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Plucked Highbrow (West Yorkshire)

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The Silkworm: 2 (Cormoran Strike)
The Silkworm: 2 (Cormoran Strike)
by Robert Galbraith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great characterisation and genuine entertainment, 20 Dec. 2015
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Owen Quine wrote one good book many years ago but sales have plummeted and his career is in trouble. However his latest book Bombyx Mori is a not very well-kept secret in the publishing world, a coruscating satire of various famous literary colleagues. Quine's wife is concerned and she hires Cormoran Strike to find her husband, Leonora is a mousy woman devoted to their disabled daughter but aware of Quine's infidelities. When Quine is found brutally murdered Leonora is the prime suspect but Strike thinks differently and investigates.

The first Cormoran Strike novel was good and this is even better, the main characters are more fully developed and the plot is clever. There are some complaints that this is not a top drawer thriller but it is addictive reading and really entertains. As Robert Galbraith, JK Rowling brings all her experience with the Harry Potter series into a more adult genre. What set Harry Potter apart was its readability and this is no different.


The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World
The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World
by Laurence Scott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ideas but does not hold up to scrutiny, 19 Dec. 2015
Over the last couple of decades our lives are being shaped and affected by online presence and activities. This is taking the development of society into a fourth dimension. In this book Scott tries to look at the effects of this fourth dimension by looking at the effects of online presence on events, people and lives.

The premise of this book is very interesting but as a whole it doesn't work at all. Essentially it reads like a set of linked essays which, individually are quite good but read consecutively are repetitive. Scott's ideas are interesting but he goes off tangent so easily, whether it be to consider literature or his own life, that I tended to scan through lots of this book. If edited well this book would be better but the flimsy material would make it a very slim volume!


Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1)
Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1)
by Joe Abercrombie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A short but well-crafted intro to a talented writer, 14 Dec. 2015
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Yarvi was never meant to ascend to the throne of Gettland. Born the younger son of the king and with a crippled hand, he was in training to become a Minister until his father and elder brother were killed and he was forced to assume the role he was ill-prepared for. However treachery soon means that Yarvi is fighting for his life, assumed dead but actually sold into slavery. Joining a group of fellow misfits Yarvi battles back to Gettland and fights for revenge on his would-be assassins.

I hadn't read any Joe Abercrombie books until now and didn't really view myself as a fan of the fantasy genre. however reading my way through the George R R Martin books I found myself wanting more. Abercrombie's reviews are excellent and this seemed like a good introduction to his work. Written as a YA novel it sometimes seems a little superficial and lacking detail but it is clear to see that Abercrombie has a talent from creating racy plots and a cast of characters that pique the interest. I loved this book as a short and fun read and intend to read more!


Ashes to Ashes: 8 (The Chronicles of Hugh De Singleton, Surgeon)
Ashes to Ashes: 8 (The Chronicles of Hugh De Singleton, Surgeon)
by Mel Starr
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable medieval romp, 13 Dec. 2015
In the village of Brampton the annual Midsummer's Eve bonfire is a cause for celebration for all the villagers but the next day the bones of a man are found in the ashes. Surgeon and bailiff Hugh de Singleton takes it upon himself to investigate and his enquiries lead to a neighbouring village where the local bailiff has gone missing. Ascertaining that the body is that of the missing man Hugh looks for the culprit but the lord of the local manor has a already found the perpetrator and hung him. The evidence doesn't add up and Hugh's investigations open up some hidden secrets around the lordship and make him a target for violence.

This is the eighth in a series of tales about Hugh de Singleton, I have only read a couple of them but that doesn't matter, the stories stand up well individually. I think this book is more assured than the earlier ones, Starr has hit his stride with his characters. There is much information about medieval life (and a handy glossary to support) but it is grounded in a vibrant mystery plot that drives the narrative. Whilst this is a short book in terms of length and depth, it is really engaging one.


Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar
Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar
by Tom Holland
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scandal to surpass it all, 11 Dec. 2015
From the rise of Julius Caesar to the death of Nero, five generations of the same family ruled Rome. The greatest of all was Augustus, a living God, whose machinations influenced public policy and whose belief in power meant that he manipulated his extended family to his own ends. In-fighting, murder, incest thread through the lives of the family of Augustus and in the end the family imploded. Nero, the final Emperor, was deposed and with his passing a new era dawned for Rome as a republic once more.

This book is not a doorstop, it is actually a very readable length. Holland covered a lot of history, a lot of scandal and makes many suppositions. The true story of the Caesars is shocking and quite venal and Holland does not shy away from the nasty end of happenings. My only complaint is one which is fairly common in recent history books which appeal the more populist end of the market and that is that fact and fiction tend to blur at times. There is much interpretation of actions in terms of thoughts and feelings which are not necessarily backed by contemporaneous sources and therefore should be treated as fictional interpretations rather than fact. However that is a minor quibble because the actual material Holland has to work with is so juicy and almost fictitious in its outrage that this is a great read as well as being a well-researched tome.


What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
by Randall Munroe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Geek-heaven, 1 Dec. 2015
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OK so it is a bit geeky but actually this book is full of gems!

The depth of science knowledge displayed in this book is outstanding and the way links are made is both clever and slightly frightening.


Into The Fire
Into The Fire
by Manda Scott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best sort of hybrid novel, 28 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Into The Fire (Hardcover)
1429 and the Siege of Orleans is lifted, the French defeat the English and they herald the presence of The Maid as being the key. Who is the Maid, a visionary sent from God or someone more prosaic? Double agent Tomas is charged with defeating her but falls under her spell. 2014 and the election for the mayoralty of Orleans is closely fought between the ultra Right-wing Front National and Luc, scion of the Bressard family. The Bressard family are powerful and not above using the law to their advantage. Across Orleans a series of fires have been set and Ines Picaut is charged with solving the crimes, but when a member of an Algerian crime gang is murdered Orleans is set to explode.

Given that my two favourite genres are medieval history/historical fiction and crime novels this book seemed a good match and I can't fault it. Both parts of the story are absorbing and the links are cleverly made. The idea that Joan of Arc was not who she seems is one which has not been explored quite as fully as it could and the historical end of this novel is well-researched and quite credible. The police procedural is also alive to politics and equally gripping. Put together, two good stories become one outstanding book.


The House of Hidden Mothers
The House of Hidden Mothers
by Meera Syal
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging story with profound themes, 21 Nov. 2015
Shyama is a successful businesswoman, owner of a popular beauty salon and a divorced mother of a student daughter. However Shyama wants another child with her partner Toby, a younger man, and she is told that she will not be able to have one naturally. Mala is an intelligent but impoverished Indian woman, her family died leaving little dowry and Mala's husband thinks that getting Mala to act as a surrogate for a wealthy couple will allow them live a little more comfortably. Inevitably the lives of Shyama and Mala meet as Mala becomes the surrogate for Shyama and Toby's child but as Shyama's aged parents fight to regain their investments in India and Tara, her daughter, suffers in London, Shyama is torn between her family, her culture and her ambition.

Syal is a well-known actress and her previous novels have veered towards the comedic element, this one is different. On the surface this is a story about two women, one with money and one without, but the subplots explore so much more. Tara suffers an assault in the the UK and then travels to India to support women's rights, so changing. Mala travels to the UK and flourishes, Syama's parents have to take legal action against their own family to possess what is theirs by right. The constant theme is one which compares the life and freedoms of women in the UK with those of women in India, either through caste, fertility or sexual rights, and this makes the book far more thoughtful that it initially seems.


Edge of Eternity (The Century Trilogy)
Edge of Eternity (The Century Trilogy)
by Ken Follett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A doorstop of a book but a blockbuster of a story, 21 Nov. 2015
1961 and the Berlin Wall appears overnight, 1989 and the Berlin Wall falls. Between these two events families across the globe go about their everyday lives, lives that revolve around politics. Encompassing the fight for civil rights in America and the struggle for a less hardline on communism in the East, the stories are both personal and also illustrate huge world events, putting them into perspective.

This is the third instalment of the century trilogy and covers the longest span of years. The original five families are intermarried and some characters play a bigger part than others in the story. What makes this book so good however is the clever way in which Follett educates about world politics - the Cuban missile crisis, US politics, life in the Eastern bloc - but at its heart this is a book about people. The book is huge, but it needs to be to do justice to its material. The conclusion of the century trilogy is a sad event.


The Somnambulist
The Somnambulist
by Essie Fox
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.95

4.0 out of 5 stars High Victorian gothic, 9 Nov. 2015
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This review is from: The Somnambulist (Paperback)
Phoebe is 17 and has lived a fairly sheltered life in the Victorian East End. Her father is dead and her mother, an avowed member of a religious group, shares her house with her sister Cissy, a former singer. Phoebe is close to Cissy and accompanies her to Wilton's Music Hall where Cissy comes out of retirement to perform once more and Phoebe is ropes in to help out. After this Cissy dies and Phoebe is forced to become a 'companion' to Mrs Samuels, a rich but sickly woman. Life for Phoebe is never the same again.

Without giving away too much of the plot, this is a pastiche of a high-Victorian gothic novel which links madness, death and the supernatural very well. The only discordant note for me was the continued emphasis on sex, and the consequences. Others have claimed the book as dull, I enjoyed the creation of a strong sense of atmosphere. Whilst the plot seems obvious and a little overwrought, it mirrors the convoluted plots and motifs of the genre it is trying to emulate. Essie Fox is obviously a devotee of the Victorian and that makes this book both a true homage and also a great read on its own.


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