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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Review: Sewing Machine Basics

Author: Jane Bolsover

ISBN: 9781907030734
Publisher: Cico Books
Price: 14.99

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that since the first series of the Great British Sewing Bee I have taken up sewing. As the second series is airing now, it must mean I’ve been sewing for a year! Wow. I thought it was time I started reviewing some of the books that I’ve used from a beginner’s point of view. So this is the first and definitely the most helpful book that I’ve bought: Sewing Machine Basics.

Sewing Machine Basics is an introductory course in sewing. It takes you through step by step the different skills you need to complete a variety of projects. It’s great because it builds your confidence with every make.

The first project is simple: a nice easy envelope cushion. The first time I made one it took me most of a day. I was learning to thread the machine, wind the bobbin and experiment with different types of stitch, length etc. By the end, you’ve got a cushion which can be used anywhere at home. This week I made another one and it took just over an hour. It makes me realise how far my sewing skills have come.

The second project I made was the apron. I needed one and so jumped ahead. Here, I learnt to make my own bias binding. This was a tricky bit for me. My brain doesn’t work in a particularly visual way so even with all the visuals in the book, I had to go on Youtube to look up a tutorial to help guide me. Between the book and the video, I conquered bias binding and patch pockets!

My third make was the lined tote bag. This is a really rewarding project. It was certainly more complicated but the instructions were clear and I found them easy to follow. I love this bag I made and whenever I take it out and about, I have a sense of pride that its mine. This project teaches how to sew button holes and top stitch a design on to your project.

Now my skills are more developed I’m using a variety of different books to select projects to sew but I’m always referring back to this. It’s like a sewing bible. All the skills you might need are here and all the terms are explained to it’s a worthy investment for a beginner. I highly recommend it.

Source: Purchased from Hobbycraft

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Review: The School for Good and Evil

Author: Soman Chainani

Release date: 6th June 2013
Genre: Fantasy/ School story
Target audience: 10+?
Publisher: HaperCollins

The School for Good and Evil is a fairytale fantasy. It’s a school story and a friendship story. It’s a daring adventure story with lots of fun thrown in.

Agatha and Sophie live in Galvadon of the Woods Beyond. Sophie has been waiting her whole life to be kidnapped and taken to the School for Good and Evil. She knows that she is good and that her destiny is to become a fairytale princess. Agatha, Sophie’s best friend, doesn’t believe in the legend of the kidnappings until the night that Sophie is taken. Though she hardly ever ventures out of her witchy home, she does so to rescue Sophie before it’s too late. But of course, this tale of friendship doesn’t end there, both girls end out enrolled at the school. One is good. The other is evil. The school will test their friendship to the very limits.

The beginning of this book is very slow moving so much so that I very nearly gave up on it after the first one hundred pages. I made a mental pact with myself to give one more chapter a read and if I didn’t get into the book, I was going to stop reading it. But I amazed myself, five chapters or so later I realised that I had finally been hooked by The School for Good and Evil. From that moment on, I couldn’t stop reading and I really, really enjoyed it. This tells me that the beginning is too long. It takes too long for Sophia and Agatha to start their respective educations. As the reader you know that’s what is going to happen so it is very frustrating to be kept waiting. Yes, we needed to understand their character motivations and personalities but there was definitely room to cut out paragraphs, if not chapters from the beginning.

The adventure and plot of the book are exciting. I really enjoyed the fun the author had twisting the fairytale concept – especially that of the princess. It was great to see the contrast between the wimpy princesses and the one with the bravery and gusto. The rivalry between the “good” students and the “evil” ones was really engaging. The conflict between them made for great reading. Also, there were some really positive messages in this book about body image too and the importance of being happy in your own skin.

The ending was fantastic: dramatic and unexpected. It left you with questions but at the same time I felt satisfied.

The School for Good and Evil is a wonderful adventurous fantasy book. But it is long. I wonder if this will put young readers off. The days of children asking me for doorstop-sized books is over. I think the storyline will appeal to girls 8+ but I think the length and the word level mean that most readers will need to be age 10 to enjoy this. Let’s hope readers do take a chance on it because The School for Good and Evil is an entertaining and enjoyable read.

Source: Review copy sent by the publisher. Thank you.

I showed my students the book trailer for this and they loved it. Find it here: http://youtu.be/eqnU3ZqvL1k