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C. E. Hopkins

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This Boy
This Boy
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars in the 1960s anyone might come to occupy one of the great offices of state, I doubt it is true now, 7 April 2014
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This review is from: This Boy (Kindle Edition)
All the time I was reading I thought 'this man became the Home Secretary). Not that I marvelled that he could be but that I can think of no better preparation for the job. To have experienced such poverty, loss and violent (and property) crime. I don't say I think anyone in the second half of the 20th centurary should have had to live in such poverty and in such slum conditions, but that he did must have informed his work in politics.

The book is beautifully written in a plain speaking style. The spare way of writing avoids the danger of being a misery memoir and is truly witty (particularly as he talks about his youthful self)

I read it in less than two days, loved it!


Knits for You and Your Home: 30 Blissful Designs to Indulge, Cocoon, Pamper and Detox
Knits for You and Your Home: 30 Blissful Designs to Indulge, Cocoon, Pamper and Detox
by Debbie Bliss
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

4.0 out of 5 stars It really is for you (as well as your home), 2 July 2013
As always with Debbie Bliss books it is full of things I would love to make, some projects are ideal for small amounts of stash yarn, for others you can get really extravagant and buy 9 balls of Party Angel (for a pretty pink shrug to wear over a floaty Summer dress).

The book is divided into four sections, Indulge, Cocoon, Pamper and Detox. The big difference is that, unlike many project books, it really is for YOU as well as for your home. There are some great original ideas, including one or two pretty things to wear and only a couple of cushions - I know I have said it before but, how many cushions does a home need?


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Geeks and Dreamers, 2 Oct. 2012
I almost never read non fiction, except history and if a book I am reading has a lot of technical stuff I usually skip read 'the science bit'. I think that is why, despite its banality, I always found that shampoo advert featuring Jennifer Aniston where she says, wagging her finger 'now concentrate, here comes the science bit' funny because I always do the opposite. I have always firmly believed that the world's readers are divided into Geeks and Dreamers - those who do numbers and scientific stuff and the rest of us who read about people, stories, and ancient civilisations. But - no. I'm not really sure if this book will turn me into a Geek, somehow I don't think so, but it was a truly great read.

For years scientists had been trying to culture human cells in the laboratory, so that they could carry out drug trials and understand better how disease affects we human beings but every time they failed. Then one day in 1951 the laboratory at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore USA received a sample of a tumour from a young woman, the mother of 5 children and wife of a hard-working but poor steel worker. This time the cells grew. They did not just grow, they kept on growing and although other cells have been grown since nothing, even to this day, grows as well as the HeLa cells. The book also tells the human story, of a young woman, who sadly died less than a year after her cancer was discovered, and her children and grand children. I won't spoil a good read for anyone, but I cannot quite get over how beautifully written it was. Rebecca Skloot is a scientist but she is also a gifted writer who is able to explain her craft in a way that this non scientist found fascinating and to write about the lives of others in a wonderfully sympathetic and sensitive way.

But you know what? when I read her acknowledgements I found this 'My mother, Betsy McCarthy, has never faltered in her belief in me and this book. She's kept me sane through pep talks, reality checks and the gift of knitting, a family tradition I treasure'.

Oh!... The Gift of Knitting!

(this is a copy of the review I wrote in my blog [...])


Crochet Workshop: Learn How to Crochet with 20 Inspiring Projects
Crochet Workshop: Learn How to Crochet with 20 Inspiring Projects
by Erika Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.88

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All a beginner needs to know, 19 Jun. 2012
I'm mainly a knitter, I can crochet granny squares but until I read this book I could not follow a crochet pattern or chart.

The presentation of the book is beautiful, lovely high quality paper, photographs and an elegant neutral colour palette. But I am not quite so enthusiastic about some of the projects. I think it is fair to say that although there are so many good things to say about crochet, its simplicity, the comforting association with our grannies, the way we can use up all sorts of scraps and how a piece of work is perfect to fit into a corner of our bags for long journeys, the problems arise when thinking what to make. Throws, cushions and shawls, yes but actual clothing, not so sure. Erika Knight has come up with some very innovative designs but I could not quite see me wearing the Asymmetrical Cardigan or the Edgy Scarf.

But there is still plenty of goodness in there, the Slipper Boots are fun, I rather wish I had a dog so that I could make the Rag Pet Bed and I loved the Texture Throw

Quite often when I see a new book I leap into the projects first imagining all the pretty things I will make but this book is much stronger on the technical aspects of the craft, ideal for a novice like me.


The Liberty Book of Home Sewing
The Liberty Book of Home Sewing
by Liberty
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Liberty Love, 14 Oct. 2011
I have had a life long love affair with Liberty. It's where I bought the fabric for my first ball gown, the circlet of wax flowers and yards of silk tulle for my wedding veil and Tana lawn for my little girls' first summer dresses.

Any book with Liberty in the title should have plenty of beautiful photographs of their exquisite prints but this book excels itself with a fabric cover, gorgeous endpapers, double page reproductions of designs at the beginning of each chapter and a directory of prints at the end.

My test of a good craft book is that it should not only look good and the projects should work. I made up the cooks apron. The design is great, the pattern very easy to draw and the cutting and making up instructions spot on. It took me about an hour to make.

I love this book, leafing through the illustrations, reading a little of the shop's history, it conjures up all my visits to Liberty. Climbing the wide creaking oak staircase, sauntering through the fabric department checking the feel and colours of the Tana Lawn and lingering over the matching print wash bags and the cushions. If you share my Liberty obsession (or would like to discover an extraordinary emporium and grow to love it) you can, and with the help of this book, make your own cushions, make-up bag and curtains to boot!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 28, 2014 10:47 PM GMT


Knits to Give: 30 Knitted Gift Ideas
Knits to Give: 30 Knitted Gift Ideas
by Debbie Bliss
Edition: Hardcover

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Present Ideas, 14 Sept. 2011
Knits to Give is full of fabulous ideas for handmade presents. Thirty project presents, all of which (so the author says) can be knitted in a week and many require only a small amount of yarn.

Thankfully there is only one cushion. Once that would have been a serious omission in any book of small craft projects but honestly, enough already! Leave us room to sit on our chairs and lie on our beds! Instead the home section includes a squiggly cabled tea cosy, a pretty pot of pansies and smart table mats. The other sections are For Him, Her, Baby and Kids

Its a scrumptious book, elegantly presented printed on thick high quality paper and skilfully photographed. And if my only criticism, apart from my knitting speed not being up to knitting the baby blanket (or the stole) in just a week, is that one or two projects use a prodigious amount of yarn (7 balls of aran for a pair of socks) I still recommend it.

You will pour over it, if you tend to dream over beautiful photographs and of being the goddess of hand made

You will use it a lot, if making your own presents is your thing

And you will love it, if you simply seek the joy of making beautiful things in delicious yarns.


The Knitter's Year
The Knitter's Year
by Debbie Bliss
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Great for little projects, 21 Nov. 2010
This review is from: The Knitter's Year (Hardcover)
I had some of Debbie's Eco Baby yarn in my stash, so I immediately dived in and made three of the lavender bags from the summer section.

Yes they are very simple - I knitted them yesterday evening while watching x-factor (please don't judge me by my TV habits!) but they are gorgeous. I am going to add loops to some to hang from the hooks of coat hangers and from the hat stand in our hall. I just have to wait for the lavender I have ordered on line to arrive and I can sew them up and enjoy their miniature stylishness and the lovely smell which also cleverly acts as a moth repellent.

There are other projects to knit from stash, egg cosies with bunny ears, a stripey bag for your knitting and plant pot covers to name a few. The ideas are fesh and interesting and almost everyone tempting (although I can't yet think of a use for knitted flags!). The small projects are great if you are a beginner. Scarves always seem to be suggested but they take an age to knit, start off on a cover for your MP3 player instead for instant gratification and avoiding boredom.

All the instructions are clear and straightforward, the photography and art work generally beautiful. There is no 'how to' section. I don't think this is an omission even for a book suitable for beginners, there is more room for the actual things to make, the techniques required are very simple and the abbreviations explained at the beginning of the book. Experienced knitters are not left out. There are gloves to make, a scarf in a quite complicated Aran pattern and lace edging for those who love beautiful bed linen.

I loved just sitting and reading the book, longing after the things I will make in the future. I am going to make so many more things from it, teach from it and recommend it.


Made at Home
Made at Home
by Lisa Stickley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you have never picked up a needle and thread, 14 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Made at Home (Paperback)
If you have never picked up a needle and thread or were put off by having to make plain unimaginative stuff at school (I once had to make a pillow case!) Lisa Stickley will show you how to have fun with fabric and thread while you make pretty things for your home.

Honestly you don't need to know anything at all about sewing before making up one of the projects in this book. Just choose something you would love to have in your sitting room, bedroom (or pretty much anywhere else in your house) and follow the instructions carefully. Lisa even tells you what you need to buy and how much. You do need to have some basic sewing equipment but again these tools are listed in the first chapter on basics. You will also need a sewing machine for some of the bigger items although you could tackle the pretty kitchen napkins or the clever coat hanger covers by hand (use back-stitch as explained on page 15).

The art work, tiny hand drawings illustrating the various processes and photographs in enviable shabby-chic locations, is stunning. The whole book has a harmonious quality, with tea cosies, cushions and curtains made in similarly patterned fabrics in coordinating colours, I particularly loved the predominant use of black and white with only a splash of red or yellow.

If you have been sewing for years you might already know the `how too' stuff in this book and may have your own ideas for projects for your home. You could say I fall into this category but I am still enjoying reading it and I am going to make the suit covers (in various sizes, personalised to fit longer winter coats as well as suits and dresses). And I am going to lend it to my daughter who is just beginning to think about sewing for her home - I hope she gives it back


Simple Knitting
Simple Knitting
by Erika Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.88

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely beautiful book, 11 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Simple Knitting (Paperback)
I am quite an experienced knitter and serial buyer of craft books. Sometimes I buy a book and find I like just one project (usually the one on the cover) but I want to knit everything that I see in this book. Simple should not be mistaken for easy, the deliciously elegant projects are graded according to skill level, from first timers to old hands. All the instructions are clear and easy to follow, the introductory chapter contains much more than basic skills and each project, with its masterclass text box, teaches a new technique.

Everything about the book is cool and sophisticated; from the photographs reproduced on heavy quality matt paper to the hand drawn instructions for the basics. I love the stitch library so much I am planning to make a sampler afghan using all twenty four of the patterns. Erica Knight as chosen to use beautiful, unusual yarns in soft neutral colours displaying them on pieces of natural linen and in baskets, it is all such a delight. Although I hadn't heard of some of the yarns before, particularly those from Japan, I had no trouble obtaining them from UK based internet suppliers

The first project I tackled was the little notebooks. I have made several, intending them for Christmas presents for special friends, but two have been snaffled already, by my son and my daughter's boyfriend (his book is for his mum). I think I will make the fold over cushion next, or perhaps try some knitting with strips of shirting fabric


The Return Of Captain John Emmett
The Return Of Captain John Emmett
by Elizabeth Speller
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After the war is over, 12 Mar. 2010
Elizabeth Speller is a magician, from the first page I was enchanted. The book was hardly out of my hand and when I had to put it down it was still in my head. I kept thinking about Laurence, Charlie and Eleanor, and the way Speller gradually reveals connections to the living and the dead. I knew that when I closed the book I would miss them all, but I had to read on, get to the end, and unravel the mystery whose details were not fully revealed until the last page. It is a story of war after a war has ended, told in the tiny details of peoples lives, both chilling and delightful. But despite the horror of war and a scared generation there is redemption. There is also history and poetry, love and malice and much more besides.


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