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December 02, 2014

Book - Review - 100 Ways to Happy Children: A guide for busy parents by Timothy J. Sharp

Dr Tim Sharp is a world renowned clinical psychologist and father of two at the forefront of positive psychology. In 100 small and entertaining chapters such as foster a love of learning to building resilience, he poses his positive techniques for raising happy children.100 Ways to Happy Children: a guide for busy parents is filled with funny stories, it is a great guide for raising children. It can be read from front to back or you can randomly choose a chapter for a new insight.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I did both, I read it from cover to cover and dipped into it for a few quick insights each day. There is a lot of great advice to absorb and apply. One or two changes a week is a great way to start. I especially enjoyed section 5-20 ways to ensure wellbeing. Anne

November 13, 2014

Book - Review - King and Maxwell by David Baldacci

David Baldacci has written many best sellers and he knows exactly how to devise a plot and ratchet up the tension. Our two ex-Secret Service agents who are now PIs, just happen to see a frightened teenager out in a storm with a gun. They stop to help and are then intrigued enough by his story to get further involved. His Dad has been killed in Afghanistan but something doesn't add up. Uncovering the truth about a corrupt terrorist plot that goes right up to the White House will take all their skills and fighting abilities. Excellent.
Wendy

November 11, 2014

Book Review - All in Scarlet Uniform by Adrian Goldsworthy

This is historical military fiction covering the Peninsula War in Portugal and Spain when England stood virtually alone against Napoleon in Europe. It is familiar territory to readers of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series and even to those who have read Georgette Heyer's The Spanish Bride, a retelling of the real life story of Harry Smith of the 95th rifles. This is the story of an imaginary regiment but is based on fact. I found it competent rather than inspired but it certainly conveyed the brutal reality of close up encounters with rifle and bayonet as well as adding to our understanding of the strategic, budgetary and political considerations of the generals.  Getting new recruits to take the King's shilling was always a tough ask, although poverty led to many joining up on promises, which were sometimes kept, of regular pay and good food. One aid to the task was a marching song to the traditional Scottish tune of "Oh Bonnie Wood O'Craigielee" which is now better known, in Australia at least, as Waltzing Matilda. The full lyrics are at the front of the book.

 
A bold fusilier came marching back through Rochester

Off for the wars in a far country,

And he sang as he marched

Through the crowded streets of Rochester,

Who'll be a soldier with Wellington and me?

 

Who'll be a soldier? Who'll be a soldier?

Who'll be a soldier with Wellington and me?

And he sang as he marched

Through the crowded streets of Rochester,

Who'll be a soldier with Wellington and me?

November 09, 2014

Book Review - W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

It seems a long time since the first alphabet mystery featuring female PI Kinsey Millhone rolled off the mean streets of California. A is for Alibi started a series that has held up well in quality and content. Along the way, we've learned some more about Kinsey and her landlord, Henry and his family. Henry is still baking pretty good food and occasionally helping Kinsey's nutritional requirements. After all, peanut butter can only go so far.  Two seemingly unrelated deaths are on the agenda this time. Kinsey digs in and finds more and more layers of meaning and connection. You don't need to have read the earlier ones but if you read this one first, you'll go back to the others because they're all this good.
Wendy

November 07, 2014

Book Review - How Light Gets In by Louise Penny

The next in the story of Inspector Armand Gamache of the Canadian Surete. His experienced team of homicide detectives has been scattered by a corrupt Chief Superintentant, except for his second in charge, Inspector Isabelle Lacoste. Gamache is without his lovely wife Reine-Marie, a feature of earlier novels, as she is visiting their family in Paris but Lacoste and his surrogate family in the village of Three Pines ably support him as he deals with more trouble in his beloved Canada. Gamache, the wise and honest man with the kind brown eyes deals with a disturbing death, a terrorist plot and the drug addiction of his former son-in-law. This is well up to standard and a page-turning read. I am so glad I found Louise Penny, her books are consummate crime novels revealing truths about human behaviour and showing great compassion for human frailty.
Wendy

November 05, 2014

Book Review - The Watcher by Charlotte Link

A very international lot of reviews this week with a another new author for me. Written by a German, this is set in London. Two seemingly unrelated deaths of elderly isolated women are baffling police and then a man is murdered whilst his wife is out deciding not to have an affair. Add in a disgraced cop who is now a private security consultant who is tangled up with a potential victim and a lonely and socially awkward observer, The Watcher of the title. An intriguingly complex and well written tale.
Wendy

November 03, 2014

Book Review - The Stone Boy by Sophie Loubiere

Again, I can't think how to describe this book without revealing information that needs to be garnered carefully and slowly through the exposition of plot and character in this beautifully eccentric study of an elderly widow. Martin loves his mother but increasingly cannot cope with her endless letter writing, dust collecting, mouse-trap setting and spying on the neighbours. But it is the neighbours who hold her interest, particularly a little boy who comes out only rarely to play with stones. Following its own internal logic, eventually all becomes clear and you are left with a heart-breaking act of love that defines her life.  An established French author here in brilliant translation.
Wendy

November 02, 2014

Book Review - Everything to Live for: The Inspirational Story of Turia Pitt by Turia Pitt with Libby Harkness



This is a story of extraordinary young women with a lot to live for. Turia Pitt, a 25yr old mining engineer working in far north Western Australia. She took part in an ultra marathon race where she got caught in a horrific grass fire and was left with burns to over half of her body. Through a long and harrowing rehabilitation, with the support of many people and her strong will and determination to live she has triumphed. She has made it one of her missions to encourage skin to be a more prominent organ for people to donate.
Everything to live for is a story of determination and resilience of the human spirit. I really enjoyed this story of resilience and strength, Turia is truly beautiful. The book inspired me with my own struggles, an example when you see how well Turia preserved with her physiotherapy to be extremely fit again. Anne.

November 01, 2014

Book Review - The Confusion of Karen Carpenter by Johnathan Harvey

A bittersweet and very funny explosion of modern relationships with an almighty twist that just about prevents me from revealing any of the plot. Harvey is a successful playwright and TV scriptwriter and co-wrote a favourite British series Beautiful People.  Karen's life has been scarred by people making jokes about her name (the same as a 70s pop star), her mother was a ventriloquist who couldn't talk without moving her lips and her best friend may be making lesbian moves on her. Apart from that her life is great, oh yes, except that her fiancée left her just before Christmas. Warning for language, sex, nudity and adult themes.
Wendy

October 30, 2014

Book Review - Bitter River by Julia Keller

We first met Prosecuting Attorney Bell Elkins in A Killing in the Hills, which I reviewed in these pages. I liked it but thought the bleak socio-economic circumstances that drove so many to drug addiction and crime were too heart-rendingly truthful almost to bear. Julia Keller returns to the town of Aker's Gap with her new mystery but it is a more straightforward murder mystery and the characters have more to hope for in their lives. The narrative appears relatively simple about a young pregnant girl from the wrong side of the tracks and a young man who is willing to step up and marry her against the wishes of his wealthy and overbearing father but then it gets entangled in sniper attacks, explosions and more deaths.  The author grew up in the Appalachian Mountains and they are beautifully evoked becoming almost another character in the story.  In spite of the fact that the secondary story is a little clumsily handled, there is much to like. As well as the mystery to solve, we get some more glimpses of Bell and Sheriff Nick Fogelsong's personal lives. This author is going from strength to strength.
Wendy

 

October 28, 2014

Book Review - I Can see in the Dark by Karin Fossum

This is another excellent atmospheric thriller by Norway's Karin Fossum. The choice to use the main character, Riktor, as narrator puts the reader right into some very nasty happenings. Riktor is not a nice man.  Very chilling.
Wendy

September 11, 2014

Book Review - Just One Evil act by Elizabeth George

This is an Inspector Lynley story but it truly belongs to his sidekick DS Barbara Havers. Barbara, the shambolic, Barbara the determined and Barbara the passionate are all invoked her as she desperately tries to help her friend and neighbour Azhar, who is trying to get his daughter back. Barbara will be pushed to the limit of her professional ethics and her unacknowledged love for Azhar and for his daughter, Haddiyah, the nine year-old at the centre of the plotting and counter-plotting. This is a dense and complex novel yet immensely readable. At 700 pages, you need to set aside some decent time but you will be rewarded. George knows her characters intimately and she introduces the Italian countryside and some marvelous Italian characters in weaving this story. I was going to say it contains many shades of grey rather than just being black and white – I think I will anyway and try to reclaim the phrase! Wendy

September 09, 2014

Book Review - The Giving Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

This is a gentle novel but it doesn't shy away from serious and difficult topics. This is the second of the Elm Creek Quilts novels I have read. They don't need to be read in any order as they all involve people coming and going from a quilting centre – some of the stories are about ongoing characters and some are not. They are female in their concerns and orientations although an open minded male would no doubt enjoy them also. This setting is a quilt retreat for Thanksgiving where women come together to learn and share quilting techniques and to create quilts for charity. It is common for there to be a charitable element in any gathering of crafty people as we see in Camden with our Wrap with Love blankets, our Christmas stocking for the Hospital auxiliary etc. Each of the women who come to the retreat has their own story and we explore a couple of them including the cheerleader who has had a critical fracture, the wife who became a coach to help the school's team in a challenge where other teams cheated and the woman who didn't get a job at the Elm Creek centre when she applied some time before. Life events are often upsetting but there is comfort in helping each other through them. Wendy

September 07, 2014

Book Review - Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Another intriguing legal thriller by the master. Why did Seth Hubbard, an anti-social businessman leave 90% of his considerable estate to his housekeeper of three years? Struggling street lawyer, Jake Brigance, lands the second great case of his career in being appointed attorney for Seth's estate. The estranged family are outraged and packs of lawyers circle like hungry sharks when the true extent of his estate – over $20 million - is revealed. A court case ensues and there are many surprises in store for Jake and his support crew. Masterly plotted entertainment with a tragic twist in the tail. Wendy

September 05, 2014

Book Review - You're Mine Now by Hans Koppel

A middle aged woman has sex with a younger man she meets at a conference. Liking the excitement, she doesn't say no to further encounters but when she does finally say no, he won't let her go. It might have been a randomly idle fling for her, but she won't know until it is too late, why he chose her. Infiltrating her work, her family life and threatening her with scandal, Anna cannot make him go away. Then the pressure goes up when first her mother and then her daughter are taken. A very good argument for fidelity because crazy stalkers don't always seem that different to 'normal' people…. Until it's too late! Wendy

September 02, 2014

Book Review - Blood Song: Born for Battle, Bred for War by Anthony Ryan

I try not to read new series until they are all published because I don't like to wait for the next installment but I'm glad I broke my rule for this one. It contains all the classic elements of the fantasy genre and they are put together in a very classy way. A young boy, Vaelin Al Sorna, is sent by his father to a warrior monk's enclave after his mother's death. He hates his father for this but commits himself to this future. With a group of companions, he endures training and hardship, forging links of steel within his cohort. By the end of this book, we have learnt more of why his father acted as he did and that it was not as black and white as Vaelin first thought. We understand a little more of the personal, political and religious forces at work. We have met several enigmatic and significant women and we have endured with Vaelin and his companions through physical and moral challenges. The author has followed the best examples in fantasy writing in introducing the world of the book to our consciousness slowly, as the boy, Vaelin, learns about it himself. No worrying about who is related to whom or what the social mores are, we learn about them through the action of the story. Each element of the story adds seamlessly to our knowledge of the complexity of this world. This is excellent and I can't wait for the next one! Wendy

August 22, 2014

Book Review: Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams

John William’s third novel, Stoner (originally published in 1965), was heralded as a ‘must read’ of 2013. Now, his earlier work, Butcher’s Crossing (1960), is receiving similar treatment, with invocations of Herman Melville as influence and Cormac McCarthy as successor. 


Bostonian Will Andrews travels to Western frontier country, to Butcher’s Crossing, a town, or rather inhabited road, filled with rumoured prosperity and dwindling reality. The economy is based on buffalo hide and the train is said to be coming through. But times are tough, with the buffalo population on its last whispers. Andrews convinces, or is convinced by, Miller, a seasoned hunter, to partake in a tall-tale expedition to a hidden, untouched valley with several thousand head of buffalo. Although promising to be lucrative, for Andrews this is not about money but experience. It is the grand adventure that entices Andrews.

As the expedition continues aggression exacerbates into fatigue, with the negotiations between hatred and dependence, the wild and the controlled, nature and man, becoming the staples of life. The promise of the grand adventure dwindles into the frivolity of reality. Certainly a must read of 2014. 
Andreas.

July 28, 2014

Book Review - The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

Told from the point of view of Mary, mother of Jesus of Nazareth, the work takes place years after the crucifixion. She lives in hiding, with the only people aware of her identity and location being two of her son’s followers, whom she deems “misfits”. She recounts her perspective of her son’s life and death, while she fends off her “captors”, who are in the process of writing the Gospels.
There is a hint of Life of Brian (1979), as for Mary her son is not the messiah, he’s just a… well, you all know the line. He is one of many rabblerousers discontent with the current order, expressing ideas and thoughts as yet unimagined.
The language is unrelentingly modern and pessimistic. In fact, many reviewers have taken issue with the work’s depiction of Mary as a harsh, cynical, and cowardly old woman who condemns the change she witnesses in her son and runs before the moment of his death in order to save herself from a similar fate. But the actual text is far more sympathetic, more disparaging. True, this is not the sanctified Mary of the church, but nor is she a vile old crone. Her pessimism is not from hate, but sorrow.
A dirge of a lost life and a world destroying itself, the Testament of Mary is as enthralling as it is plaintive. 
Andreas.

July 24, 2014

Book Review - You're Mine Now by Hans Koppel

A middle aged woman has sex with a younger man she meets at a conference. Liking the excitement, she doesn't say no to further encounters but when she does finally say no, he won't let her go. It might have been a randomly idle fling for her, but she won't know until it is too late, why he chose her. Infiltrating her work, her family life and threatening her with scandal, Anna cannot make him go away. Then the pressure goes up when first her mother and then her daughter are taken. A very good argument for fidelity because crazy stalkers don't always seem that different to 'normal' people…. Until it's too late! Wendy

Book Review - The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell

The next in the story of Uhtred and the complicated politics and battles of Dane vs Saxon after King Alfred, to see whether England would be Englaland (sic) or Daneland). Historical action with visceral battle scenes and lyrical writing. I love the whale's path, the long waves, the wind flecking the world with blown spray, the dip of a ship's prow into a swelling sea and the explosion of white and the spatter of saltwater on sail and timbers, and the green heart of a great sea rolling behind the ship, rearing up, threatening, the broken crest curling, and then the stern lifts to the surge and the hull lunges forward and the sea seethes along the strakes as the wave roars past. I love the birds skimming the grey water, the wind as friend and as enemy, the oars lifting and falling. I love the sea. I have lived long and I know the turbulence of life, the cares that weigh a man's soul and the sorrows that turn the hair white and the heart heavy, but all those are lifted along the whale's path. Only at sea is a man truly free. P.53 I have tried to explain this to women, though few have understood. Gisela did, as did Athelflaed, but most have looked at me as if I was something disgusting when I talked of the joy of battle. It is disgusting. It is wasteful. It is terrifying. It stinks. It makes misery. At battle's end there are dead friends and wounded men, and pain, and tears, and awful agony, and yet it is a joy. The Christians talk of a soul, though I have never seen, smelt, tasted or felt such a thing, but perhaps a soul is a man's spirit and in battle that spirit soars like a falcon in the wind. Battle takes a man to the edge of disaster, to a glimpse of the chaos that will end the world, and he must live in that chaos and on that edge and it is a joy. We weep and we exult. Sometimes when the nights draw in and the cold days are short, we bring entertainers to the hall. They sing, they do tricks, they dance, and some juggle. I have seen a man tossing five sharp swords in a swirling, dazzling display, and you think he must be cut by one of the heavy blades as it falls yet somehow he manages to snatch it from the air and the blade whirls upwards again. That is the edge of disaster. Do it right and you feel like a god, but get it wrong and it will be your guts trampled underfoot. P 289 Wendy

July 23, 2014

Book Review - Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason

Police Detective Erlendur is on leave and returns to the area of his childhood in the countryside in the east of Iceland. Cold and harsh, the landscape has been the scene of his greatest childhood trauma – losing his 8 year old brother in an unexpected blizzard. Erlendur seeks answers not only to his own story but also to a mystery of a missing woman, lost in the snow many years before. Mystery novels take many shapes and this is far from a straight forward police procedural. The landscape and the weather are part of the story. Age and memory haunt many characters and the cold is visceral. Did the mystery of his brother's loss influence his becoming a policeman? Why can't he leave a mystery alone? Why do we need answers? Indridason remains one of my favourite authors. Wendy

July 21, 2014

Book Review - Christmas at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan

Christmas at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan This is one of the better ones of recent offerings which combine recipes with a romantic story. Isabel (Issy) Randall has a cupcake store which is doing well and a collection of staff and friends going through various problems – divorce, parenting etc. Her boyfriend, Austin has the chance of a great career move but it is to New York – all the way across the Atlantic. How will Issy and Austin work through this issue and will they end up together and if so, where? Pleasantly charming, light entertainment including some lovely younger characters. Wendy

July 19, 2014

Book Review - A Darkness Descending by Christobal Kent

Sandro Cellini and his wife Luisa are wise and kind people. Sandro is a private investigator and is caught up in the mysterious collapse of a left wing politician and the disappearance of the politician's defacto wife. At the same time, Chiara, the daughter of their friends, moves out with a mystery boyfriend. Sandro and Luisa each try to help their friends and clients but in the end, people will do what they do for both simple and complex reasons. Death comes. "Some people were able to sidestep a death as if with a practiced movement – nothing to do with them, they were alive. But for most it stood in their path a long time, like a beggar with his hand out. And when they managed to edge past death, even if they never turned around, they knew it would still be there, watching." Christobal Kent in fine from with this latest outing for Sandro et al. Wendy

July 17, 2014

Book Review - Just One Evil act by Elizabeth George

This is an Inspector Lynley story but it truly belongs to his sidekick DS Barbara Havers. Barbara, the shambolic, Barbara the determined and Barbara the passionate are all invoked her as she desperately tries to help her friend and neighbour Azhar, who is trying to get his daughter back. Barbara will be pushed to the limit of her professional ethics and her unacknowledged love for Azhar and for his daughter, Haddiyah, the nine year-old at the centre of the plotting and counter-plotting. This is a dense and complex novel yet immensely readable. At 700 pages, you need to set aside some decent time but you will be rewarded. George knows her characters intimately and she introduces the Italian countryside and some marvelous Italian characters in weaving this story. I was going to say it contains many shades of grey rather than just being black and white – I think I will anyway and try to reclaim the phrase! Wendy

July 15, 2014

Book Review - The Giving Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

This is a gentle novel but it doesn't shy away from serious and difficult topics. This is the second of the Elm Creek Quilts novels I have read. They don't need to be read in any order as they all involve people coming and going from a quilting centre – some of the stories are about ongoing characters and some are not. They are female in their concerns and orientations although an open minded male would no doubt enjoy them also. This setting is a quilt retreat for Thanksgiving where women come together to learn and share quilting techniques and to create quilts for charity. It is common for there to be a charitable element in any gathering of crafty people as we see in Camden with our Wrap with Love blankets, our Christmas stocking for the Hospital auxiliary etc. Each of the women who come to the retreat has their own story and we explore a couple of them including the cheerleader who has had a critical fracture, the wife who became a coach to help the school's team in a challenge where other teams cheated and the woman who didn't get a job at the Elm Creek centre when she applied some time before. Life events are often upsetting but there is comfort in helping each other through them. Wendy

July 13, 2014

Book Review - Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Another intriguing legal thriller by the master. Why did Seth Hubbard, an anti-social businessman leave 90% of his considerable estate to his housekeeper of three years? Struggling street lawyer, Jake Brigance, lands the second great case of his career in being appointed attorney for Seth's estate. The estranged family are outraged and packs of lawyers circle like hungry sharks when the true extent of his estate – over $20 million - is revealed. A court case ensues and there are many surprises in store for Jake and his support crew. Masterly plotted entertainment with a tragic twist in the tail. Wendy

July 11, 2014

Book Review - Blood Song: Born for Battle, Bred for War by Anthony Ryan

I try not to read new series until they are all published because I don't like to wait for the next installment but I'm glad I broke my rule for this one. It contains all the classic elements of the fantasy genre and they are put together in a very classy way. A young boy, Vaelin Al Sorna, is sent by his father to a warrior monk's enclave after his mother's death. He hates his father for this but commits himself to this future. With a group of companions, he endures training and hardship, forging links of steel within his cohort. By the end of this book, we have learnt more of why his father acted as he did and that it was not as black and white as Vaelin first thought. We understand a little more of the personal, political and religious forces at work. We have met several enigmatic and significant women and we have endured with Vaelin and his companions through physical and moral challenges. The author has followed the best examples in fantasy writing in introducing the world of the book to our consciousness slowly, as the boy, Vaelin, learns about it himself. No worrying about who is related to whom or what the social mores are, we learn about them through the action of the story. Each element of the story adds seamlessly to our knowledge of the complexity of this world. This is excellent and I can't wait for the next one.

July 09, 2014

Book Review - Loss of Innocence by Richard North Patterson

June 1968. USA. Whitney is the daughter of privilege and engaged to be married to an acceptable suitor, when she meets a charismatic and unsettling boy from the wrong side of the tracks. A social conscience is not necessarily encouraged in her social set, but the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, and the general turmoil of social, class and racial upheaval, act as a catalyst in changing her future. More reflective than his earlier books, this is an assured and confident novel. Wendy

July 07, 2014

Book Review - Perfect by Rachel Joyce

This is by the author of 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' which I totally adored. This is good .. perhaps not as good for me as Pilgrimage was. The stories are not connected but what does link them is the author's consideration of what can happen when a life is derailed by a single incident, especially for people who are detached from a close social circle for whatever reason. Her descriptions of place and her uncanny use of each character's voice are superb, as are her gentle and penetrating observations. "It occurred to Byron that over the summer holidays Diana had become someone else. She was not like a mother anymore. At least not one who told you to clean your teeth and wash behind your ears. She had become someone who was maybe more like a friend of your mother's or her sister; if only she'd had either of those. She had strayed into being someone who understood it was not always pleasant or interesting to keep cleaning your teeth or washing behind your ears, and turned a blind eye when you chose not to do them. It was a gift to have a mother like this. He was lucky. But it was also unsettling. It left him feeling slightly out in the wind, as if a wall had fallen down that was something to do with why things kept going. It meant he wanted to ask sometimes if she had remembered to clean her own teeth or wash behind her ears." Wendy

July 05, 2014

Book Review - Tempting Fate by Jane Green

Gabby has a satisfyingly normal suburban life which she thinks is enough and more than she ever dreamed she would have until she meets someone and has a fling. This careless action has consequences that affect everyone in her life. The fallout is handled believably but the ending maybe a little too convenient? Not up to her usual standard but a well-realised set of characters were pleasant to spend some time with. Wendy

July 03, 2014

Book Review - Deadline by Sandra Brown

Dawson Scott is a journalist suffering from PTSD after a tour in Afghanistan with the US troops. He is not trying very hard to get along with his editor who wants him to do fluffy human interest stories, when his godfather, Gary Headly, a nearly retired FBI agent, sends him to cover a bizarre murder case. The main witness for the prosecution, Amelia Nolan, attracts him and he is interested in the potential for one of the murder victims, her ex-husband, to be still alive. There is a DNA link to an FBI cold case, the one who got away from Headly many years ago. It's all fairly implausible but Sandra Brown ratchets up the suspense and the love interest and throws in enough twists and turns to keep you turning the page. Wendy

July 01, 2014

Book Review - Seven Elements that have Changed the World by John Browne

The author joined BP in 1966 and ended up as Group Chief Executive from 1995 to 2007. Here he provides a potted history of the seven elements that he has selected as world changers: iron, carbon, gold, silver, uranium, titanium and silicon. This is a very interesting book but one to be read in small stages rather than all in one gulp. His views as an industry insider on coal seam gas are fascinating and it is certainly interesting to hear how the major energy players get to sit down with political leaders to discuss business. It's that important! His exploration of these elements is more than that, however, and full of interesting facts. For example, titanium was first isolated by an English clergyman chemist in 1791 but not put to real use until 1910. Later, when its lightness and strength were used for an aircraft that could fly high and evade radar in the late 50s, they made a frame that had to withstand such high temperatures and consequent large expansion at altitude, that on the ground there were such large gaps that it's fuel tank leaked. Before Silicon Valley, the glass blowers of Murano Island in Venice were so important to the Venetian economy, that any glass blower who left and took their trade secrets would have remaining family members executed in an attempt to frighten them into staying. The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles (1682) was not only a demonstration of vast wealth, it was cutting edge technology in the latest mirror manufacture. And many more stories are of good general interest. Not the most readable book, but it does reward you. Wendy

June 11, 2014

Book Review - Arena by Simon Scarrow and T.J. Andrews

Simon Scarrow has written very good sword and sandal epics in his own right but teams up here for a straight forward lot of biff with T. J. Andrews. Originally published as 5 ebook novellas, don't come here for subtlety or literary plotting. What you see is what you get, lots of fight action interspersed with a little political chicanery, a lot of fairly gross details on food, sanitary arrangements and some matter of fact understanding of what impact slavery and conquest had on Roman society. Terrific fun. Wendy

June 10, 2014

Book Review - The Outline of Love by Morgan McCarthy

Persephone was raised by her father in the isolated Highlands of Scotland after her mother died when she was very young. This story begins with her leaving for London and university. The mountain landscape of her childhood appears impervious to human interaction and she is hoping to find a place where she feels connected to other people. She is drawn into the orbit of Leo Ford, ex-rock star and luminary author with a reputation for being a recluse and a disdain for the normal trappings of celebrity. She links up with him but is never quite sure how he feels. The writing here is beautiful and startling with metaphors like describing club bouncers as large fat elephant seals in their tired suits and with their ponderous power. I'm not sure that I liked anyone in this book, including the city of London which is a palpable presence, but I did like the writing of it, the feeling of it and its unexpected moments of grace and truth. Perhaps, Persephone's struggles to know herself are too reminiscent of my own youth? Wendy

June 08, 2014

Book Review - The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Just get everything by Lisa Jewell and read it. Her families are awfully tangled and they deal with real life events, getting hurt and broken and not always knowing how to heal or forgive themselves, let alone other family members. Lorelei spends her life in a bubble of hippy-ish creativity and avoidance of the hurts and dramas her husband and children go through. Keeping her own hurt at bay with excessive hoarding, for example, she clings on to a broken kettle because it went bang on a happy family day, or to packets of nappies when there are no babies who need them because she was thinking happy possible future baby thoughts about possible babies when she bought them and to give them away denies that bright future she saw. Her family try but cannot get through to her and in the meantime they are out in the world, trying to make sense of their own lives. How they negotiate life and love, how much they can give and how much they can receive support from others, family or not, is all part of the story Wendy

June 07, 2014

Book Review - Backyard Farming by Terry Bridge

One of the many books catering to the desire, or rather the necessity, of people living more sustainably and producing their own fruit and veg rather than consuming factory farm produce. It provides a solid overview but ends there. The first line plainly states "This is not a book about self sufficiency, where no outside help is required... instead, this is a guide to using to the optimum what available land you have, however small it may be..." And there we discover a problem. The examples are little more than real estate porn. Large farmhouses set in lush English pastureland, blossoming greenhouses the size of the average studio apartment, veggie patches that could feed a small economically struggling country, and livestock to rival a zoo. The authors conception of a backyard is generous with real estate and resources but limited with imagination. Most of us do not have sufficient space or time to tend such extravagant "backyard" farms, even if we dream to do so. Sustainability relies not on large parcels of land but clever uses of small spaces. Considering the plethora of titles within the genre you would hope for more tailored gardening ideas. One of particular relevance for those with limited space is Josh Byrne's Small Space Organics. Alternately, if you are interested in preserves or farm craft like bee culture there are titles that tailor more specifically to those activities as well. Bridge's Backyard Farming may get full marks for being inspirational with its beautiful images and introduction to viable self sufficiency techniques, but its emphasis on farming and its lack of imagination with the backyard is problematic. Andreas

June 06, 2014

Book Review - Letters from Skye by Jessica Brookmole

This book is beautiful and poignant and marvelous. A woman finds her mother's letters to a man from the time of WWI just as she is understanding her feelings for her own man as he goes off to WWII and keeping in touch by letter. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which also covers WWII and is told through letters, yet wholly and truly its own self, just read it and see for yourself how a great love story can unfold. I liked it so much I have bought a copy for myself and one for each of my sisters. Wendy

June 05, 2014

Book Review - Depressive Illness: the curse of the strong by Dr Tim Cantopher

This is a small but very positive book. The causes and physical symptoms of depression are explained and the various treatments and therapy options are canvassed. Firstly it is helpful to understand just what is and what isn't clinical depression. Secondly, Dr Cantopher is very definite that sustainable help is possible, that change can be made and people can regain their happiness. He does make the caveat that he is only talking about stress-induced depression in this book and that there are other types of depression that will not be helped completely by his suggestion treatments, but they may be improved. Anyone could find ways to make improvements in their general mood and their ability to cope with life events by reading this book. Wendy

June 04, 2014

Book Review - Wake in Fright by Kenneth Cook

Cook’s interrogation of the myth of mateship in the Australian outback follows John Grant, a Sydney born and educated school teacher, who does a stint in a microscopic town in Outback Australia. Looking forward to a six week escape in Sydney he passes through Bundanyabba. Little does he know he will not be getting to Sydney, instead falling into the dark wonderland that is ‘the Yabba’. This is a land of drink and death, of blokes and brutality, and after one night Grant finds himself a broke drifter. Desperate, he passes through the beer glasses of several hosts, experiencing new nightmares with each of these new mates. Upon sobering he realizes the peculiarity that meant you could “sleep with their wives, despoil their daughters, sponge on them, defraud them, do almost anything that would mean at least ostracism in normal society, and they would barely seem to notice it. But refuse to drink with them and you immediately become a mortal enemy.” This is the heart of Cook’s narrative, the harsh, drunken masculinity of ‘mateship’ and its disregard for all else. Like many literary works of the 1970s by male authors the female characters are underdeveloped, mere placeholders and window-dressing. But in the world Cook creates there would be little for them to do, apart from being used and abused. This savage land leaves Grant at the mercy of the two foes he comes to distrust the most, with beer becoming his saving grace and violence his only salvation. An antidote to the heroism of "Banjo" Patterson’s “Man from Snowy River”, Cook rounds out the myth that is the Outback. Wake in Fright is a worthwhile read for anyone wanting to really understand all about Australia. Andreas

June 03, 2014

Book Review - A Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay

A small town near Niagara Falls. A man trying to understand why his son died. He is accosted by a teenage girl seeking a lift from a notorious local bar. He wouldn't have got involved but she knew his son. A corrupt police force. A grandstanding mayor. Who is she trying to get away from? This story builds in intensity because, as more details are uncovered, the deeper the mystery becomes. All the loose ends are tied together well in the denouement of this page-turner. Wendy

June 01, 2014

Book Review - The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

I like English history and I like Philippa Gregory but I found this a bit hard going. Her meticulous research is to the fore but this story of Elizabeth of York who married Henry Tudor to provide peace, after the War of the Roses, just seems to drag on in endless worries about the pretender York princes. Probably that is truly what happened, but drama should be life without the boring bits and there were too many left in this one for me! One for the fans only Wendy

May 31, 2014

Book Review - Watching You by Michael Robotham

An engrossing tale of Marnie, who is going through a really bad time and deserves our sympathy ….or does she. No sooner than a hypothesis is developed than it is shattered by another possible explanation. Who is Marnie? Why does she feel she is being watched? Why do accidents happen to people who threaten her? How can Robotham's detectives, retired cop, Vincent Ruiz, and therapist Joe O'Loughlin, untangle the troubled history of this complex woman. Nothing is simple in this compelling mystery. Wendy

May 30, 2014

Book Review - The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, who has made a confident and clever entry into mystery writing, creating one of the most intriguing private detectives I've read in a long time. Cormoran Strike is in financial trouble but agrees to take on an investigation into the death of a famous model's apparent suicide. The family is complicated and secretive, the investigative team is quirky, flawed and intelligent. The plot twists are elegantly constructed and the denouement unexpected. Her writing for grown-ups is very grown-up, indeed! Wendy

May 29, 2014

Book Review - Mallee Sky by Kerry McGinnis

Kerry McGinnis was one of three current female Australian writers profiled on ABC's Landline program in late 2013 and this story shows her love of the great dry landscape, the wide blue sky and her understanding of the rewards, dangers and heartbreak of Aussie farming. Kate is returning to the mallee after her marriage falls apart. A marriage she made just after her father's death. "Her eyes caressed the passing scenery, taking in the shifting shades of the mallee and the rusty gold of the wheat and barley. Here and there between the crops sheep grazed, their new wool already darkening, and over all stretched the endless reach of the sky." Gradually we learn why she left and married in haste as family secrets are revealed and Kate's future is threatened. Good entertainment. Wendy

May 28, 2014

Book Review - Predator by Faye Kellerman

One of the most bizarre set-ups for a suspicious death, an old man is found dead in the apartment he shares with a fully grown tiger. A recluse and rather strange animal enthusiast, Hobart Penney is not mourned y his family, but his wealth does generate a surplus of motives for his killing. Police procedural stalwart, Pete Decker is in his usual form as The veteran Kellerman ticks all the boxes once more. Wendy

May 27, 2014

Book Review - The Lost Boy by Camilla Lackberg

Several storylines eventually collide with unexpected results. Follow the clues as potential embezzlement flies under the radar, a man is assaulted which may or may not have to do with his connection with a women's refuge, drug deals, his childhood sweetheart or a subsequent murder. The detective's wife investigates an island ghost story and her family deal with the aftermath of the shocking death of a child. This team of detectives is brilliantly realized and you can just imagine yourself at those excruciating team meetings with their ineffective boss, the competent second in command and the tangle of private and public lives. A master story-teller does it again. More, please! Wendy

May 25, 2014

Book Review - Silken Prey by John Sandford

Lucas Davenport is back with a new mystery to solve and a tight deadline as political smear plumbs new depths. With the election imminent, has the candidate really been looking at child porn or is it a clever scheme by his opponent, a rich and driven young woman. Unfortunately, we have to drag in the obligatory private computer wiz to hasten the plot along. Still, it is an entertaining ride. Of course, American voters would never elect a murderous psychopath, would they? Wendy

May 24, 2014

Book Review - Never Go Back by Lee Child

Once you are hooked by Jack Reacher, you are committed to needing the latest one as soon as possible. Reacher is intelligent and extremely competent at whatever he does, including beating up bad guys! He has Holmesian ability to immediately deduce background, intent and ability at one look . His planning of how to win a fight against greater numbers of men (its generally but not always exclusively men) has geometric precision. His ability to win is greatly enhanced by his understanding of human and particularly military behaviour. He mostly always gives the bad guys an opportunity to go away before he unleashes mayhem. Too bad most of them are too stupid or cocky to take it. An innate sense of justice and compassion for the vulnerable direct his actions. As an ex Military Policeman, Reacher is a loner who conveniently keeps finding battles to engage in – this time it involves losses from military supplies, or does it? They recently made a film from a Jack Reacher novel and cast Tom Cruise in it. I hope Lee Child got lots of money so he could look away. One of the things that makes the battle-scarred Reacher intimidating is his size . 'Both men looked more than six feet and two hundred pounds. Smaller than Reacher, but not by much.' I don't intend to see the movie. For me, Tom standing on a box just wouldn't cut it - although the library holds it in the DVD collection if you are interested - it's called Jack Reacher. Wendy

May 22, 2014

Book Review - Unseen by Karin Slaughter

I have previously enjoyed Slaughter's crime novels very much and I was puzzled at how long this one took to get going. I'm not sure if it was about a 1/3 or ½ way in when it started to actually come together and I think she has seriously miscalculated the plotting to let the opening go on so long. If you persevere (and I only did because I am a fan), you get to an intricate collection of deceptions that eventually turn into as satisfying a plot as a story that involves drugs, prostitution and pedophilia can be. Agent Will Trent's burgeoning relationship with Dr Sara Linton hits a few bumps in the road and hangs in the balance but the process of being with her has changed him forever. Sara's rocky relationship with Detective Lena Adams continues and they are all caught up in the maelstrom of violence as various investigations crash together at the end. Wendy

May 21, 2014

Book Review - Flesh Wounds by Chris Brookmyre

The hard men of Glasgow are not so different from the samurai of ancient Japan, trapped by their culture and position in society into a brutal dog-eat-dog world, albeit a world with its own version of honour and 'face', where people can only make life choices on the basis of what they know and what is available to them. This story also concerns a young person trying to find the truth of her parenthood. Intelligence, opportunity, leadership and payback all fit within a corrupt and frightening milieu, where the upper crust in search of drugs and other illicit thrills rub shoulders with the hard men and women of the criminal classes. Brookmyre effortlessly transports us to the Glasgow underworld and the 'polis' who try to control it. Flavoured with Scottish dialect, this is a torturous tale of political maneuvering, violent death and ongoing sorrow and loss. Perhaps the longer you live, the more your choices are compromised but some in this story try to act rightly despite or perhaps because of their past acts; and I found myself caring that they did. Wendy

May 19, 2014

Book Review - Child of Vengeance by David Kirk

Set in pre-Shogunate Japan, where the samurai live with death and with honour in a brutal feudal society. A boy is abandoned by his samurai father and raised by his uncle, a monk. When his father returns, Bennosuke must either accept the way of the samurai or deny his birthright. Life is not really that simple however, as he learns. Musashi Benkei was a warrior of ancient legend, a huge man who wielded a staff like no other. The tale went that he held a bridge single-handedly in order for his Lord and his family to perform dignified seppuku [ritual suicide], slaying dozens of the enemy as they came at him. He died on his feet with his staff still in his hands, run through a score of times and riddled with arrows. Not one man had passed him, and both his, and his Lord's honour were assured. It was held as a paragon of a good death. Bennosuke wondered whether Musashi had ever hit a man until his skull burst open. But then, the slaughter was always so very clean in the old tales; evil men came to the hero, and then they were dead. …. Bennosuke looked upon the blood spattered on his kimono, and saw it had dried a dirty, muddy brown. From Shogun by James Clavell to The Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn, I have been drawn to tales of this period in Japanese history. The juxtaposition of profound thought, appreciation of beauty, physical and mental discipline, family loyalty & love, political chicanery and brutal violence can be very powerful. David Kirk adds lustre to the genre, although action predominates over philosophy. Wendy

May 15, 2014

Book Review - Joyland by Stephen King

Devin Jones spent a summer at working at Joyland, earning money for college and growing up. 'This is a badly broken world, full of wars and cruelty and senseless tragedy….you have been given a priceless gift this summer, you are here to sell fun. In exchange for the hard-earned dollars of the customers, you will parcel out happiness. Children will go home and dream of what they saw here and what they did here. I hope you will remember that when the work is hard… or when the people are rude, as they often will be.' His reminiscence is bitter sweet as he recalls a colourful cast of characters of all ages and conditions, where friendship, loss and love are all part of the ride. Some people lasted his lifetime, some were just for the summer, but what he learnt over the summer, stayed with him forever. Charming. Wendy

May 12, 2014

Book Review - No Man's Nightingale by Ruth Rendell

Both the author and her fictional detective, retired Inspector Wexford are not getting any younger but when Wexford's local vicar is murdered, his experience and local knowledge are called upon by those still in the police force. Wexford's need to keep worrying at a problem, until he understands it, is fully utilized here. Where would this English villages be without the ubiquitous garrulous cleaner, sharing secrets and stories across all her clients? Wexford's compassion is to the fore when dealing with the daughter of the murder victim. Settle down for another good outing with Inspector Wexford. Wendy

May 11, 2014

Book Review - Wrongful Death by Lynda LaPlante

Another in a series. DCI Anna Travis is once more battling to find personal and professional distance from DCS James Langton. Add in an abrasive FBI profiler on a research assignment in London and the sparks fly as a previously closed case is re-opened when a young criminal discloses new information. LaPlante is fimly in control and is deservedly a best seller. Wendy

May 09, 2014

Book Review - Waiting for Wednesday by Nicci French

This series just gets better and better although you can start with this story, as the back story is sufficiently explained, it is helpful to have experienced the layers of the developing relationships. Frieda Klein, a psychotherapist, must be one of the most melancholy of crime heroines and her habit of taking long walks and her introspectivity frequently infuriate her friends and colleagues. Here is a marvelously twisty tale about a woman who is inexplicably killed in her front room. She is a nondescript wife and mother. She is a nice person. She apparently has no secrets. She is universally loved and admired. So why was she killed? The answers will rip this loving family and other people in their orbit to shattered pieces until even case hardened police are sickened by what they uncover. A parallel investigation by an ageing journalist combines to a shocking climax. Engrossing! Wendy

May 08, 2014

Book Review - Stranded by Alex Kava

This might have over 300 pages but the type is large and the story not terribly complicated. It is however, a competent outing for FBI agent Maggie O'Dell and her partner Tully as they track down a serial killer who is targeting people who stop at highway rest areas. The inclusion of handsome Ryder Creed, a cadaver dog handler, and a couple of his gorgeous dogs adds interest, colour and movement. 'He was tall, broad –shouldered, and wore a white t-shirt that stretched over a lean and muscular torso with arms to match. His Levis telegraphed more of the same..[Grace, the Jack Russell terrier, also wasn't what Maggie was expecting]… She seemed so spirited, so playful, so ordinary. …it was hard to imagine this energetic dog spent a good deal of her time looking for dead people.' Creed, Grace, Maggie and Tully all face danger in tracking down and capturing the killer. Wendy

May 07, 2014

Book Review - Knit Kimono Too by Vicki Square

From elegant linen sleeveless tops to big thick warm coats, this book contains garments that have had their design genesis in the timeless lines of Japanese kimonos. Featuring some new textured stitches, lace coveralls, warm cables, interesting surface embroidery as well as some quite simple garter stitch patterns, there is something here for all ages and interests. One design harks back to the Heian period, (794-1192) when the colour palette of your fashionable 12 layer kimono was determined by your rank in society as well as by the season, eg soft pale greens in spring, deep purples and grays in winter etc. a lovely book to read through and maybe to knit something from! Wendy

May 06, 2014

Book Review - It Happens in the Dark by Carol O'Connell

I have been a fan of the Kathy Mallory detective stories from the beginning. In this novel, the author weaves a complicated plot about a play where an unseen ghostwriter is rewriting the script and many formerly well-known participants are desperate for their next time in the limelight of celebrity and success. But which of them will benefit from a dead body being found at each of the first three nights of production and why is the ghostwriter now targeting Detective Mallory? Layers and layers of trickery and sleight of hand unfold as the police investigate the many unlovely characters who appear to have motive and opportunity to commit the murders. I was exhausted by the end and not sure I would ever go to the theatre again. A very different plot well executed.

Book Review - It's Raining Men by Milly Johnson

Three friends have booked a luxury spa retreat but the booking is mixed up and they end up in a strangely isolated, unfriendly village where they are astonished that the natural beauty and luscious local produce aren't more widely appreciated. Each of the women has their own romantic problems and there are coincidentally three brothers who own key properties including the cottage where they are staying. More depth than your usual Chicklit, with some unlovely characters causing mayhem and some lovely romantic moments blended with just a touch of magic which keep this seaside holiday story humming along. Understanding the village story helps each of the friends to find their happy ending. Wendy

May 04, 2014

Book Review - Sex, Drugs and Meditation: a Memoir by Mary-Lou Stephens

A ten day meditation retreat in almost absolute silence sounds positive but during this testing time, the an Australian musician reflects on her life and the many mis-steps and foolish choices she has made. Drugs, sex, stealing and lying have all played a part in her life thus far. Having pulled out of the downward spiral enough to land a radio job she is finding fulfilling, along comes an unfair and talentless boss, the catalyst that sends her to the retreat and also makes her stay once it gets difficult. I'm not sure that her recounting of the process would encourage me to do a similar retreat, but it was interesting to see how mentally stripping back to just your own self crystallises your choices and sets up a platform for future life decisions. Wendy

May 03, 2014

Book Review - The Raven's Eye by Barry Maitland

We can claim this English born author as an Aussie now as he moved here in 1984. His series with Brock and Kolla have a justified reputation as tautly plotted character driven thrillers. Gritty police procedurals meet psychological drama and the best battles are sometimes inside the police force as old fashioned coppers come to terms with modern technological policing. In the Raven's Eye, a tight-knit narrow boat community refuses to give up its secrets after one of them dies in an apparent suicide. Secrets that will lead to more deaths, expose corruption and place DI Kathy Kolla at considerable personal danger. I have read all his novels and they are all terrific. Although Brock and Kolla's story has evolved through them all, you can read this as a stand-alone if you are new to this writer. Wendy

May 01, 2014

Book Review - Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans

A deeply satisfying but easy read chronicling Elle's development from gawky social misfit to sophisticated New York editor. Finding her feet in the publishing profession, surviving a doomed love affair and coming to terms with her family history, Elle acquires a veneer of sophistication but secretly dreads revealing her real self. Full of insights into the publishing industry and including a marvelous publisher who insists she reads Georgette Heyer, one of my all time favourite authors. The tension between 'good' literature versus commercial sellers is realistically portrayed. Mistakes don't necessarily mean you miss out on the happy ending!

April 29, 2014

Book Review - The List of My Desires by Gregoire Delacourt

We all have one don't we? A list of what you would get if you won the lottery? I know I could easily dispose of any amount from $100 to a few million. But what if you DID win it? How would your life change? If you take comfort and hope from dreaming of when you might save up for a new car, say, followed by a holiday, how would you cope if you could suddenly do it all today? And have no list left to dream about? Would your family be the same? One woman and her family learn more than they bargained for when money enters their life and they reassess what they value and what is happiness. I loved this book. Wendy

Book Review - How to create the Perfect Wife: Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and his Enlightened Quest to train the Ideal Mate by Wendy Moore

In the eighteenth century, Thomas Day was a radical philosopher poet who rejected the values and social mores of his day. He was rude and unkempt but he inherited a huge fortune and was able to indulge some wild ideas. Rejected by and rejecting society beauties, he sought an unspoilt girl who was physically hardened and stoic, possessed obedience, virtue and practical skills. This was Enlightenment period and his social set included all the fashionable men of literature, science and reason. Aided by his friends, he selected two girls from the Foundling Hospital and set about training up his prospective mate under the guise of apprenticing them to a good career. His friend, Edgeworth, enthusiastically raises his son according to the French philosopher, Rousseau's new child -centred approach, which, when implemented thoroughly turns out a badly behaved unhappy boy, but although somewhat modified, remains a key tenet of today's child-centred approach to education. This fascinating biography of Thomas Day, his friends and his protégés benefits immeasurably from the author's extensive research and understanding of the period. Fashion, love, science, folly, hypocrisy and changing fortunes affect the intrepid cast of characters. True tales are sometimes the most unbelievable! Wendy

April 26, 2014

Book Review - Delia's Cakes

This is a completely revised edition of Delia Smith's Book of Cakes first published in 1977. Since then, she has gone on to be a household name in Britain and quite well known in Australia, so presumably does not need a surname anymore. The recipes have all been revised, simplified and updated for 2013 and she includes useful general tips on methods and equipment. More than 90% have options for gluten-free baking and some recipes are egg-free. She now advocates using soft butter spreads which almost completely do away with the step of creaming the butter and sugar, just put them all in together and whisk! As well as all kinds of cakes, there are also recipes for delicious sounding biscuits and muffins. The Iced Lemon Curd Layer Cake and the Hidden Strawberry Cupcakes caught my eye and the light sponge of the Orange and Passionfruit Cake would suit this warmer weather. Wendy

April 24, 2014

Book Review - The Humans: there's no place like home by Matt Haig

An alien being comes to Earth, takes over the naked body of a maths professor and tries to complete a mission. In the meantime, he has to learn to get along with humans. Coming from an 'advanced' and rational race, this takes some doing as he figures out what clothes are for, how humans communicate and what is true and what is beautiful. The alien gradually goes native in this warmly funny exploration of what it is to be human. Culminating in a list of advice for a human teenager, including "politeness is often fear, kindness is always courage", this book covers both the sublime and the ridiculous in humans living and loving each other, whilst working through a well plotted tale. A lovely book.

April 23, 2014

Book Review - A stitch in time: Heirloom Knitting Skills by Rita Taylor

Non-Fiction reviewed by Wendy This is a very easy to read and use guide, explaining the origin of stitches and placing knitting squarely in the 21st century. Divided into Textured, Twisted, Raised, Cable and Lace Stitches and Colourwork, each section provides an exploration of the history and usage around the world. It made sense that Fair Isle and other colourwork patterns not only made use of different coloured wools that may not have been enough for a garment on their own but also provided additional warmth with the additional layers of wool carrying under the pattern. From the warmth and practicality of working jumpers, to the luxury of lightweight lace work, each section includes a comprehensive stitch listing, for example, 34 lace stitch patterns are included. Twelve complete project patterns covering each of the sections including a Fairisle sweater, a lacy shawl, a bobble hat and a cable cardigan enable you to put these heirloom skills into modern-day practice. I very much liked a baby blanket made in squares with a raised leaf pattern and a blackberry stitch border and it may have given me confidence to try a fair-isle pattern – which became popular after Edward, Prince of Wales, appeared wearing one in a magazine in the 20s!

April 22, 2014

Book Review - 101 Uses for My Ex-Wife's Wedding Dress by Kevin Cotter

This book had its origin in a blog started by the author after his divorce. His ex-wife left her wedding dress with him and told him he could do what he wanted with it. Kevin had come from a Catholic family where marriages lasted and he was deeply affected by his break-up. He also had time to reflect on how much weddings and dresses cost and why shouldn't they be put to good and further use? Thus he releases his angst by using the dress as a rag, a floor mat, a tow-rope, a turban, a dog toy etc etc., as can be seen in the many photos. On the surface, this is a rather silly book, but Kevin turns out to be more than a man playing dress-ups. He pays tribute to the many family members and friends who helped him through; talks a little of the impact of becoming well-known through his online activity and media interest; and offers up some useful hints to others. Oh, and he does find love a second time around… here's hoping that goes well! Wendy

April 20, 2014

Book Review - Blood & Beauty: A novel of the Borgias by Sarah Dunant

What a superb historical feast, plunging us back into Renaissance Italy with Rodrigo Borgia scheming his way into the Papacy, thus opening the door for his children, particularly Cesare and Lucrezia, to take their place on history's page. This is a cruel, beautiful, corrupt world and the Borgias were clever, violent and crafty by turns as they fought to secure their family's future. Dynastic marriages, shifting alliances and the new technology of war are all in their arsenal as the Pope strives to cement his preeminent position in Europe over a motley crew of Kings, Dukes and Princes. A very good read! I was pleased to hear Sarah on The First Tuesday Book Club late in 2013, saying she was reading Machiavelli's The Prince (allegedly based on Cesare Borgia) for research for Book 2. Wendy

April 19, 2014

Book Review - Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvan

Grace never wanted children as she had spent a lot of her youth caring for her siblings but she has fallen in love with Victor who has two children, Ava and Max. They live with their mother, Kelli, who has serious health problems so that the eldest, daughter Ava, is also cast in the role of carer. Grace and Victor plan to marry but then Kelli dies suddenly and they must all try to get along together. Kelli didn't want Victor to remarry, Grace didn't want full time children and Ava just wants her mother and father back together. None of them will get what they want. This is a sensitive exploration of a blended family coming to terms with who they are and how their future will unfold. No-one is bad or good but they do have different expectations and experiences and some of that gels and some doesn't. Eventually they find some peace together in this hopeful and heartwarming story. Wendy

April 16, 2014

Book Review - If You Were Here by Alafair Burke

This is well plotted and well written, holding interest to the last when there are extra twists and turns. Ambitious ex-prosecutor, McKenna Jordan is still paying for mistakes she made when a case went horribly wrong and she ended up losing her job. She sees a video which seems to suggest that an old friend, Sarah, is still alive although she has been missing presumed dead for many years. Sarah appears to have been caught up in a group of active eco-terrorists but nothing is as it seems as McKenna digs deeper into the secrets and evasions around her friend's disappearance. Believable characters with their own tragedies and flaws contribute to the story. The only clue I will give you is follow the money – it's so often good advice! Wendy

April 15, 2014

Book Review - Children of the Revolution by Peter Robinson

Another excellent Inspector Banks story. An ageing loner is found dead after falling from a disused railway bridge. Did he fall or was he assisted to his death? Why did he ring a local celebrity writer, Lady Veronica Chalmers, a week before his death and why did he have £5,000 on him when he clearly was living very poorly? A wide-ranging enquiry leads Alan Banks and his team to the Eastvale College, in the recent past, and the University of Essex in the time of the miners' strikes of the Thatcher years. Peter Robinson is in his usual good form, weaving music, the English class system and philosophy into an intriguing mystery. I only hope he isn't falling into Robert Heinlein's error of having his ageing hero continue to engage romantically with women in their thirties. Wendy

Book Review - The Ninth Girl by Tami Hoag

The driver of a party limousine on New Year's Eve is distracted by the provocative behaviour of his passengers when he is startled by what appears to be a Zombie pop up from the boot of the car in front of him and fall under his wheels. The zombie is a teenage girl, who may be the latest victim of a serial killer, and her face has been destroyed by acid. With no ID and no face, experienced homicide detectives Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska, have a tough job ahead of them. In exploring the world of an alienated and isolated teenager, Sam and Nikki are reminded why they do what they do, to bring the victims some recognition and justice. A complex plot in the hands of a deservedly best -selling author. Wendy

April 14, 2014

Book Review - Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Hannah Kent is a young Australian who lived in Iceland in her teens as a Rotary exchange student and was intrigued by the story of a murder and three convicted people who had to be housed in farmhouses whilst awaiting their execution as there were no jails in rural Iceland. This is the story of Agnes and the family she stays with. Initially most of them hold her at a distance but when you are a small group of people in a harsh environment, you have to co-operate to live. The descriptive passages cut as sharp as the cold Icelandic wind. Human warmth, family and love are placed into stark relief against the harsh weather and isolated landscape. Agnes' story is slowly revealed. Her end may have been foretold in her beginning but it is exquisitely wrought here in this well researched and beautiful first novel. "Now comes the darkening sky and a cold wind that passes right through you, as though you are not there, it passes through you as though it does not care whether you are alive or dead, for you will be gone and the wind will still be there, licking the grass flat upon the ground, not caring whether the soil is at freeze or thaw, for it will freeze and thaw again, and soon your bones, now hot with blood and thick-juicy with marrow, will be dry and brittle and flake and freeze and thaw with the weight of dirt upon you, and the last moisture of your body will be drawn up to the surface by the grass, and the wind will come and knock it down and push you back against the rocks, or it will scrape you up under its nails and take you out to sea in a wild screaming of snow. " p319 Wendy

April 13, 2014

Book Review - Crocodile Tears by Mark O'Sullivan

A compellingly tangled murder mystery with a cast of characters who have plenty of dark secrets in their lives. Inspector Leo Woods is the flawed and damaged insightful maverick cop and Helen Troy is the ambitious intelligent and lonely young detective trying to force her way into a male dominated world. Blood and bodies escalate until there is no stone left unturned. Murder exposes much that they would all prefer kept out of the light of day. Well plotted and contrived, these characters all feel real. I will look out for the next one by this author! Wendy

April 11, 2014

Book Review - Don't want to Miss a Thing by Jill Mansell

A lovely romantic story about Dex, a man about town whose life is suddenly completely changed by the death of his sister and his guardianship of his orphaned baby niece, and Molly, whose heart has remained whole until she met Dex. Several couples are sorted out while Dex and Molly work out who they want to be with – and baby Delphi is adorably cute throughout. Wendy

April 09, 2014

Book Review - Book, Line and Sinker by Jenn McKinlay

This is the second Library Lover's Mystery as Library Director Lindsey Norris is dragged into a local political dispute over buried treasure on an island offshore from their town of Briar Creek. In spite of a brutal murder, this is a cosy mystery as the townsfolk all seem to want to help their Chief of Police gather evidence and catch the bad guys. I particularly liked how the children's librarian smuggled her colleague's dog out of the library in the costume she wore for storytime. I'm sure Eric Carle would approve of his very hungry caterpillar being put to such use! You even get a recipe at the end but I had to Google almond bark to find out how to make Beth's Lemon-Almond Cookie Truffles. American baking has some idiosyncracies all its own. Wendy

April 08, 2014

Book Review - The Forbidden Queen by Anne O'Brien

Terrific historical fiction fleshing out the bones of the story of Katherine Valois, a French princess married to England's King Henry V to cement his claims on the French crown. Katherine's son becomes King whilst still a boy but she must live retired and soberly as the Queen Dowager. Ambitious men see her as a means to worldly power but will one win her heart? An intriguingly woven imagining of how she became one of the Tudors, that great English dynasty that culminated in Elizabeth I. Wendy

April 07, 2014

Book Review - The Weeping Girl by Hakan Nesser

Another Scandinavian treat. Nesser's understanding of human behaviour and his clean prose style is on show again here. Ewa Moreno is meant to be on holidays but as we all know, fictional detectives rarely get time to have holidays or nurture their own personal life. She gets distracted by an allegation of illegal and corrupt conduct in her own group of colleagues and is also intrigued by the story of a weeping girl on the train. Unable to stop from pursuing the truth, a 16 year old case is finally and shockingly resolved. Good reading. Wendy

April 05, 2014

Review - Hamlet (DVD)

This classic BBC DVD is terrific. Starring David Tennant, Patrick Stewart and Penny Downie, Hamlet is intense and intimate. Elsinore is depicted as a place of shadows, mirrors and conspiracies, as this family tragedy unfolds. At 3 hours and 37 minutes, it is well worth your attention. Almost every speech has a phrase that is now engrained into our language and cultural zeitgeist. Superlative performances and production. Wendy

April 03, 2014

Book Review - Heartland by Cathryn Hein

Callie leaves her roving lifestyle to return to her roots when she inherits her grandmother's farm. She is still dealing with her guilt over her older sister's death from a drug overdose, convinced she contributed by wanting to go out with her on the fateful night. She means to sell the farm quickly and give the proceeds to the educational and charitable foundation her parents have set up in her sister's name. Circumstances mean she has to stay in the district for longer than she planned, face her demons and try to forgive herself. Along the way she is helped by an ex-soldier, Matt, from the adjoining farm. This is a competent rural romance, with much loved horses, cute puppies, grizzled horse trainers, a bush fire emergency and a lively local pub. Wendy

April 01, 2014

Review - Emma (DVD)

This is a marvelous production by BBC TV showing the romantic comedy by Jane Austen in 4 episodes plus some 'making of' special features. Starring Romola Garai (The Hour & Daniel Deronda) , Jonny Lee Miller (Sherlock in Elementary), Sir Michael Gambon (The Singing Detective and numerous other roles) and Tamsin Grieg (Black Books & Episodes), it is a visual and musical feast and the acting is superb. Many Janeites rate Emma as her best novel but Emma is not my favourite Jane Austen and I have never really warmed to the title character. This production, however, brings us a warm, personable and endearing Emma. Jonny Lee Miller's Mr Knightley is upright, a little reserved, generous and kind and their growing attraction for each other is beautifully realized. The minor characters are superb especially Tamsin Greig as the garrulous Miss Bates. Gambon's Mr Woodhouse makes you want to clutch your shawl around you and be very careful of draughts and reckless exposure to the elements. This is a real treat. Wendy

March 31, 2014

Book Review - Country Loving by Cathy Woodward

Stevie left her family farm in Devon when her father insisted it go to her brother as the farm had always been run by the men in her family. She makes a life in the city but is called back to discover her father has had a stroke, his animals are in a bad way and her brother is nowhere to be seen. A cranky vet, distressed cows and a bad tempered father do not make the most romantic setting, but Stevie tackles her problems head on and finds some country loving in the process. A charming story. Wendy

March 29, 2014

Book Review - The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

This is an enchanting and possibly enchanted book about love and forgiveness. Two ordinary people, George and his daughter Amanda are immeasurably changed when they meet Kumiko. A woman who may be the reincarnation of a wounded crane or may not. I loved it but know others who just didn't get it. It may be for you or it may not. "Stories do not explain. They seem to, but all they provide is a starting point. A story never ends at the end. There is always after. And even within itself, even by saying this version is the right one, it suggests other versions, versions that exist in parallel. No, a story is not an explanation, it is a net through which the truth flows. The net catches some of the truth, but not all, never all, only enough so that we can live with the extraordinary without it killing us." She sagged a little, as if exhausted by this speech. "As it surely, surely would." After a moment, George asked, "Has something extraordinary happened to you?" "To me", she said, "and to everyone…." Wendy

March 28, 2014

Book Review - Cold Killing by Luke Delaney

The cover says 'No motive, no mercy, no remorse.' This is a fairly cold book all round, full of grisly murders and a most unsympathetic killer. The detective team try hard to have some humanity but in the end this didn't quite gel for me. It is good but just seemed to miss being very good and I don't know why? I think I got annoyed with the wife of the lead detective who wasn't given much to do except to be either irritated or annoyingly caring about her husband's way of immersing himself in the killer's viewpoint. Perhaps that's how detectives' wives are and there isn't a resolution if they don't divorce but I was left wondering how it helped the story and I don't think it did. Some of the minor characters seem to be more interesting than the leads so I wanted to see more of them. Anyway – give it a go and see what you think! Wendy

March 26, 2014

Book Review - The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch

This is a charming story of Sugar Wallace, an itinerant bee-keeper who arrives in a place only to sort out her new friends and then move on to pastures new chosen by her bees crawling on a map. But this time, Sugar gets more than she bargains for as her bees help her with her neighbours in a New York City apartment building and with her own bruised heart. Helping others can help you help yourself but you have to be open to life's hurts as well as its joys. I think this is my favourite read this year. Wendy

March 25, 2014

Book review - Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts

Eli Landon has escaped conviction of the murder of his estranged wife but no-one else is in the frame and suspicion lingers. He may have to face a civil suit brought by her family who are still looking for answers. He retreats to his grandmother's home at Whiskey Beach where a group of concerned locals help him find new love as he unravels a historical mystery which holds the key to his present travails. Nora Roberts can craft a fine tale with red herrings and a varied cast of well drawn supporting characters. Wendy

March 24, 2014

Book Review - False Start: a memoir of things best forgotten by Mark O'Flynn

This is a strange little collection of tales in three distinct parts. Mark spends time at a Queensland mine, at drama school and then involved in theatre in a regional town and then he goes to Ireland to distribute religious statues. He never quite knows what he wants to do with his life but he is entertaining enough as he tries to find out. So, if you feel like accompanying him on his journey, you can spend an amusing hour or two. Wendy

March 22, 2014

Book Review - Give Me Excess of It by Richard Gill

I know Richard Gill only through his appearances on Spicks and Specks and via his participation in Operatunity OZ – a a search for undiscovered opera singers. He has always entertained and impressed with his passion for sharing music. This book covers his musical education thus far, including failures and successes; his ongoing quest for more musical challenges and deeper knowledge; and his infectious enthusiasm for developing and nurturing young talent. It touches only briefly on his personal life, apart from acknowledging the enormous support from his wife as he threw himself heart and soul into whatever was the preoccupation of the day. I enjoyed it and I hope this engaging man continues to teach and learn for many years to come. Wendy

March 21, 2014

Book Review - Suddenly by Bonnie Burnard

Three Canadian friends, Sandra, Colleen and Jude, have lasted through the years of childrearing, sharing their joys and their sorrows. Sandra is dying and her family and friends keep her company. Using Sandra's journals as a jumping off point, we learn of several crucial events in their shared history. The friends and their husbands try to make sense of their relationships, their needs and fears. I normally swallow books up rather quickly, but this one demanded a more considered approach. Perhaps knowing a shared history means much more than you might initially think. Wendy

March 20, 2014

Book Review - Suspect by Robert Crais

A police detective, Scott, is dealing with Post Traumatic Stress disorder after a disastrous incident where his policewoman partner was killed and he was left very badly injured. Scott is transferred to the K9 unit where he meets Maggie, an Army dog, who lost her human handler in an incident when she, too, was badly injured. Should they both be medically retired or can they help each other heal? The developing relationship between the two is sensitively handled as they investigate the layers of deceit behind the death of the policewoman. Part of the story is told from Maggie's point of view, adding warmth and understanding to her story. A lovely dog story and an absorbing mystery.

Book Review - The Honey Queen by Cathy Kelly

This is classic Kelly! Three women at different times in their lives all come to a small Irish village. Lillie has come from Australia to meet relatives she never knew about, as her birth mother died and her secret was revealed. Lillie is mourning the recent loss of her beloved husband. Her 'new' half brother and his wife have taken on a large house but then he lost his job and financial strains are complicating their relationship. Peggy arrives in town to open a new knitting shop but must reconcile her past before she can move on to a shining new future. How these and other well-drawn characters interact and help each other is a heart-warming read and one I would be happy to come back to again. It's life-affirming. Wendy

March 18, 2014

Book Review - Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino

The cover blurb states "The Japanese Stieg Larsson" which is quite misleading and does them both a dis-service. This is a classical murder mystery with the main suspect, the wife, with a solid alibi, being many miles away when her husband dies. An interesting collection of detectives gather the evidence and interpret the clues. A friendly scientist works on the physical puzzles whilst others work on the psychology of the victim and his intimates. Intelligent and gently witty, this is more of an intellectual exercise than a thriller. A very satisfying read. Wendy

March 17, 2014

Book Review - Fish Change Direction in Cold Weather by Pierre Szalowski

This first novel is a funny, quirky and intelligent look at the loves and lives of a group of neighbours, who are brought together when a severe ice storm affects Montreal. The main character is an 11 year old boy whose parents have just announced that they are splitting up. He comes to realize that they have been 'frozen' into attitudes that mean they aren't happy, and they aren't alone in that. His voice is beautifully depicted as he painfully comes to a more adult understanding of his parents' dilemmas and his place in their deliberations. His neighbours include a couple of homosexuals who are afraid to come out, a meteorologist, a psychoanalyst, a stripper who is disillusioned with men, a Russian Mathematics student working on a PhD on the patterns in which fish swim, a failed musician single father & his son, three cats and a dog. None of them know each other at all, except to nod to going in and out but the storm makes them connect and nothing will be ever be the same, not even for the cats although the dog continues on much as normal! This small book packs a lot into a charmingly simple story of what happens over five days, when all normal routines are gone. Szalowski manages to look at prejudice, fear, marriage and love without judgment but with great empathy and hope in a wonderfully realized narrative. I loved it! Wendy

March 15, 2014

Book Review - Big Sky River by Linda Lael Miller

Pleasant escapist western romance as Tara establishes herself as a sort of chicken farmer in Parable, Montana, after a failed first marriage that seems to have left her with plenty of money and no need to earn a living. She doesn't at first take to her neighbour, the widowed Sheriff Boone Taylor but the inevitable happens. A new baby, orphaned dogs, adorable children, teen misadventures and new love in a small town community that knows your business and that means they help in a crisis. This is part of a series of Big Sky romances by this assured writer under the Harlequin imprint. Wendy

March 14, 2014

Book Review - A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell

This is much more of a history book than Who put the Beef into Wellington? Sitwell, a British TV and magazine foodie goes back in time to identify when foods first emerged and the historical contexts. Bread, porridge, roast beef, tomato sauce, oatmeal cookies and ice-cream sodas are a small fraction of what is covered. Including fragments from the earliest known writing about the dish, Sitwell's purpose isn't to help you cook it, but to appreciate its history. Find out why the tomato was viewed with great suspicion in Europe to begin with - apart from anything else, The Axtecs ate them but they also ate people…. , but it went on to be one of the essential ingredients of many cuisines. I found this a fascinating but slow read – a few chapters at a time. Be warned with both of these two food books you will experience a great need to read bits aloud to your nearest and dearest! Wendy

March 13, 2014

Book Review - Who put the Beef into Wellington? 50 culinary classics – who invented them and why by James Martin

This book contains 2 double page spread about 50 iconic recipes. The first gives a short history of the origins and context of the dish emerging and also briefly how it has captured the public imagination. The second gives the author's updated version of the dish. Recipes include Tarte Tatin, Melba toast, Waldorf Salad etc The latter entry includes the original recipes from The Cookbook by Oscar of the Waldorf 1896. The book also includes short entries on 10 classic cocktails including Bellini and Martini. This is a very engaging coffee table book to dip into. Wendy

March 12, 2014

Book Review - The Sacrifical Man by Ruth Dugdale

This is one of the most complex mysteries you may ever read as you try to decipher who is the victim here. Alice Mariani has assisted her boyfriend's suicide but their pact included her eating a part of him. Probation Officer Cate Austin is part of the legal system working to assess firstly what has happened and then assign legal responsibility and recommend appropriate sentencing. Very different to your normal forensic detecting, this is a dark and gripping narrative. I'm not sure that I liked Alice much at all but I "enjoyed" the journey she took me on. Wendy

March 10, 2014

Book Review - The Lawgiver by Herman Wouk

Herman Wouk is a major US writer and this was written when he was 97 so I am coming to his work a little late in his career. This a novel based on letters between the characters updated for the 21st Century as it includes emails, memos, texts and transcripts of interviews. Herman and his wife also feature as it is based on the travails of getting a film about Moses made whilst he is trying to write a novel based on Moses, where the chief investor wants Herman's approval of the script. You get deeply immersed in Jewish Hollywood as investors, scriptwriters, directors and producers all put their own spin on what should happen. There is a lovely inclusion of an Aussie hunk actor flown over for a screen test that never happens, a couple of romances and a family estrangement thrown in for good measure. This is a good and funny read and has a rather sad afterword as Herman's wife died between finishing the novel and this edition being published. Wendy

March 09, 2014

Book Review - The Happiness Show by Catherine Deveney

Lizzie is a quintessential Aussie backpacker , ie loud, brash, funny and irreverent when she meets Tom on the Trans Siberian Railroad. They connect but their ways part and Tom returns to England. Deveney is strongest in showing how the relationship develops and how their shared sense of humour underpins their sexual attraction. Years later after they have both established and happy relationships including children, they meet and discover that sparks still fly and they have unfinished business. Neither of them can stop thinking about the other and wanting them. There is nothing new in this story but Deveney shows a sure hand and unflinching honesty in depicting the various relationships that propel the narrative. Wendy

January 25, 2014

Book Review - The Chess Men by Peter May

This is the third in the Island of Lewis books by Peter May and I found it as compelling as the first two. The islands are bleak and living conditions are harsh but some can still find the music and some can still find the terror. We learn more about Fin's past as the story here emerges from his university days. I loved it but needed to read something happy and light afterwards. Wendy

January 24, 2014

Book Review - What to Knit When You're Expecting by Nikki Van De Car

A lovely collection of baby knits. I think I may be going to try out the sleeping bag and matching hat and perhaps the stripey jumper for the little ones in my life. Luxurious yarns and livable designs although I think they are perhaps having a colder climate than ours in mind. Wendy

January 22, 2014

Book Review - The Boy in the Snow by M.J. McGrath

This one is set in Alaska and involves the native peoples of the Arctic Circle, crooked politicians, land deals, religious cults and people trafficking. The Alaskan countryside is breath taking and described in the main by Edie Kiglatuk, a Canadian who is in Alaska to help her ex-husband take part in the Iditarod Dog Sled race. She finds a dead baby and is drawn into investigating the baby's death. Even though Edie lives in the Arctic realm of Canada, the Alaskan countryside is very different but it still retains an awesome spirituality and Edie can find common ground with the native peoples of this land. This took a little while to warm up for me as the culture and daily living tasks are so different from our warm soft land but it turned out to be a very satisfying mystery. Wendy

January 20, 2014

Book Review - Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

This is a very modern mystery full of cynicism, swearing and guns. A few of New York's finest misfits get together to solve the puzzle of the room full of guns accidentally discovered during a violent incident, when Detective John Tallow's partner is killed. Mixing humour with history, erudition with poor housekeeping, and keeping on with the task when it's obvious that powerful people want them to stop, John and his mates use science and intuition in their hunt for this invisible killer. The author began his writing career in graphic novels but I'm very glad he's switched over to the dark side of words only! Wendy

Book Review - The Girl in the Hard Hat by Loretta Hill

The author has worked on outback engineering projects and has used that experience to set her story in a coal loading wharf in the remote Western Australian coast. Having found out she was not the child of her father, Wendy is on a mission to find out who her father really is, and she is in no mood for romance. She meets Gavin, a supervisor at the wharf, who has his own issues with commitment as he is trying to avoid his past catching up with him. Sparks fly and the two try to ignore their growing attraction. The story is well structured and the supporting cast well drawn. Gavin and Wendy have to overcome a cyclone before they sort out how to be together. It was good learn a little more about Australia, in an area where very few get to live and work. Wendy

January 17, 2014

Book Review - Op Shop Chic by Rosie Lyons

Another crafty treat. Ideas for bags made out of tea towels, fruit bowls out of LPs, tea cosies out of old kilts and much more. Lovely to browse through and think about pretty things you could make, and some of them are even useful as well! I think my favourite idea was the child's pinafore out of a cut down man's shirt. A little bias binding and you're done! Wendy

January 16, 2014

Book Review - Giant's Bread, Unfinished Portrait and Absent in the Spring - The Mary Westmacott Collection by Agatha Christie

These are very interesting stories. They have been called romances but they are more studies of families and relationships with the author placing quite a few characters under the microscope. I found them intriguing having read the Christie mysteries for many years, to see how she handled these stories, originally published under the name of Westmacott in the 30s & 40s. Apart from a dated and prejudicial portrait of some Jewish characters that simply would not happen now, she is a master of the upper middle class English family, wrestling with romances, finances, creative impulses, parenting and growing up. I particularly liked the story of a woman who is forced by transport difficulties to stay in a remote location for several days, with no entertainment, and is forced to reflect on her own life…. Will she make changes as a result of this time to think? This book is quite thick but very readable and includes a foreword by the author's daughter. Wendy

January 14, 2014

Book Review - Crowner's Crusade by Bernard Knight

This is a 'prequel' to a series I haven't read, of mysteries set in the time of Richard I of England. Sir John de Wolfe and his faithful sidekick, solve mysteries whilst upholding the King and thwarting the wily Prince John. This book can't quite decide what it wants to be and appears to be aimed at existing fans but there is much to like. The first part is all action travelogue, as Sir John and assorted companions accompany the Lionheart back from the Holy Land until he is captured. The second part sees him at home and starting on his career as the King's Crowner or Coroner solving murders and other mysteries. Packed full of authentic details about travel and living arrangements in the period, it is an interesting read for the social history alone. Wendy

January 13, 2014

Book Review - No! I Don't Want Reading Glasses by Virginia Ironside

In this follow-up to "No! I Don't Want to join a Book Club" our fearless heroine is now older and sadly wiser but still sharp as a tack and very funny. Her beloved Archie is facing declining health with decisions to be made about his care. Her son and his family relocate to the US and she has an entertaining visit to see them, after she gets through airport security with her terrorist weapons aka knitting needles. Troubles abound but so do friends and happy times. I still laughed out loud after having had to endure hearing my husband read the book first, laugh a lot and read me the good bits. Get it first in your family! Wendy

January 12, 2014

Book Review - Christmas in Cornwall by Marcia Willett

This is a delicious book. It is gentle and perfectly placed in its environment – the Cornish coast. A fading community of nuns and their surrounding friends ponder their future over a twelve month period. Several characters find the landscape affecting their decision-making. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Cornwall in this book. " Out on the cliff Janna wanders in the golden blowy air…. The mallows and the thrift have finished flowering but pale pink convolvuli climb amongst the granite stone, and there are bright red poppies growing amongst the rain-drenched barley on the wide headlands. The great gull-spaces of clear blue sky are empty but she can see the flocks wheeling down low over the sea: shining white against the bright green, then black against the brilliant dazzling surf. If she were to lie on the grass with her ear to the ground she would hear the booming echoes of the sea-tide surging and retreating in the secret hollow chambers far below. Dossie walks at night….and stands looking out across the pale-cut stubble of the new-cut fields. One small star us tangled in a long fleece of cloud and she can see a ghostly illumination running like pale fire along the black curve of the distant horizon. The moon's bright curved rim appears above the long low hills and it seems as if she can feel the movement of the earth as it tilts towards it. Holding her breath, she watches as the moon rises: full and mysterious and magical. The deep silence is broken only by the querulous cry of an old ewe, the settling and stuttering of small birds in the hedges and two owls calling. Father Pascal passes down the steep cobbled lane between granite, herringbone garden walls and cottages, armour-plated against the weather with grey slates. Hydrangeas – wine-red mopheads and delicate creamy lace-caps – still flower in small sheltered gardens, along with the hardy fuchsias, scarlet and pink. Overhead, the wild warm wind whirls the fine wrought-iron weathercocks dizzily perched on stone chimneys, and flees down narrow alleyways with ginger and golden leaves scurrying before it. Out at sea, … a white sail slices across the choppy water, sharp and fast as a shark's fin." Wendy