Challenge Participant


Monday, 31 October 2011

Keep Calm and Pot On

Keep Calm and Pot on: Good Advice for Gardeners - Keep Calm

Have you ever thought how useful it would be to have a pocket-sized book of gardening advice to take outside with you into the garden? Ever looked at a plant infected with white fly and wondered what to do? Well then this is the book for you. Keep Calm and Pot On is crammed full of practical advice in the form of tips and techniques as well as being filled with humorous quotes to keep you amused whilst waiting for that inevitable rain cloud to clear. The useful tips and invaluable techniques will provide an immediate answer to many of your gardening queries, without you having to search a large tome once you step back indoors. Learn how to deadhead a rose to ensure a successful season of bloom the following year, or the ideal place to plant a sunshine-loving flower. Assure that your hard work pays off by using the essential techniques in the book to promote continued growth and guarantee that your plot, however small, always looks at its best. This helpful little book is also filled with witty quotations that are taken from both contemporary and historical sources, including films, essays, novels and various accomplished gardeners. Those quoted include Anna Pavord, Alice B. Toklas, Monty Don, Harold Epstein, Margaret Atwood and many more. Featuring funny and inspiring anecdotes, wry truths, useful advice and timeless wisdom, this neat book confirms itself as the perfect aide for any gardener.

The perfect gift for gardeners this Christmas! Compiled by Liz Dobbs, a former editor of Gardens Monthly and  a writer on a wide range of articles on gardening, the book is full of hints, tips and advice along with wise words about gardening and produce.

There are quotes from poets, writers, broadcasters and proverbs. The book has many pages relating to the medicinal qualities of plants and herbs, lists of vegetables that are easy to grow, hints and tips for gardening in general and old wives tales on maintenance of tools etc.

This is one of those books that can be picked up and dipped into easily - where ever you open a page, you will receive great advice. It is great as a stocking filler or as a secret Santa gift in garden clubs etc.

This is a perfect Christmas gifts for green fingered friends or family.

Thank you to Quadrille Publishers for sending me the book to review.

Keep Calm and Cook On

Keep Calm and Cook On: Good Advice for Cooks - Keep Calm

This handy little book will prove to be the perfect antidote to all your kitchen worries. Packed full of humorous quotes and witty quips, as well as invaluable tips and essential techniques, every home cook can be saved from the despair of a sunken souffle or learn how to save a mayonnaise that is threatening to split. Keep Calm and Cook On is littered with quotations that have been chosen from a variety of sources, from Michelin-starred chefs to historians, essayists and film stars. Those quoted include Nigella Lawson, Marcel Boulestin, Claudia Roden, Madame Benoit, Jane Grigson and many other luminaries of the world of food and cooking. These are timeless quotations that offer a wealth of wisdom and humour for both gourmands and novice cooks alike. Interspersed with the insightful quotes are practical tips and techniques that will help avoid any kitchen dilemmas and keep home cooks free of stress. Learn how to poach an egg to perfection, how to get the most juice out of your lemons and how to save overcooked vegetables. This delightful pocket-sized book will keep cooks out of trouble and in excellent humour, making sure that food never becomes a chore and always remains a pleasure.

This is one of those books that make a great stocking filler for those people you never know what to buy for. It is a great little book published by Quadrille Publishing and is full of good advice for cooks. The good advice is in many forms; Quotes from a wide range of people (cooks, food writers, journalists, actors and singers to name but a few); cooking tips; those old wives tales for around the kitchen; healing properties of foods; or theories concerns food or cooking in general. 

The book has many inspirational pages within it and would make a great gift to food lovers or wannabee chefs. There is plenty of good advice within the book, along with humour and wit from many famous faces. 

The book has been compiled by Lewis Esson, who is an experienced editor of food books and this book shows a vast experience of life within the world of food.

Thank you to Quadrille Publishers for sending me the book to review.

Keep Calm and Cast On

Keep Calm Cast On: Good Advice for Knitters - Keep Calm

Keep Calm and Cast On is a delightful pocket book full of quotes, quips and wit plus expert troubleshooting tips and techniques to keep the contemporary knitter calm in the face of a dropped stitch. The wise and often amusing quotes are compiled from a myriad of sources, including historical and contemporary essays, poems and fiction. Also included is a selection of previously unpublished quotes from contributors such as Kaffe Fassett, Jared Flood, Brandon Mably, Pip Lincolne and other luminaries of the knitting world. Knitting's calming properties are well documented, and interesting facts concerning the therapeutic benefits of practising this craft are interspersed amongst the quotes and technical tips, ensuring that this book is not just informative and humorous but also good for your well-being. Alongside the witticisms and fascinating facts is solid, practical advice designed to keep the knitter sane while all around them is unravelling. Erika will share her foolproof tips for making sure you don't get yourself into a tangle and that your knitting will go that much smoother.

This book has been compiled by Erika Knight, a renowned knitwear designer and respected consultant to the fashion and yarn industry.

This is the perfect Christmas gift for a knitter. it would make a great stocking filler or a gift for someone who you like to buy a little something, priced at only £4.99 it is perfect for Secret Santa type ideas within crafting groups etc.

The book is jam packed full of hints, tips and inspirational quotes from the knitting world and beyond.  There are quotes from books and films, from scientific literature, hints and tips from designers and fellow knitters and general good advice for projects and inspiration for new ideas.

This is the perfect gift idea for knitters or craft lovers of all ages. A small gift with huge thoughts and ideas.

Thank you to Quadrille Publishers for sending me the book to review.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Bomber by Liza Marklund

The Bomber

Seven days. Three killings. And one woman who knows too much...Crime reporter Annika Bengtzon is woken by a phonecall in the early hours of a wintry December morning. An explosion has ripped apart the Olympic Stadium. And a victim has been blown to pieces. As Annika delves into the details of the bombing and the background of the victim, there is a second explosion. These chilling crimes could be her biggest news story yet. When her police source reveals they are hot on the heels of the bomber, Annika is guaranteed an exclusive with her name on it. But she is uncovering too much, and soon finds herself the target of a deranged serial killer...

This is the fourth and final book in my Transworld Reading Challenge and is another new author to me. A Swedish author, who has hit the crime market in UK by storm.

This book is set over seven days and includes three murders. The main character is Annika, a crime reporter who wants to find who is responsible for the crimes. 

I really enjoyed this book. I found it to be fast paced and the plot flowed effortlessly. Throughout the book I found it gave us an insight into the possible conflicts faced by the media, in this case the newspapers, where journalists wanted to find and report the real story whereas the editors are governed by the constraints of reporting. This was evident in this book and I enjoyed this side to the book.   The main character Annika is a working mother who also has to juggle her career with family life and this is also discussed within the book and I think this will be something that readers can identify with, a real woman with the same worries as many other working mothers.

I would recommend this book to lovers of crime fiction but be warned once you start this book, you will not want to put it down.

Thank you to Lynsey Dalladay from Transworld Publishing for setting up and running this challenge.

The Magic of Christmas by Trisha Ashley

The Magic of Christmas

Another deliciously seasonal and heart-warming tale from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Twelve Days of Christmas and Chocolate Wishes. In the pretty Lancashire village of Middlemoss, Lizzy is on the verge of leaving her cheating husband, Tom, when tragedy strikes. Luckily she has welcome distraction in the Christmas Pudding Circle, a group of friends swapping seasonal recipes -- as well as a rivalry with local cookery writer Nick over who will win Best Mince Pie at the village show! Meanwhile, the whole village is gearing up for the annual Boxing Day Mystery Play. But who will play Adam to Lizzy's Eve? Could it be the handsome and charismatic soap actor Ritch, or could someone closer to home win her heart? Whatever happens, it promises to be a Christmas to remember! Previously published as Sweet Nothings, Trisha has extensively reworked the original novel with fabulous new extra material.

This is a reworked piece, originally published under the title of Sweet Nothings. I am a Trisha Ashley fan, however I have not read any of her early work and therefore I have read this book as a new story to me and thoroughly enjoyed it. A great story to read in the build up to Christmas.

The book is set in a small village. The main character, Lizzy, is married but unhappy. She has decided to wait until her son leaves for university, only a few  weeks, before she leaves her husband. However, her husband is killed in an car accident. The accident appears to be suspicious, but was it Lizzy who loosened the wheel nuts or was Lizzy the intended victim?

There is also a group of characters called the Christmas Pudding Circle, a group of friends, including Lizzy, who gather each year to create Christmas hampers for the older generation of the village.

Many of the chapters within the book begin with an entry from The Perseverance Chronicles: A Life in Recipes, a series of books written by Lizzy and which includes regular updates on what the Christmas Pudding Circle are up to and ideas for recipes and twists upon old recipes. This is definitely not a book to read while you are hungry or on a diet as there are plenty of delicious sounding foods.

As with all of Trisha's previous books, I found this to be a great read. Something you could relax with and read on a long afternoon. Full of fantastic characters that you could find in any village, with lots of history between them, their lives being entwined in many ways. The is a great Christmas story, with the annual village play, the Boxing Day Mystery Play, who's rehearsals play a big part in the story.

As with many Avon books, the cover is gorgeous, with the flittering on the cover looking very like snow on the village. It jumps of the shelf and so it should, a great wintry read.

I would recommend this to chick lit lovers and anyone who wants a great book to curl up with on the long winter evenings.

This book now has me looking forward to Trisha's next release in Spring 2012, Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues - another fantastic sounding book!

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

Friday, 28 October 2011

Miracle on Regent Street by Ali Harris

Miracle on Regent Street

Dreams can come true - it could happen to you...For the past two years, Evie Taylor has lived an invisible existence in London, a city she hoped would bring sparkle to her life. But all that is about to change. For winter has brought a flurry of snow and unexpected possibilities. Hidden away in the basement of Hardy's - once London's most elegant department store - Evie manages the stockroom of a shop whose glory days have long since passed. When Evie overhears that Hardy's is at risk of being sold, she secretly hatches a plan. If she can reverse the store's fortunes by December 26th - three weeks away - and transform it into a magical destination once again, she might just be able to save it. But she's going to need every ounce of talent and determination she has. In fact, she's going to need a miracle.

I absolutely loved this book. A fantastic story, great to reminisce about how department stores used to be, full of history and family members. There is the old fashioned spirit of Christmas and all the magic of shopping in big stores at Christmas time with their special displays. A real nostalgic book that kick starts the Christmas reading for me. 

This is the author's, Ali Harris, debut novel and after reading this book I can't wait for the next book! 

The main character within the book is Evie, a stockroom girl in Hardy's, one of the oldest department stores in London, a family run business which has been passed down the family, but is now feeling very dated and staff are despondent and down hearted as to the future of Hardy's. Evie, works all day in the stockroom, a job she got by accident, when she was confused for someone else, and accidentally started working at Hardy's. Hardy's was a shop that Evie grew up with, her parents used to work there and they got engaged there too. However, just about all staff call Evie, Sarah, because they didn't realise anyone new had started. However when Sarah unpacks a new box of stock for the designer section of the store, she finds a top she just has to try on and when she walks around the shop floor, a young, gorgeous man approaches her and they end up going up on a date, even though the man thinks Evie is someone else, Carly, the personal shopper manager who is later promoted to assistant manager of the store and tasked to make Hardy's more profitable.

The story does have romance in it, but the main story is about Evie and how she takes the future of Hardy's into her own hands, deciding to become Hardy's Secret Fairy who does makeovers of the departments in the early hours to help increase profits. After deciding to also get her true friends together for an evening, when she thinks she is getting the job promotion she deserves, she is disappointed to find out Carly gets it instead, however the get together goes ahead and Felix the aging, nighttime security guard, accidentally lets slip that it is Evie who is the secret fairy and the group of friends decide they want to be part of it too. What follows are more inspirational and nostalgic displays which brings more customers to Hardy's and profits rising. 

There is a love story too - Evie, pretending to be Carly, with the mysterious American, who says he is over from US, where he is part of a family run department store, but Evie is not sure. There is also Sam, the delivery van driver who visits the store each week to deliver goods to Evie's stock room, however Evie thinks he has a girlfriend but does he?

It is a great book to read this winter time, full of nostalgia in a store full of old fashioned values and team spirit within the staff, especially those who work behind the scenes, who the customers and shop floor staff are unaware of. The book is written as a countdown to Christmas within the store and it added to the excitement, would Hardy's be saved, would Evie do what she has set out to achieve. 

I loved Ali Harris's  writing style and I devoured it quickly, easy to read but addictive and hard to put down. A great book for a lazy afternoon curled up in a chair!

I am already looking forward to the next book by Ali Harris and I will be recommending this to all my friends as the perfect book to read this winter.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster  for sending me this book to review.

Wrapped up in you by Carole Matthews

Wrapped Up In You

A Christmas fling, or has Janie found the real thing? Thirty-something hairdresser Janie Johnson's single status is a constant source of gossip for her friends and clients. So after too many nights in with her cat, a blind date disaster and news that her ex is getting married, Janie realises it's time to do something dramatic with her life. It's time for an adventure! Leaving winter behind, Janie takes the plunge and books an exotic trip to Africa. Her friends think she's mad and Janie thinks they may very well be right ...but then she falls head over heels for her tour guide - and fully fledged Maasai Warrior - Dominic. But can Janie now face spending a snowy Christmas back home without him? Packed with unforgettable characters, romance and laughter, Wrapped Up In You is your very own perfect Christmas Carole!

This is another new author to me, and again I will be seeking out her back catalogue very soon!

Looking at the cover of the book, I was expecting a nice, easy going love story, set around Christmas time, in a snowy winter. What I was not expecting was part of the story to be set in the Maasai Mara, Kenya and the main male character to be a Maasai Warrior! However, I absolutely loved this book and devoured it in a couple of days (I actually read a large proportion of it while waiting in a Michael Connelly book signing queue in Birmingham). 

The story begins with the main character, Janie Johnson, being bored of her single life, working each day in a hairdressers, with her regular customers asking about her love life (or lack of it). One such regular, Mrs Silverton, has just returned from a holiday to the Maasai Mara, a safari holiday, and Janie decides to make a quick decision and books a week away on Safari. Here she meets Dominic, the guide for the safari, and the attraction, which is mutual, is instant. Following her week's holiday, Janie is reluctant to leave Kenya and return to her life back in England, but she does along with the promise that herself and Dominic will stay in touch. 
Janie's friends and customers all consider Dominic to be a holiday romance and warn Janie to be careful, not to pin much hope on their romance, that these guides must have a new girlfriend each time a new group of people arrive for the safari, not to send money because it is a scam, the girls send them money and never hear from them again, unless they want more money. 
However, Janie does not listen to her friends and customers, determined that Dominic is the one and as Christmas approaches she makes another quick decision, she will return to Maasai for a brief visit between Christmas and the New Year. Again Dominic is waiting for her and they spend a romantic few days together, even visiting his parents in his village. It is on this quick visit that they talk about their future together and Janie asks Dominic to come to England to live with her. 
When Janie returns to England, her friends are very worried and tell Janie that as soon as she sends money for his ticket, that will be the last that she will hear from Dominic - however, Dominic does travel to England and they do set up home together. Dominic's life in Maasai was a completely different style and with different priorities, however he tries to adapt as best as he can. I loved his instant and mutual friendship between him and Janie's cat who he placed round his neck like a scarf when he left the house. He was also very popular with the older generation of the village.

There are also other characters within the book; the staff at the hair salon who all have their own problematic lives but also care about Janie, including Nina, Janie's oldest friend, who is having marriage difficulties; the blind date who Janie escapes from via a toilet window, but who thinks the date went well and there is a future, and who stalks her; and Mike, a neighbour who's wife has recently left him and who spends movie evenings with Janie, he has feelings for her, but Janie considers him a good friend. All these people have their own part to play within the book and most of them have Janie's best interests at heart but the road of friendship is not always easy.

I am not going to say what happens when Dominic lives in England with Janie, I don't want to spoil other readers enjoyment of the book but I do think it is well written. Carole Matthews must have done alot of research at the Maasai Mara (what a great excuse for a holiday) and her writing is very descriptive and I found it easy to picture the scenes there and would definitely love to visit. I found Janie's friends reactions to be realistic, there have been so many stories in the news about how English women have been duped into sending money overseas to bring boyfriends here, only to never see them again or for them to come and then disappear. 

I think that Dominics story was a very endearing one, he did all he could to become involved in English life and stuck very stringently to his visa conditions. He seemed a very determined young man, not afraid to show the love for his country and his proudness of being a Massai Warrior - although I am sure the customs officers at the airport would have been very worried to have not found his Machete in his luggage on his arrival! 

I would recommend this book to chick lit lovers but will say, if you are expecting a cosy Christmas read, with snow on the ground and jolly family events around the fire, you will be disappointed. The story is very good though and i do not think readers will be disappointed at all, there are plenty of times of laughter and good cheer within the book.

I noticed that this book is the first by Matthews to be published by Sphere and that they will be publishing two books per year, one Christmas and one Summer title each year, and so i am looking forward to the Summer one already!

Thank you to Carole and Sphere for sending me the book to review.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Mega Mash Up. Pirates v Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum by Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson

Mega Mash-Up: Pirates v Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum

This book needs you! What if some bloodthirsty Pirates and crazy Ancient Egyptians broke into a haunted museum? Would one of them steal the priceless golden howler monkey? Or would the Museum's spooky ghosts turn against them first? You'll have to finish the illustrations and find out ... Prepare to laugh while you doodle and snigger while you read.

I have previously reviewed a previous book from this series: Romans vs dinosaurs on mars and was very impressed with that book and the same can be said of this book!

This is a great way to get children into reading - especially boys. There is a basic story, but I believe the main focus on this story are the illustrations. Each page has a basic picture to accompany the story but there are many gaps in the picture for the reader to add to with their own ideas. However, if they need inspiration there is a Picture Glossary at the end of the book for ideas.  All the pictures could be coloured in if the reader would like as they are all in black, white and purple. 

I would recommend this book as a great idea for anyone who enjoys history, pirates, ancient Egyptians or likes illustrating and/or art. A perfect stocking filler!

Thank you to Nosy Crow and Michael from The School Run for sending me the book to review.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Time of my Life by Cecelia Ahern

The Time of My Life

The stunning and magical new novel from the Number One bestselling author Lying on Lucy Silchester's carpet one day when she returns from work is a gold envelope. Inside is an invitation -- to a meeting with Life. Her life. It turns out she's been ignoring it and it needs to meet with her face to face. It sounds peculiar, but Lucy's read about this in a magazine. Anyway, she can't make the date: she's much too busy despising her job, skipping out on her friends friends and avoiding her family. But Lucy's life isn't what it seems. Some of the choices she's made -- and stories she's told -- aren't what they seem either. From the moment she meets the man who introduces himself as her life, her stubborn half-truths are going to be revealed in all their glory -- unless Lucy learns to tell the truth about what really matters to her. Lucy Silchester has an appointment with her life -- and she's going to have to keep it. Touching, warm, funny and poignant, Cecelia Ahern's new novel explores what happens when you stop paying attention to your life.

I have been looking forward to Cecelia Ahern's new release for some time. I first found Cecelia when P.S. I Love You featured in Richard and Judy's Book Club back in 2004. I have enjoyed most of Ahern's subsequent books, a couple were not my cup of tea, but most I would recommend to others.

In this book, The Time of my Life, Lucy Silchester, receives a letter from her 'life', After a couple of weeks of letters each day at her home, her work and her family's home she reluctantly makes an appointment. When she arrives at her appointment,  a scruffy looking man, working in an office where he rents a desk, in a crumpled suit introduces himself as her life. As Lucy starts to take control of her life and face up to  others' feelings, Life starts to undergo a transformation too, with smarter clothes and looking after his appearance. One of the main issues in Lucy's life is her ex boyfriend, Blake. Blake actually broke off their relationship but at the time, it was decided that their friends and family should think that Lucy broke it off, which has caused issues with a number of friends and families. Lucy has found that since Blake has finished filming his travel programme, he has set up a centre where he can take people up in a plane and then do tandem jumps from a plane - Lucy finally plucks up the courage to go and see him, will they their relationship or will Lucy return home to carpet cleaner, Don, a one night stand who would love to have a relationship with Lucy.

As with most of Cecelia's books, there is a magical/imaginative side to the book which I think shows Cecelia's unique storytelling style and I enjoyed this side to the book. It was a slightly unusual idea, about meeting someone who was your 'Life' but Cecelia writes as if it is a  regular occurrence and I certainly enjoyed this unusual idea - sometimes I think it would be a very useful meeting to have.

i really enjoyed the book, another story in which i could loose myself in. The story was believable, a girl who felt sorry for herself, was working to pay the rent but not taking pleasure in her work, going through the motions of the day and not much else, something I am sure many of us can relate too.  It is a story many of us could relate to and I am sure many of us will take points from the story away with us after reading this book.

I would recommend this book as a great gift for female friends and/or family members who are going through a bad point in their life and need to read something uplifting and fun. There are many times of laughter and happiness throughout the book.

Thank you to the publishers, Harper Collins, for sending me this book to me to review.

50 Years of Coronation Street by Tim Randall

Fifty Years of Coronation Street

Coronation Street first hit British screens at the end of 1960, a groundbreaking show based on real life and using accents that had never been heard on British television before. It was an instant hit, and has remained consistently one of the UK's most popular shows ever since. The joy of Coronation Street is in the quality and humour of its writing, and the wonderful characters that have been created over the years. For the first time, here is a book that not only reminds readers of all the storylines over the last fifty years, but also celebrates these two very special things. The book includes profiles of fifty Coronation Street icons - from Ena Sharples to David Platt - and the author has had unprecedented access in order to include interviews with all of those still with us. There are also hilarious extracts from the script and classic lines remembered. FIFTY YEARS OF CORONATION STREET is the only official book celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Coronation Street. It is the definitive book on five decades of life on the Street and no fan of the show would want to be without it.

As many other people, I am a Coronation Street fan. I enjoy books which look back over a period in time focusing on a specific theme or person and so this sort of book is one that I would pick out to look at from a shop.

The book is split into decades: 1960s; 1970s; 1980s, 1990s, 2000s; and then the anniversary year, 2010. Each decade is looked at, with the main storylines revisited. There are character profiles of some of the most popular characters throughout the decades. Each decade had lists for births, deaths and marriages.

Flicking through the book my memory is reminded of lots of the storylines that have happened within the fifty years on the Street. There are also lots of quotes of lines from the show, which I loved to read through.

Throughout the book, there are also lots of pages from scripts. The book has a sort of magazine style to it, there are lots of 'articles'; Crimes of Fashion; Top Five Christmas Crackers; Top five Eddie Yates' Scams and other articles of interest about the soap.

I really enjoyed looking through this book, lots of interesting facts from the show, lots of memories and I really enjoyed the quotes throughout the book and laughing at many memories that sprung to mind when i read them.

This would make a great gift for a real Corrie fan and will be a great coffee table book that could be picked up and dipped into at any time.

I received this book as a competition prize from The Coronation Street Blog.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Patch! by Cath Kidston


Encapsulating Cath Kidston's new and innovative take on traditional patchwork, Patch! combines the established techniques with a more contemporary approach to the craft. Mixing her own distinctive prints with vintage fabrics, Cath has designed over 30 original and irresistible projects including not just the pieced bedcovers that you might expect but also numerous accessories and homewares - bags, cushions, pillowcases and even a toddler's toy ball and Stanley dog. As with Make!, Sew! and Stitch!, this book includes a unique and exclusive giveaway kit; everything you need to create either the bag or cushion shown on the cover, including printed fabric patchwork pieces plus the fabric and tape needed to finish off the bag or cushion.

Another fantastic addition to Cath Kidston's ever increasing library of needlework books. This book concentrates on Patchwork and includes a fantastic free gift with which you have all the materials to make either the bag or cushion as shown on the front cover.

Patchwork, the art of sewing together cut pieces of material to create a larger design, is become more popular again and can be done using pieces of fabric cut from old clothes, fabrics etc and can be used to decorate no end of projects.

As with all Cath Kidston books, this book begins with a great chapter entitled Basics. There is a page detailing essential equipment; what should be inside a work box, the essentials and the other bits and pieces which will make the job easier; two pages detail the basics for cutting out 'patches', with hints and tips for using templates, using rotary cutters and planing your patches. There is a page on using sewing machines for patchwork and also hand sewing basics with some great pictures accompanying the text. The rest of this section looks at traditional techniques, four of which are discussed in the book; hand applique and the use of embellishments on your designs. How to choose fabrics is discussed in this chapter along with  instructions for hand embroidery stitches.

There are over 30 projects included in the book, with lots of photographs for inspiration all using Cath's gorgeous fabrics. The projects are for a range of abilities, some for the novice whereas others may need a higher level of experience to complete. There are a number of bags; tote, messanger, knitting and wash bags;  cushions; bedcovers, including blankets, bedcovers; beanbag covers; pincushions; pictures and decorating clothes. There are projects suitable for many different ages and their are ideas suitable for presents. There are traditional designs along with many modern, contemporary designs but the beauty of patchwork is that the overall look of a project can be changed by the fabrics used. All templates needed for the projects are included in the back of the book ready to be photocopied.

The projects all have a complete material list, along with a list of items to be cut out. Each project also has a skill level displayed at the start of the project and a general description of the project, along with ideas for  patches or ideas for choosing suitable fabrics. For many of the projects there are drawn pictures showing layouts of patches/pieces of fabric or how to do certain techniques for the projects.

I have found lots of projects that I would love to have a go at from the book and will be on the hunt for suitable fabrics to have a go with!

This would make a great gift idea for needlework or patchwork lovers. It is suitable for novices or more experienced crafters as there are projects suitable for all levels to try. With the added bonus of the materials needed for one project included in the book, a crafter can get started straight away.

Thank you to Quadrille Publishing for sending me the book to review.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks

The Best of Me

They were teenage sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks ? with a passion that would change their lives for ever. But life would force them apart. Years later, the lines they had drawn between past and present are about to slip ...Called back to their hometown for the funeral of the mentor who once gave them shelter when they needed it most, they are faced with each other once again, and forced to confront the paths they chose. Can true love ever rewrite the past? The new epic love story from the multi-million-copy bestselling author of The Notebook and The Last Song. Nicholas Sparks is one of the world's most beloved authors.

As with all of Nicholas Sparks books, this is beautifully written and a great story. Packed full of emotion, Sparks looks at the story from many different angles, looking at the repercussions from many characters perspectives.

Dawson and Amanda are the main characters within The Best of Me. Their relationship is the basis of the story, Amanda was rich, well respected and beautiful, Dawson was abused and unloved and nearly died following an explosion on the oil rigs he works on.Their families try to destroy their relationship, and they are left to lead separate lives away from each other. Following the death of their mentor, Tuck Hostetler, they are bought back together first the first time since they were teenagers.

There is plenty of opportunity to learn about both characters backgrounds, while also introducing many other characters into the story too. There is a dramatic climax to the story which also has a will they or won't they subplot included. 

I like Sparks' style of writing, it is so believable and has an ability to loose yourself in his world, the characters are also believable and people you would see in everyday life. I lost many an hour reading this book and found it an enjoyable read. The book talks about first love, something that most people can relate to - that one relationship that had to finish but always has a place in your heart that you remember with a smile on your face.

I would recommend this to all Sparks' fans and anyone who wants a good book to loose themselves in on these long autumn evenings.

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

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Adventures of Needlework, Stitching with Passion by Emily Peacock and Jessica Aldred

Adventures in Needlework: Stitching with Passion

This is a book of bright and funky designs that shows how stitching has become seriously stylish. The unique projects bridge the gap between craft & interior design and progress in difficulty throughout. These UK authors have produced a stunning book that will appeal to both beginning and experienced stitchers. This is a book that brings embroidery bang up to date using traditional techniques alongside bold colours, graphics and striking contemporary ideas. The unique projects bridge the gap between craft and interior design, embracing the revival of the 'homemade'. Four main techniques (canvas work, applique, silk shading and goldwork) are covered, with three projects progressing in difficulty for each. All the tools, materials and stitching techniques needed are carefully explained, along with general instructions for making up cushions, bags and framing canvases. Complete beginners will be able to get started straight away, whilst more experienced stitchers will be inspired and challenged.

I am a great fan of Emily Peacock and have stitched two of her designs in cross stitch.  Emily Peacock does many of her designs in needlepoint, using wool and  canvas, however the designs can also be stitched in cross stitch giving a subtler and lighter finished piece.

The book's introduction gives a brief summary of the history of needlework and it was very interesting to learn about the use of needlework as a remedial treatment, and its use in prisons to rehabilitate prisoners. There is a great section on materials and equipment - what can be used, what different effects can be achieved with different materials, threads etc, what embellishments could be used. There are also equipment suggestions along with what should be in a basic workbasket kit before starting a project.

There are very comprehensive instructions on basic techniques used in the book and a stitch glossary. I found these sections very informative and easy to follow.

There are four main sections to the book: Canvaswork; Applique; Silk Shading; and Goldwork. Each section has a brief introduction, again including the history of the technique and a summary of the projects included in the section. 

In the canvaswork section I love the Lean on Me cushion and the passion design - and I think I will be stitching both these designs using cross stitch to go with my other two Emily Peacock projects. Emily's designs are very striking and distinct. Her use of colour is excellent and she gets great depth in her work - a good example of this is the piece with two acrobats, there is great shadow in the design, a great use of colour. Although all the pieces use wool and canvas, i will be stitching them with silks and on evenweave fabric. The charts are beautifully clear and use both colour and symbols to show the stitches. There are ideas on finishing the designs into cushion, pictures and even a purse. The projects are all shown in simple steps using both photographs and words to describe each one, making them easy to follow.

The Applique section has a wide variety of projects; a classic silhouette of the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, an applique modern rose design on a coat; and a modern picture. Again the projects all have great instructions in pictures and words filled with 'tricks' to ease the process.

Silk Shading is a stunning section, teaching the reader how to use silks in projects to achieve lifelike results. The first project is a simple apple however using the technique described it appears very lifelike. There is also a project with two two faces and finally a bird in flight which also looks fantastic. I think I will be looking at this section again and having a go at the technique. These projects are very different to Emily Peacock's designs and have a definite traditional appeal to them.

The final section is Goldwork and, I must admit, a technique I usually do not like with the heavily gold designs looking too overpowering for my taste. However, looking through this chapter I have changed my mind. The technique, although called Goldwork, in this section does not use only gold thread and gives a completely different look.  One of the projects is a winged Brooch and this is a project I would try.

The final section in the book concentrates on finishing techniques; mounting projects for framing, making cushions, wall hangings and purses. Great simple steps and easy to follow step instructions. 

One point that has been highlighted by many is that the design on the front cover is not included within the book, which is a shame but the design is typical Emily Peacock and gives a good idea of project styles within the book.

I would recommend this book to needlecraft's who want to try something different or who love Emily's style. It is a great book to learn about new techniques and also different ideas for finishing techniques.

Thank you to Emily Peacock for sending me a review copy of this book, I loved it!

Friday, 14 October 2011

A Tale of Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz Blog Tour

I am very pleased to welcome Adam Gidwitz to the blog today and below he introduces an extract to the book. 

A Tale Dark and Grimm
In this passage, the young king and the golden princess—who will be Hansel and Gretel’s parents, when they get around to the good part of being married—are sailing home in their ship. The young king’s most faithful servant, Johannes, who has engineered this romance, rides with them. That’s all you need to know, except that there may be some talking birds in this following excerpt. And it is always best to listen to talking birds...

As the ship ploughed through the purple sea, the new lovers made eyes at each other up near the bow. Faithful Johannes was sitting near the back of the ship, admiring the success of his plan, when he noticed three ravens alight on a mast beam.
The first raven pointed with his beak at the king and princess. ‘What a lovely couple those two make,’ he said.
And the second said, ‘Yes. Too bad they won’t stay that way.’
The first said, ‘What do you mean?’
‘Well,’ the second replied, ‘when the ship reaches land, a beautiful chestnut stallion will canter up to the party, and the king will decide to ride it back to the castle. But if he does, he will be thrown from its back and die.’
‘Good God, that’s horrible!’ said the first raven. ‘Is there nothing anyone can do?’
‘Oh, there is,’ said the second raven. ‘Someone could kill the horse before the king mounts it. But what good is that? For if someone did it, and told why he did it, he would be turned to stone, from the tips of his toes to the knobs of his knees.’
‘To stone?’ asked the first raven.
‘To stone,’ answered the second.
The third raven, who’d been listening quietly, cut in at this point. ‘It gets worse, you know,’ he said. ‘If, by some chance, the two lovers escape that danger, another lies ahead. For when they arrive at the gates of the castle, a beautiful bridal gown, made of pure gold, will be laid out on a bed of purple flowers. The princess will want to wear it, of course. But if she touches it she will be consumed by a ball of fire and burn to a cinder right there on the spot.’
‘Good God, that’s terrible!’ cried the first raven. ‘Is there nothing anyone can do?’
‘Oh, there is,’ said the third raven. ‘If someone were to pick up the dress before she could, and throw it in the fire, the princess would live. But what good is that? For if someone did it, and told why he did it, he would be turned to stone, from the knobs of his knees to the core of his heart.’
‘To stone?’ repeated the first raven.
‘To stone,’ confirmed the third.
‘Nor is that all,’ said the second raven morosely. ‘For if the two lovers avoid that tragedy, a final one awaits. When they are married and begin the wedding dance, the new queen will swoon, and fall to the floor, and die.’
‘Good God, that’s the worst thing yet!’ cried the first raven. ‘Is there nothing anyone can do?’
‘Oh, there is,’ said the third. ‘If someone were to bite the new queen’s lip and suck three drops of blood from it with his mouth, she would live. But what good is that? For if someone did it, and told why he did it, he would be turned to stone from the core of his heart to the top of his head.’
‘To stone?’ said the first.
‘To stone,’ replied the second.
‘To stone,’ echoed the third.
And with that, the three ravens shook their black beaks, sighed sadly, and flew away.
Faithful Johannes buried his head in his hands, for he had heard all. He knew what he would have to do, and that it could not come to any good.

I hope you all enjoyed the extract and my review of the book can be found below. Thank you to Adam Gidwitz for introducing the extract today.