Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Blog Tour - Quarter past two on a Wednesday afternoon by Linda Newberry

Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon

It was the day when everything stopped. At quarter past two on a hot afternoon in August, Anna's beautiful, headstrong elder sister Rose disappears. Twenty years later, Anna still doesn't know whether Rose is alive or dead. In her early thirties now, she sees her future unfolding - with sensible, serious Martin and a grown-up, steady job - and finds herself wondering if this is what she really wants. Unable to take control of her life while the mystery of her sister's disappearance remains unsolved, Anna begins to search for the truth: what did happen to Rose that summer's day? The stunning first adult novel from the distinguished Costa Award winner.

This is Linda Newberry's first adult novel and it is fantastic, I really hope she writes more. The book is written from two perspectives, both Anna and her mother, Sandra. It is cleverly written and gives the author oppurtunity to explore how the whole family are affected when their daughter/sister goes missing and they don't get any answers. However, it becomes clear that Sandra is hiding things from her family.

The story is one of a family, torn apart by grief and constantly waiting for answers as to what has happened to their missing family member. There are many times of sadness throughout the book but the reader is also lead in many different directions and it is not until the end of the book that these individual strands meet up and the real story is told. Each character is affected by Rose's disappearance and I felt myself becoming entwined in the story very quickly. 

I am really looking forward to seeing what Linda Newberry writes next as this book is one of my favourites of the year so far. 

Thank you to the publishers, Doubleday, for sending me the book to review.

Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes

Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking

Love at First Stitch gives you all the know-how you need to start making the dresses of your dreams. Written for novice stitchers by the author of the popular sewing blog Tilly and the Buttons, Tilly Walnes demystifies dressmaking for the generations that have never been taught to sew. This book presents the core sewing basics in an informal style, with Tilly's friendly and encouraging voice cheering the reader on throughout. Instead of overwhelming the novice dressmaker with theory, this book is about learning by doing. Each chapter presents practical tips and inspiration to guide you through creating a made-to-measure garment from one of the seven versatile and adaptable patterns included with the book, which can then be personalised to suit your individual style. Peppered throughout the book are Tilly's top sewing tips, including everything from what to look out for when buying - or borrowing - your first sewing machine, through how to behave in a fabric shop to appear like an expert, to techniques for pressing perfection.

I have enjoyed watching the brilliant Sewing Bee programmes on BBC2 and would love to have a go at dress making but have always felt nervous following a disasterous attempt to make a longline waistcoat at high school. However, when I received this book, I am feeling a little more positive (although I haven't bought fabric or dusted off my sewing machine just yet).

The book is very clearly set out. It is split into seven chapters - each based around making a specific garment. THere is an introduction which details the basic equipment list needed before beginning any project and also gives a rough guide to buying a sewing machine.

Each chapter's aim is to make one item: The Brigitte Scarf; Margot Pyjamas; Dephine Skirt; Megan Dress; Clemence Skirt; Mimi Blouse and Lilou Dress. There are photographs of each finished garment, along with variations of each project. The chapters begin with a technique section, which build up to make a fantastic skills course in simple dress making. The paper patterns for each project are also included (full size, with eight sizes included) along with step by step instructions. They are very clear and in both photographs and words. 

This would make a great gift for a wannabee clothes designer or tailor. It is perfect for teenagers or older people, the projects will suit all ages and the style of the book will appeal to all ages. It is written assuming that the reader is a complete novice and is neither confusing or assuming.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine Programme.

Fresh Prints by Christine Leech

Fresh Prints: 25 Easy and Enticing Printing Projects to Make at Home - Simple Makes

Forget about specialist silk screens and bulky printing presses, for her latest book in the Simple Makes series, Christine Leech has devised 20 easy-to-make-at-home printing projects that use commonly found equipment, from the Lace Print Tote Bag that is created by wrapping a piece of broderie anglaise around a rolling pin to the Utensil Print Napkins and Table Runner decorated with the crazy shapes created by using a potato masher or whisk. The book contains all the techniques needed to create the projects, from paint rollering and lino block printing to natural sun printing and traditional marbling, as well as the trace-off motifs needed for particular designs. From the Kaleidoscope Marbled Mugs and Nordic Fir Lampshade for your home to the Feather Print Tee and Raindrops Umbrella, you'll soon be covering everything formerly plain in prints!

One of my favourite things to do in D&T lessons at school was lino printing and working in a children's centre I also love doing vegetable printing with the children. Working with 0-5 year olds it is easy to imagine the amount of printing that is done in sessions when toddlers see a dish of bright paint on a table! This book however is the grown up version of printing and is jam packed full of ideas to get the reader printing everything in sight.

The book starts with the Printmaker's kit, the tools needed to achieve results and there isn't that long a list to get started. There is also a fantastic section on mixing colours to give beautiful colours, not only your basic green, purple, orange etc but beautiful colours which can be used in interior design - lilac, wedgewood blue, olive green etc. There is also a section, a reminder of school day techniques, on how to make and use a lino template.

The ideas section is split into three sections: Printing with found objects, Lazy Lino Prints and Other Printing Techniques and also ten pages of fantastic templates to use in your own projects. I loved the circus letter wooden postcards - I love the circus theme font and the whole alphabet is included in the template section. There are ideas for notebooks, cushions and umbrellas to name but a few. Each project also has suggestions for alternative uses making this book a compendium for ideas to use for gifts, household improvements and maybe even ideas for a small cottage business.

This is a great introduction into printing - full of ideas, hints, tips and templates to take readers to a new level in interior design, upcycling and crafty techniques.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine Programme.

Knitting Smitten by Jessica Biscoe

Knitting Smitten: 20 Fresh and Funky Hand-knit Designs - Simple Makes

Knitting. What's not to love? It's simply the coolest craft you can do on two needles. Nowadays, it's not just grandmothers who knit. This infectious yarn craft has spread to all generations. Why? Because it's relaxing to do, the results are immensely satisfying and the basics are not at all difficult to learn. Once you have picked up a few core techniques, including mastering the basic knit and purl stitches, the number of different hand knits you can make are literally endless - from an on-trend Chevron Cushion in an enticing zesty colourway to dainty Ballerina Slippers in perky pastel shades. Knitting Smitten encapsulates the joy of knitting with 20 fresh and funky hand-knit designs by knitting newcomer Jessica Biscoe. This latest book in the popular Simple Makes series includes covetable accessories, such as a delicate Maiden Braid Bracelet and chunky Moss Stitch Cowl, perfect presents, such as the dinky Coin Purse and loopy stitch Hedgehog Paperweight, and must-have homewares, such as the Flamingo Cushion and Pennant Patch Throw.

As soon as I opened this book I felt it had a modern feel. It has fun, quirky projects and is bright, colourful and inspirational. I really liked the introduction section to this book which contains a recommendation list of what should be in a knitter's tool kit, an explanation of the different yarns avaliable, how to decipher a knitting pattern (abbreviations explained) and a section on working from a knitting chart (something which i have never managed). There is then a fantastic section on how to knit, taking many abbreviations and giving word and photo instructions on how to knit, purl, knit two together, making an additional stitch to name but a few. They are really well planned out and easy to follow - these are some of the best instructions I have seen in a knitting book. There are then sections entitled: Knits to wear, Knits to share and Knits for the Home. 

Patterns are well written, accompanied by great photographs of finished items along with any difficult techniques. I love the flamingo cushion, the knitted/crocheted bracelets and the diamond leg warmers. The patterns will suit a range of abilities with something for everyone to try.

This is a great book for knitters who like quirky knitting patterns.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine Programme.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Blog Tour - Upside Down by Lia Riley

Upside Down (eBook)

Twenty-one-year-old Natalia Stolfi is saying goodbye to painful memories-and turning her life upside down with a trip to the land down under. For the next six months, she'll pretend to be a carefree exchange student. Everything is going to plan until she meets a surly surfer with hypnotic green eyes, and the troubling ability to see straight through her act. Bran Lockhart is having the worst year on record. After the girl of his dreams turned into a nightmare, he slunk back to Melbourne to piece his life together. Yet no amount of disappointment could blind him to the pretty California girl who gets past all his defenses. He's never wanted anyone the way he wants Talia. A single semester abroad won't cover something this serious. But when Bran gets a stark reminder of why he stopped believing in love, he and Talia must decide if what they have is once in a lifetime . . . or if they were meant to live a world apart. Praise for Upside Down: 'Upside Down gave me all the feels. Romantic and poignant, the journey of love and acceptance lingers long after the book is closed' Jennifer L. Armentrout/J. Lynn, # 1 New York Times bestselling author

When I started this  book I was really excited. I was interested from page one and thought that I was in for a great read. There was real emotion and I found Bran and Talia's relationship really interesting. It appeared to be a really intense relationship and I thought I was going to love following this relationship. However as I continued through the book I found myself loosing interest and wanting more.

I really liked the author's, Lia Riley, writing style. She cleverly wrote it in dual narrative, swapping between Bran and Talia, enabling the reader to really understand what the characters were thinking and how they worked. This also enabled Riley to delve deeper into Talia's thought processes. Talia has both OCD and anxiety disorder. I suffer with anxiety disorder and I think I was hoping that this would play a bigger part within the story but it seemed to be something which was dropped into the story now and then but didn't play such a big part as I think it could of. This is just one of the attributes that makes Talia such a complex character and Bran also has his own demons which I think could play a bigger part in the future.

This is the first book in the Off the map trilogy and although I found myself disappointed with the ending of this first book I will be looking forward to following the trilogy to the end.

Thank you to the publishers, Piaktus, for sending me the book to review in return for an honest review.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Blog Tour - Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Today I am pleased to be part of the blog tour for John Corey Whaley's new release Noggin. Below is a trailer released by Simon and Schuster Children's books to celebrate this exciting read:

Noggin is a word that I remember my lovely dad using 'Use your noggin Sarah!', Did you bump your noggin Sarah?' and as my dad is no longer with us I immediately smiled when I saw this book advertised. When I read the synopsis for the book though I was intrigued and also confused about how I feel about the procedure which occurred at the start of this book: 

Listen - Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn't. Now he's alive again. Simple as that. The in between part is still a little fuzzy, but Travis can tell you that, at some point or another, his head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado. Five years later, it was reattached to some other guy's body, and well, here he is. Despite all logic, he's still sixteen, but everything and everyone around him has changed. That includes his bedroom, his parents, his best friend, and his girlfriend. Or maybe she's not his girlfriend anymore? That's a bit fuzzy too. If the new Travis and the old Travis are ever going to find a way to exist together, it looks like there's going to be a few more scars.

Now blog readers how do you feel about this: Travis had leukemia and had weeks to live, he was offered the oppurtunity to have his head removed it to be  cryogenically stored until such a time in the future where medical advances meant that he could have somebody else's body attached to his head and for Travis to be woken up and continue life as Travis Coates. Travis was 'asleep' for five years, five years in which his family and friends, having said their goodbyes before that final operation, continued with their lives. Now five years on, Travis is back, with a new body, but having had his life on hold for five years. Now I agree that it is only a very clever team of surgeons who could carry out this surgery but I am not sure I could let my child be a guinea pig for such a procedure. When Travis was rewoken there was only one other person who had survived such an operation.

Anyway, this blog is not to question the ethics of such surgery but to praise the fantastic writing of the author, John Corey Whaley. Noggin is a great book, aimed at young adults and a book that can give rise to questions regarding ethics and right to life which I think would make it a great book to have added to secondary school's recommended reading lists. It is a cleverly thought out concept, one which he has addressed from many viewpoints - Travis' friends, family, school network and also the local community who all have mourned his passing and now need to welcome him back to that same community.

This is a fantastic read and is one which will take the reader through a whole circle of emotion - there are times of humour throughout but also Travis really struggles and I shed a fair few tears when he struggled with the knowledge that his girlfriend had moved on into a new relationship and that his best mate was off at university. I am sure that teenagers of today all have to deal with these sort of emotions when mixing with friends of differing ages.

The author, Whaley, has approached this subject with a fantastic idea for a storyline and I think that he has succeeded with Noggin. It is a book that could be read by a group of friends or a class and everyone to have difffering opinions, which would make for a great discussion. After reading this book I was left with the same feeling as when I read Anabel Pitcher's My sister lives on the mantlepiece, I must promote this book and get teachers to read this book, get it on the curriculum reading lists in secondary schools.

A fantastic read which I say children should read - but parents should also read it and be prepared for questions.

Thank you to the publishers, Simon and Schuster Children's Books, for sending me this book in return for a honest review.