Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I have just returned from a really super holiday in beautiful Cornwall. I haven’t visited there for over 20 years and I cannot imagine why I did not go back sooner. Our dogs loved it too, not least because on the farm we were staying there were 14,000 chickens which was enough in itself to keep them interested. We were blessed with good weather on some of the days, got soaked to the skin on others and we caught up with friends while we were there so a good time was had by all. Of course, there was plenty of reading time so I have several reviews to write up for you all over the coming days.

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of A Discovery of Witches from the publisher. I usually steer clear of anything to do with vampires although I did read the Twilight series when it was first published and I followed this with some of the Charlaine Harris, Sookie Stackhouse Series. However, the market soon became saturated as a plethora of vampire books were released and I sort of lost interest in the genre.

So, it’s some years since I picked up a vampire novel and I am very glad that I did as I really enjoyed this first book in the All Souls trilogy and am keen to read the next two books in the series.

It is set amidst the spires of Oxford University where Diana Bishop, a witch, whose genealogical line dates back to the witch trials of Salem, is undertaking academic research. She has always been unwilling to use her powers for personal gain and is disinclined to acknowledge her lineage as a witch.

However, one day, whilst in the Bodleian Library she uses her magic to reach a book from the upper shelves which is witnessed by vampire, Matthew Clairmont. In a world which is inhabited by witches, daemons and vampires and which rules dictate that the three should never be seen together, Matthew seems intent on seeking out Diana everywhere she goes. Is he merely interested in her magic and if so why, or does his interest in Diana lie in his vampiric lust for blood?

Bearing in mind that Diana is a witch and Matthew a vampire the characters in this book were very believable and I found myself rooting for them every step of the way. There were also some wonderful minor characters; Diana’s American aunts and Matthew’s daemon friend, Hamish, were brilliantly executed characters. The characters were full of life (sorry…. bad turn of phrase when describing vampires) and completely engaging.

The plot also had enough twists and turns to make it engrossing and this fantastical world of magic seems very real and demonstrates the authors skill as a storyteller. For a debut novel this is extremely good and I have the next one lined up to read.

I think anyone who enjoys the romance genre mixed with fantasy will enjoy this book and will find themselves as gripped as I was. This is well worth reading.

ISBN:  9780755374045

Publisher:  Headline

Price (based on today’s price at Amazon.co.uk)  £8.36

Total saving so far:  £276.49

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Knitting Masterclass by The Knitter Magazine - Edited by Juliet Bernard

I am sure that most of you have realised by now that as well as being passionate about books and reading I am equally enamoured with knitting. So you can imagine my joy when I won this book in a give away on the blog  Did You Make That?. If you are a knitter or sewer and you have not previously checked out Karen’s blog then you will love it. Karen is a complete inspiration and the things she makes are delightful.

I have been a fan of The Knitter magazine since it’s launch in 2009 and I have attempted many projects included in their monthly magazine. In fact, I am currently working on a detailed fair isle cardigan from Issue 39 and which is coming along very nicely. I have quite a collection of back issues that I have purchased over the years and which I turn to for inspiration.

This book is equally inspiring and contains 15 beautiful patterns with over 20 technical workshops which demonstrate everything from a range of techniques for casting on and off, steeking and knitting in the round.

I have practically followed the instructions for working Kitchener stitch on a recently knitted pair of socks. They were easy to follow as the directions are clearly photographed and explained in step by step sections.

Although I have been knitting for many years I decided to follow their workshop for two handed fair isle work as I have always used the single handed method for working with two yarns. Again, the photographs and instructions were very clear and easy to follow. However, after spending some time working this new method I did go back to my original method - not through any fault of the book but I am clearly too set in my ways to change this particular method now. It does look like an easier method than the one that I use so I would recommend trying the two handed method if you are tackling fair isle.

There is always more to be learned in knitting and this book is the perfect vehicle for enhancing skills.  I can see this book becoming my ‘go to’ manual in the future. There are also many techniques that I have not attempted as yet but this book is motivating me to give new techniques a try.

I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in knitting. Accomplished knitters will find lots of new techniques to try as well as patterns to ponder. The patterns are beautifully photographed and my only dilemma is which one to do next!

ISBN: 978 1908449023

Publisher: Collins & Brown

Price: (based on today’s price at Amazon.co.uk):  £13.40

Total saving so far:  £268.13