayals: The Richard & Judy Book Club Pick 2017
by Fiona Neill
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Book club favourite - good choice!, 19 Aug. 2017
Eight years ago Nick started an affair with Lisa and left his family. Now eight years later Lisa has been diagnosed with breast cancer and decides they should get married. She also reaches out to Rosie, Nick's ex-wife and her former best friend. Rosie is an oncologist based in London who relies on Tinder to provide her with short term relationships until one of her hook-ups turns out to be a student doctor. Nick is struggling with Lisa's illness and her reliance on a new age guru and a diet of juices rather than chemotherapy. Max is a second year medical student filled with self-doubt and in a precarious relationship with an older woman. When daughter Daisy finds a letter from Lisa to Rosie it tips her over into full-blown OCD again.

This is a very modern book but with age-old themes. Nick leaves his family and it affects his children badly, it also affects Lisa's children. Written from the perspective of the four members of the Rankin family, events old and new are reflected upon. There is no happy ending, life has to go on, and whilst nothing really happens in the book, it says a lot. The writing is restrained and does not go into histrionic detail about Daisy's issues; metaphors are subtle, cancer and dead ladybirds. All in all a well-written and meaningful novel and I can see why it is such a book club favourite.


Girl Zero (D.I. Harry Virdee)
Girl Zero (D.I. Harry Virdee)
by A. A. Dhand
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary and understanding multicultural Bradford well, 18 Aug. 2017
Harry Virdee is looking forward to celebrating Diwali with his wife and son but gets called out to a murder scene. He is shocked to find that the victim is his niece, Tara. Breaking the news to Ronnie he is aware that Ronnie will be out for revenge and Ronnie operates on the other side of the law. However as Harry investigates he realises that Tara was involved in something much bigger and more serious that any issues to do with family. Young white girls have been going missing, undetected, and another one is set to 'disappear' in a couple of days.

I really enjoyed Dhand's first novel and this one is even better. In fact I can forgive the rather rushed ending because what makes this book so good is the understanding of a multicultural setting such as Bradford. I know the area well and Hand obviously does because it is not a case of white versus asian, the tensions between Sikh and Muslim are put centre stage. Whilst the plot is a little far-fetched, it does draw on the well-documented concerns about grooming and child abuse at its heart. Harry Virdee is a complex character and this story is very much about him, the police force barely figures. The ending leaves the way open to a next book in the series and I look forward to it.


The Companion
The Companion
by Sarah Dunnakey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.61

5.0 out of 5 stars Gentle and yet very powerful story, 17 Aug. 2017
This review is from: The Companion (Hardcover)
On the edge of the moors in West Yorkshire lies Potter's Pleasure Palace, an old mill building turned into a place of wonderment for young Billy Shaw. The Great War is over and the people of the area flock to The Palace to dance, skate, boat and enjoy the teas produced by Billy's mum. Billy gets the opportunity to become a companion to Jasper Harper, who lives at High Hob with his mother Edie and her brother Charles, a popular novelist. In modern times Ackerdean Mill is the site of a museum dedicated to the Harpers and the new custodian is Anna who is determined to solve the mystery of the deaths of the Harpers in 1936.

It took a while for me to get into this book, I'm not sure why as the setting is fairly local to me and of great interest. However once it clicked I was hooked. The characters are complex and there are layers and layers of intrigue which are barely touched upon, for example Anna's backstory haunts her yet it is only briefly touched upon. In fact there are lots of little gems that enrich this story - who was Charles' lover, who was the father of Jasper etc. They are all answered but in a natural way that doesn't really draw attention. That is what works so well here, there are few histrionics and the writing is very restrained yet the storyline is powerful and moving. A great read.


City of Masks: Oswald de Lacy Book 3
City of Masks: Oswald de Lacy Book 3
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars New setting but same great characterisation, 15 Aug. 2017
After a tragedy in England Oswald de Lacy is haunted and has set off on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. However he has got no further than Venice as the city is besieged by the Hungarians and no ships are sailing. Lodging with an English merchant known to his mother, Oswald indulges in the hedonistic side of Venetian life and finds himself in debt. Then the grandson of his landlord is found murdered and Oswald is forced to investigate, partially for money, partially because his mother is crowing about his skills and partially because he cares for the wife of the house.

This is the third outing for Sykes' reluctant medieval sleuth and the setting has changed from Kent to Venice. This is a welcome diversion as it places characters in greater proximity to each other in the city setting. Sykes' research and ability to conjure up that elusive sense of time and place are excellent as ever. I particularly liked the psychological issues that de Lacy was undergoing and the fact that they were not explained until deep into the book. this is solid and entertaining series of books.


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