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Search tags: Reviewed-for-Netgalley
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review 2017-12-09 15:19
Plum Dandi Knits
Plum Dandi Knits: Simple Designs for Luxury Yarns - Alicia Plummer,Melissa Schaschwary

by Alicia Plummer, Melissa Schaschwary

 

As the cover and description would indicate, this is a book of knitting patterns. What's unique about it is an emphasis on stitch patterns that create romantic designs that are very fluid, like nature.

 

My one complaint about it is that a lot of the patterns are for 'accessories'. I counted 2 patterns for leg warmers, one flared, 1 pair of warm looking socks, 4 shawls, one with a massive cable design, 2 patterns for fingerless gloves with interesting textures plus a pattern for enclosed mittens, an interesting headband that I'll certainly make, 2 scarves, a sort of cabled hat with a big fluffy ball at the top plus 2 more hats, one that the texture pattern made me think of dragon scales, and a cabled blanket.

 

This wouldn't be bad if there were more patterns for pullovers and cardigans. Apart from the above there was a patter with delicate stitch patterns in a cardigan and shrug, a striped pullover vest, a turtleneck pullover, an interesting patterned cape that I would make longer, and one other pullover with a lovely pattern going down the sleeves which I am very likely to make. No jackets or dresses, which might have benefited from the sort of design that has gone into the projects offered.

 

There's an extensive stitch glossary, including some unusual ones like the long-tail cast on that I haven't seen elsewhere. I'd say this book is for the more experienced knitter. There are plenty of pictures in color and the stitches are illustrated with clear drawings.

 

Overall a good knitting book, but I'd like to see more patterns for everyday clothes. You can only make so many hats and scarves before you have too many, no matter how cool the designs.

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review 2017-12-08 15:49
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock - Imogen Hermes Gowar

by Imogen Hermes Gowar

 

Unfortunately this story is written in present tense and like most books that are written this way, the prose feels stilted and doesn't flow well, plus the tenses get confused when referring to something that happened in the story's past. It's a shame as it had the potential to be really good. People who don't mind reading in present tense may enjoy it more than I was able to. I also had the impression from the description that it would be about a live mermaid rather than an artefact, but I won't blame the author for my expectations being other than what the story was really about.

 

A merchant, Jonah Hancock, learns that his agent has sold his ship to buy a mermaid. His ship! His means of livelihood!

 

He is given no choice but to begin a new career in exhibiting what would be considered the body of a freak of nature. It isn't what he wants to do, but it will take him into some unexpected adventures.

 

The characters were depicted well in this and the plot had some interesting twists and turns, but I found it hard going because of the present tense writing. It just doesn't work for me and I know a lot of other people are the same, so why do recent writers keep doing it? Anyway, I'm giving it 3 stars because I think this author could write well and the plot did have some interesting aspects.

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review 2017-12-05 14:55
The Toy Makers
The Toy Makers - Robert Dinsdale

by Robert Dinsdale

 

This is a story about a magical toyshop in the heart of Mayfair, just at the beginning of WWI. A young girl, Cathy, is pregnant and not at all happy with her parent's plans to send her to a 'home' where her baby will be sold to adoptive parents and she can try to pick up the threads of her life in shame.

 

An employment advert comes to her attention and she decides to take control of her destiny and forge another way forward.

 

From the start it is clear that the toyshop is out of the ordinary. I found myself quickly getting into the childlike sense of wonder that this magical place attracts and enjoyed watching Cathy learn to fit in with the other residents and toy makers.

 

It isn't all magic and joy though. The real world encroaches on the magical world of the toyshop, especially when the Great War breaks out. By then we've already learned the far too real history of Papa Jack, who started the toy shop with his two sons. The contrast of the magical world within the real world makes for a good story and kept me interested all the way through.

 

There is everything from sibling rivalry to magical animals that come alive, war time prejudices contrasted with paper trees that grow and develop living paper mache wildlife, war time correspondence and through it all the perspective of a child discovering everything for the first time.

 

It's not all happy, but the twist at the end makes the journey worthwhile. Well defined characters and a very unpredictable plot along with good writing make this one of the best books I've read this year!

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review 2017-11-30 15:35
Devil's Day
Devil's Day - Andrew Michael Hurley

by Andrew Michael Hurley

 

Every autumn, John Pentecost returns to the farm where he grew up to help gather the sheep down from the moors for the winter. Usually his grandfather, known as the gaffer, tells tales that always begin with the devil and local rituals are believed to keep the sheep safe over the winter, but this year the gaffer has died and John has brought his wife along where they will both attend the funeral.

 

This story is a slow burner. It starts out following a lot of what looks like conversation with no real point, though eventually it begins to reveal some of the local happenings that suggest the town really is plagued by the Devil. There is some Yorkshire dialect which was very well done, though I wonder whether it will translate well to people who have never heard Yorkshire people speak. Beginning sentences with "It were..." might look like bad grammar, but it's part of the local colour.

 

The one thing I found difficult was that there are no chapters, though there are a few section breaks starting nearly halfway through. It's one never-ending read with the occasional skipped line where I could decide to use my bookmark and continue later. The thing is, the lack of any real action in the first 75% of the book didn't inspire me to want to keep reading. It's like a snapshot of life in a rural Yorkshire Parrish with a dark secret or two. I finished wondering what was the point of the story and still waiting for something to happen, especially as there were some good hints of foreshadowing.

 

Not a lot of action, but the writing was good.

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review 2017-11-20 13:26
Fools and Mortals
Fools and Mortals - Bernard Cornwell

by Bernard Cornwell

 

From the well-known Historical fiction writer is a story about players, actors on the stage, in the time of Elizabeth I. Women were still played by men and the brother of Will Shakespeare, Richard, is continually given women's roles with his brother's company. Between getting to be too old and taking a liking to a servant girl in a great house where they are to perform, Richard tries everything he can think of to get his brother to give him a male role.

 

Themes of dominance between brothers are fully explored in this story and I couldn't help but have sympathy for Richard, who, as a significantly younger brother, is constantly in his brother's shadow.

 

I don't know if Shakespeare really had a brother but I'm not going to look it up. I enjoyed this story and Richard was a likable character. Will Shakespeare came over as a callous, unfeeling brother, most of the time. Whether there i any accuracy to this is anybody's guess.

 

The story gave a good look at the life of players in Shakespeare's time and I found it was my preferred read among several books I've been reading at once. It is undeniably well-written and has plenty of excitement and a few laughs.

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