Challenge Participant


Tuesday, 31 May 2016

100 little crochet gifts to make - Search Press Studio

Crocheting has had a huge surge in popularity in recent years and continues to be a very popular craft, and this book has a very wide appeal both to beginners and more accomplished crocheters. This book represents amazing value, comprising 100 projects from some of our best-selling crochet authors. The book covers a wide variety of themes from beautiful crocheted flowers, beanie hats, Christmas crocheted projects, cute bears, lovely hearts and stylish purses, so there is something for everyone to enjoy. Crochet requires very little in the way of tools and materials, which are widely available from major yarn stores and relatively inexpensive. The techniques used in this book are simple enough for experienced beginners to master, and easy for more seasoned crocheters. Special stitches used are explained in detail, and yarns are described in generic terms, so that readers can use what is available to them, wherever they live. The projects cover a wide variety of themes from Christmas crochet, beanies, hearts, flowers, purses, bears and granny squares. They are simple enough for experienced beginners and will also appeal to seasoned crocheters. The tools and materials are inexpensive and widely available and these charming crocheted items make fabulous gifts for family and friends.

This book is one of those that you can pick up when you want to craft but don't know what! As the title suggests it contains 100 crochet patterns which make perfect gifts. It is jam packed full of great ideas including teddy bears, hats, purses, decorations and gifts for the home. 

Each pattern is accompanied by a full page colour photograph of the finished item  and many of the patterns have at least one more smaller photograph showing a proportion of the design shown more clearly. The patterns are clearly written, with a full material list, hook size and tension check. The patterns included are 1-2 pages long and are written in clear, easy to follow steps.

The book can be used as a pattern library or inspiration for creating your own gifts. Many of the patterns can be used as squares to repeat and make bigger projects or used on their own. There are also flowers which can be used to decorate hats and bags.

I would recommend the book to any crocheters who want a book to dip in and out of, as a go to for that quick present you need to make. It would also be great for any craft groups to have in their library.

I haven't made anything myself out of it yet but have my eye on the cute penguin and the festive wreath.

I received this book from the publisher, Search Press Studio, in return for an honest review.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Blog Tour - Lad Lit author Steven Scaffardi

Today I am pleased to welcome Steven Scaffardi to my blog. Steven is a lad lit author of two books.

It is day 27 of the Lad Lit Blog Tour and I am delighted to be here at Sarah’s Book Reviews! It is nearly four weeks since the tour started and I have been lucky enough to write several guest blogs already on the subject of lad lit.

So today I want to change things up a little bit J

To try and help readers who are not familiar with lad lit get a better understanding of what it’s all about (and whether it’s something they would like to read), I have compiled my top five favourites stories from my first book, The Drought.


5. The beginning of the end
I wanted to start the book in a way that grabbed the reader and made them to read more, so I opted with an opening chapter called The End, which basically is the end of the book! Here we find Dan slumped at a bar, bemoaning the past eight months of sexual wilderness. But there is a hidden backstory – a betrayal – which Dan refers to, and sets the story up for the series of comical capers that ensue. Not before Dan gets himself into an award altercation with a barmaid of course. You can read the first chapter here.

4. The road trip to Brighton
In an attempt to try and help Dan get over his drought, his three best friends (Rob, Ollie and Jack) organise a road trip to Brighton for the weekend. Across the two days the boys end up in all sorts of mischief, but the funniest scene has to be when they accidently gate-crash an OAPs 80th birthday party. Without giving too much away, it is fair to say the family of grandma Betty are none too pleased with the uninvited guests and what the boys have to do to escape their wrath is nothing short of hilarious! You can read Jack’s rules of the road trip here.

3. The break-up
From the start of the book, the reader knows that Dan is on a sexual drought, and that dry patch all starts the day he breaks-up with his long-term girlfriend Stacey. After waking up to 47 irate voicemails from Stacey on New Year’s Day morning, Dan sheepishly heads over to her flat and the inevitable break-up does not exactly go to plan, especially when Stacey’s best friend, Sophie, takes great offence to how Dan handles the situation and storms into the bedroom with… well, you’ll just have to read to find out exactly what she does!

2. The reason why men hate shopping
One chapter that is especially close to my heart is when Dan’s good friend, Kelly, asks him to go shopping with her to buy her boyfriend a birthday present. I actually wrote this chapter while traipsing around Top Shop on Oxford Street with my wife. I poured out all of my feelings of being made to walk around looking at high heels and jersey tops (whatever the hell they are) into the pages of that chapter. In my mind, I was speaking for every man and the pain we suffer when our wives and girlfriends drag us around those shops. You can read the whole chapter here.

1. Dan gets horribly drunk on his first date with Grace
We’ve all been here. You are on a first date with someone you really fancy and you’ve chosen to meet them in a bar, surrounded by this liquid called alcohol that has been known to make people do silly things. When Grace – a girl who is so out of Dan’s league – agrees to go on a date with Dan, he is super keen to impress. So much so, that he makes sure he gets to the bar early so not to be late. However, he is a little too early and by the time Grace arrives, he is already three or four drinks ahead of her. What follows is a car crash of a first date, including a very drunk Dan hitting the dance floor in what he describes his moves as looking like “An octopus who only has two tentacles left and is trying to compensate for the missing six.”

Steven Scaffardi is the author of the Sex, Love and Dating Disaster series. His first novel, The Drought, is the laugh-out-loud tale of one man's quest to overcome the throes of a sexual drought. After the stormy break-up with his girlfriend of three years, Dan Hilles is faced with the daunting task of throwing himself back into the life of a single man. With the help of his three best pals, Dan is desperate and determined to get his leg-over with hilarious consequences!

The Drought and his new novel The Flood – a comedy about one man trying to juggle four women at the same time – are both available for just 99p on the Kindle at Amazon.

Follow all of the fun on his blog tour by following him on Twitter @SteveScaffardi or by using the hashtag #LadLitBlogTour. More information about Steven and his books can be found on his blog.

Thank you to Steven for joining me on the blog today.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Blog Tour - Die of Shame by Mark Billingham

Full of betrayal, deceit and suspense, Die of Shame is the spectacular new book from number one bestseller Mark Billingham - author of Time of Death and In the Dark, both soon to be major BBC series. Every Monday evening, six people gather in a smart North London house to talk about addiction. There they share their deepest secrets: stories of lies, regret, and above all, shame. Then one of them is killed - and it's clear one of the circle was responsible. Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner quickly finds her investigation hampered by the strict confidentiality that binds these people and their therapist together. So what could be shameful enough to cost someone their life? And how do you find the truth when denial and deception are second nature to all of your suspects?

This is a standalone novel by Mark Billingham. I adore his popular Tom Thorne series of books and I was interested to see what Mark would do with a complete new cast of characters. What he has done is fantastic and I love the unusual setting of a support group for addicts. The support group is full of characters from all walks of life and within it there is a great relationship between its members and I imagine lots of curiosity but also secrecy within. It is a setting I haven't seen used before and, although I felt in places uncomfortable that I was spying into an emotive and trusting environment, where only the members are party to what is said in the room, I also thought it made a brilliant setting where any number of crimes could be committed. 

I loved the style of book, with the murder investigation being worked, and interwoven with the events building up to the murder itself. The reader is able to follow the police investigation, which is told in real time, while being intertwined with recounts of the events leading up to the murder. 

I love Mark's writing style and have devoured all of his Thorne books and still love the main man although I am hoping that we may see more of this new 
DI Nicola Tanner in future books. Mark has a fantastic style where he is able to get wit and excitement into his books and having recently spent an evening with him at Chipping Norton Festival's famous Saturday night Quiz I can confirm that this is Mark's personality to a T!

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a new gritty police drama to try.

Thank you to the publishers, Little,Brown for sending me the book to review and inviting me onto this tour,

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Blog Tour - Skin and Bone

Today I am pleased to welcome Robin Blake to my blog as part of the blog tour for his new book, Skin and Bone, which is a Cragg and Fidelis Mystery.  Below is an extract from the book .

Within the gateway arch, and built as part of it, was a small stone lodge with a single room below and another above. It was halfway to ruin, the thatch sagging, the ceiling pocked by rot, the interior damp and draughty. With the whole company in attendance I was led inside and shown a trestle table in the lower room. Walking ahead of me, Kite reached the table and grasped the square of sack¬ing that covered it. With one movement he pulled it away to expose a tiny dirt-caked heap of human remains.
It was clear that this was, indeed, a newborn. Its body was wrapped in what appeared to be a piece of sodden filthy linen, but its head was exposed. I stooped to look more closely. Smears of stinking mud lay across the face, whose features were yet hardly formed. The eyelids were shut, but the round mouth was a little open and the nose was flat. I was suddenly almost overwhelmed by a rush of pity at the sight of those closed eyes and parted lips. I stood upright once more.
‘What happened? Does anyone know how this poor thing came here?’
I looked around at the faces surrounding me. They were uni¬formly anxious, but otherwise blank. I addressed the one who had earlier seemed to put himself forward as their leader.
‘Mr Kite, can you explain the circumstances?’
‘By some wickedness, we suppose, the babby got into one of the handler pits,’ he said. ‘Our Ellen found it this afternoon.’
His daughter was standing next to him. He hooked an arm around her shoulders and pulled her tightly to him.
I said, ‘Ellen, I need to know exactly where this was. Will you show me? No! No! The rest of you stand off!’
Her father released her and she preceded me out of the lodge.
The skin-yard was about half an acre in extent. The central part comprised the area of the tanning pits, each about ten feet square and lined up in three rows. Above them were erected frames from which hides were lowered for soaking in the tanning fluid. As we reached them. I turned to survey the whole perimeter of the yard. Against the surrounding wall a run of sloping roofs had been pitched to make a kind of gallery. This sheltered tuns and troughs and stone-topped work tables, as well as further racks for drying or storing hides. There were also fires burning here and there, heating great iron pots which steamed sulphurously into the afternoon air. This air was everywhere rank with the smell of decayed vegetation, rotten flesh and manure, a smell which evidently came from the tanning liquor inside the pits.
Ellen led me directly to the nearest pit ‘It were this pit I found it in.’
‘Your father said it is a handler pit. What is that?’
‘That’s a pit where we start off the hides, where the ooze is weakest.’
‘The ooze?’
‘What’s in the pit. Hides go from pit to pit, with the ooze getting stronger every time, see?’
I saw that each of the pits was slate-lined, and that the frames surmounting them were equipped with crude winching machinery, operated by turning a wheel. By this means the hides were dipped and brought out of the ooze, which was a dark brown, like coffee.
‘How long do the hides stay in this pit?’
‘Twenty weeks. But meantime we must handle them every day, which is what I came to the pit to do after my dinner.’
‘Handle them? What’s that?’
‘We wind out the hides and stir up the ooze.’
She pointed to a long-handled paddle lying beside the winching wheel.
‘Why do you do that?’
‘If you don’t the goodness settles at the bottom and the leather doesn’t cure properly all the way up.’
‘So when you stirred the pit you found the remains?’
‘Aye, it came up on the paddle, like. I just took it out and laid it on the side. I was right shocked. I shouted for me dad. He came and carried it into the gatehouse, and sent me up to get you.’
‘I see. That means you are the first finder, Ellen, and shall go down in the record as such. You shall have to swear a deposition and in due course give evidence at the inquest into what you found and how you found it. Will you be able to remember everything that happened?’

Thank you to the publishers, Little Brown, for sending me the extract and invited me onto the tour