allen and unwind

Getting Crafty: Pretty Funny Tea Cosies

TBYL Reviewer Narelle is one of the craftiest people I know, so it was only fitting that I had her take a look at Pretty Funny Tea Cosies by Loani Prior (Murdoch). I loved the designs in this book, but not being a knitter, knew little what to do with these gorgeous patterns. Just quietly, I was hoping that Narelle might get inspired and have a go at some of these gorgeous tea cosies. Here’s what she thought of Loani’s book…

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On a dull and dreary winter’s afternoon, a Sunday in Melbourne, I was fortunate enough to pick up Pretty Funny Tea Cosies (& other beautiful knitted things) to review. What a beautiful burst of colour, as I flicked through this book! As an avid crafter with moderate knitting experience, I was very keen to read through and find a project that might suit my abilities.

pretty funny tea cosiesFloral and fruity, stripy and checkered; there are tea cosies to suit every pot and every taste. In addition, Loani has included patterns for delicate knitted gift bags, vibrant pot holders, colourful knitted coat hangers and a simply divine neck warmer that I’ve earmarked as my pet project.

Loani’s use of carefully dyed yarn is evident throughout her creations and they leap from the page, begging to be replicated.

Loani is generous in her assertion that “knitting is easy. If you know how to knit a stitch, purl a stitch, cast on and off, you can do anything.” Such faith could inspire a simple knitter to attempt any of her many patterns. Instructions for methods used throughout the book are carefully detailed and photographed to assist in beginning and completing the projects. Each project is explained thoroughly with helpful tips and beautiful stories of how the project came to life.

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Pretty Funny Tea Cosies is a warm, cosy read ideal for both novice and experienced knitters. I’m sure it could inspire a non-knitter to pick up some needles. I’m looking forward to stretching my skills further and making my teapot warmer in the process!

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So Narelle, just in case you’re wondering, I’ve got a four-cup Donna Hay teapot in need of a lovely bright cosy. If you feel so inclined…

You can find out more about Pretty Funny Tea Cosies by Loani Prior here…

Two Stories in One: Driftwood and Poppy’s Dilemma

Earlier in the year, Tam J got on a bit of a roll, enjoying a few rural romances back to back. Lucky for us too, as it means that today I can bring you two reviews for the price of one! Here’s what Tam has been reading, first up, Mandy Magro’s Driftwood (Harlequin)…

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Taylor is a city girl, born and bred, but deep down she knows there is more, something a little more country. It’s always been her dream to be a jillaroo and to sing country songs. Despite pretty unrelenting pressure from her mum and step-dad to forget these dreams she loads her guitar and her beloved dog, Floyd, into her car and hits the road. Taylor doesn’t have a plan…she just drives.

driftwoodTo Taylor Whitworth, knowing that she’ll never meet her biological father is devastating. All she knows is that before he died, he was a stockman. Taylor yearns to be like her father — and to become a jillaroo. So she packs her bags and hits the road, destination unknown, until she happens upon the country township of Driftwood.   

Life-burdened Jay Donnellson is a cowboy through and through. Both his passion for the outback and bad boy image have been inherited from his forefathers. The whole town whispers about him but Jay doesn’t care…until his rough and tumble lifestyle is stopped dead in its tracks when he happens across Taylor on a deserted country road.   

When Jay offers Taylor a job as a jillaroo on his cattle station, their mutual love of horses helps to form a bond between them. It’s not long before they find their wonderful friendship developing into something more.   

Mandy Magro cleverly tells two stories within Driftwood. The first is set in the mid 1800s and focuses on a bushranger named William who is on the run after being falsely accused of the murders of a local family. William is in love with Anne, landlady of the local hotel and he plans to take them both away from their troubles.

The second story is set in the present day and Magro very comfortably places these two stories alongside one another. Each tale has its own cliffhangers set to keep you reading.  She entwines both narratives until they each meet at Waratah Station.

Heartbroken and troubled, Jay is in charge of Waratah Station and he has faced his fair share of tragedy. He has vowed to protect himself from more hurt. As you might expect, this includes shutting out Taylor. Still, he can’t help by wonder if this will only deny himself happiness? And even if he tries to block her out, would it even be possible? They seem destined for each other from their very first meeting!

At times this story was a little clichéd and the writing was a little messy, but I enjoyed the two takes on this story, giving the reader a touch of the historical as well as injecting real-to-life and easily relatable characters.

I love a good bit of ‘Chook Lit’, and this story ticked all the boxes. If you’d like to find out more about Mandy Magro’s novel, you can visit Harlequin’s website here.

Shortly after reading Driftwood, I moved onto Poppy’s Dilemma, by Karly Lane (Allen and Unwin).

I completed adored this novel! This was partly due to the story of Poppy and of Maggie, but also because it took me back to a place of my childhood, a place of beautiful memories of growing up spending time with my Nan, learning to bake, being part of a small town and hearing Nan’s own childhood stories.

poppy's dilemmaPoppy Abbott seems to have it all. Bright, successful and attractive, she lives in a beautiful apartment with sweeping views of Sydney. However, since the recent death of her beloved grandmother, she’s been struggling to come to terms with her grief.

Feeling nostalgic one evening, Poppy decides to sort through her grandmother’s belongings, which she hasn’t been able to face before. She’s hardly started when she comes across an old leather diary with the name ‘Maggie Abbott’ written in the front. It’s not long before she’s drawn into Maggie’s life and her fears for her soldier boyfriend during the First World War.

As her interest in Maggie’s diary intensifies, Poppy decides to spend some time at her grandmother’s house in the country. Away from the city, Poppy begins to wonder if all the things she’s always valued so much are what she really wants out of life. And then love intervenes…

Karly Lane manages a beautiful balance within the story between present and past. When Poppy begins to read Maggie’s diary we are taken on a trip back to the 1910s, and it is nothing short of fascinating. As a reader, I was given an way into sharing their experience; the pressures that the Australian families were put under when their loved ones went away to war; the roles that would have traditionally been filled by men that needed to be filled by women in their absence; the judgement reserved for the men who, for whatever reason chose not to go and fight; and the tragic and all too frequent loss of the men who didn’t make it home alive. The tragic love story of Maggie and Alex had me completely captivated. Perhaps the much of my fascination about Maggie’s story came from the fact that it was based on a true story that the author read about in an old newspaper clipping. As it happened, the story had taken place in her own home town… hence inspiring this novel.

Poppy’s Dilemma also follows the blossoming romance between Poppy and Jim. Poppy has been hurt and lives life without attachment so as to avoid being let down again. But her handsome country-boy neighbour may just change all of that…

This story has it all; mistakes, intrigue, history, healing and of course romance! And to top it all off it was set in a small town of Australia so it was easily relatable. It was truly beautiful.

To find out more about Poppy’s Dilemma, check out the Allen and Unwin website here…

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Tam is currently reading Charlotte’s Creek by Therese Creed (Allen and Unwin) and she’s promised to let us know all about it soon! Find out more here

Goodbye and Hello: Safe with Me

The opening of Amy Hatvany’s newest novel Safe with Me (Allen and Unwin) could have lost me. It could only be described as traumatic, hitting hard with details of an accident involving the loss of a child, a child about the same age as one of my own sons.

At first I wasn’t sure if I would be able to push through the scene, but I thought – why would a writer be doing this to me, the reader, unless for a good reason?

The book’s ‘teaser’ promised me more than just the heartbreak found in the first few pages of the text and so, as is the way with good storytelling, at the same time as being horrified, I was hooked…

safe with meWith the horrific screech of tyres, Hannah Scott’s world as she knew it is brought to a devastating end.

One year after the accident, Hannah is still discouraging all attempts by family and friends to help her resume her normal life. But when her path crosses with Olivia Bell and her daughter Maddie who is finally on the way to recovery after a serious illness, Hannah develops a surprisingly close friendship with Olivia in a short time.

The Bells, however, have problems of their own. Many times on the verge of leaving her wealthy but abusive husband, Olivia now finds herself bound to him as never before in the wake of Maddie’s illness.

Meanwhile Maddie, tired of the limits her poor health puts upon her and fearful of her father’s increasing rage, regularly escapes into the one place where she can be anyone she wants: the internet. But when she is finally healthy enough to live her life in the way she’s longed to do, the real world proves to be just as complicated as the isolated bubble she had been so eager to escape.

I persevered, and I found within this book a touching and inspiring story. In a similar way to the storytelling of Jodi Picoult, Hatvany introduced me to a cast of conflicted, flawed and endearingly human characters – Hannah still deep in her grief, building her business whilst hiding behind it; Olivia living in fear, her perfectly manicured appearance and measured emotions working to protect herself from a vicious husband, and to shield her daughter from his cruel volatility; and Maddie, a young girl finding her way through the fog of serious illness and teen angst, learning to deal with the fact that she is only alive due to the sacrifice of another.

Although it’s a little coincidental that Hannah, Olivia and Maddie happen to meet, it is of course pivitol to story being told and so I forgave the stretch. Essentially I was glad that they meet, as it gave grounds for an exploration into the emotions and experiences of these woman. Though a difficult process, all three women help each other face their demons (in some cases, quite literally) and essentially come through the other side, stronger and freer.

Safe with Me, is a good, clean narrative, a story-based novel that will have you drawn in. There were a few occasions where I thought the pace could do with a little work, but I think that’s mainly because of my own reading preferences, not so much the novel itself. If you like a good story, a solid plot and well developed characters, this novel is for you. I can say pretty confidently that if you’re a fan of Picoult, you’ll enjoy Amy Hatvany’s work equally.

You can find out more about Amy Hatvany’s Safe with Me at the Allen and Unwin website here…