[Book Review] CHRISTMAS AT WOOLWORTHS by Elaine Everest

If, like myself, you grew up in the UK; I’m sure that many of you have the very same nostalgic memories of Woolies stores as I do.

Growing up on the outskirts of Glasgow, our nearest Woolworths store was on the local high street and I have fond memories of spending pocket money or selecting toys to add to my Christmas letter to Santa. As I grew older, it became somewhere friends and I would go to buy makeup , jewellery, books or stationery; and it was where, in 1990, I purchased my very first vinyl – the Unskinny Bop single by American glam rockers Poison.

Needless to say, this sense of nostalgia meant that when I was approached with an invitation to participate in an upcoming Blog Tour for Elaine Everest’s latest novel Christmas at Woolworths, I jumped at the chance!

DETAILS

TITLE: Christmas at Woolworths

AUTHOR: Elaine Everest

GENRE: Historical Fiction

PUBLISHED BY: Pan Macmillan

PUBLICATION DATE: 2 November 2017

EDITION: Paperback

ISBN: 9781509743657

PRICE: £6.99

To be published in both paperback and e-book, further Christmas at Woolworths information can be found on Goodreads, whilst purchasing information is available from Amazon.co.uk.

Even though there was a war on, the Woolworths girls brought Christmas cheer to their customers

Best friends Sarah, Maisie and Freda are brought together by their jobs at Woolworths. With their loved ones away on the front line, their bonds of friendship strengthen each day. Betty Billington is the manager at Woolworths, and a rock for the girls, having given up on love . . . Until a mysterious stranger turns up one day – could he reignite a spark in Betty?

As the year draws to a close, and Christmas approaches, the girls must rely on each other to navigate the dark days that lie ahead . . .

With so much change, can their friendship survive the war?

THOUGHTS

I see the friendship circle of Sarah, Maisie and Freda as being the main characters of the book; along with their boss Betty and their wider family groups. They are, for the most part, likeable and believable characters and I found myself rooting for Maisie and her hope to finally become a mother, that Sadie’s airman husband would return home safely, and that the once timid Freda would excel in her endeavours as a despatch rider for the fire service.

The author’s local knowledge and love of the place makes for rich descriptions which bring both the people and places to life.

Whilst this particular book is actually a sequel to Everest’s debut novel The Woolworths Girls, it can be read as a stand-alone novel; however, having enjoyed reading about the girls’ lives in this festive offering, I plan to read the previous book.

Funnily enough, it was only whilst reading this book that I recalled stories my maternal grandmother had regaled us with about her time as a Woolworths girl in the 1930s! Born in 1912, she worked in Woolies in her twenties, before leaving when she got married in 1938.

RATINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Everest has written a wonderfully touching tale, full of charming details of life during this difficult period of history. She presents a likeable cast of characters, equally flawed as they are endearing, and spins a story filled with hope and friendship, and a little Christmas magic.

I rate this uplifting tale 4 out of 5 sparkly Christmassy stars.

An uplifting and heartfelt story about the struggles faced by women during wartime and the camaraderie that helped them get through hardships and unimaginable heartache; Christmas at Woolworths is perfect for fans of The Woolworths Girls, The Butlins Girls, and romance novels; as well as lovers of Historical Fiction, or those with an interest in the social history of wartime Britain.

THE AUTHOR

Born and raised in North West Kent, Elaine grew up listening to tales of the war years in her hometown of Erith; a location which not only features in Christmas at Woolworths but also her previous bestselling novels The Woolworths Girls and The Butlins Girls. Indeed, it was during her formative years in Kent that Elaine herself briefly worked as a Woolworths girl!

A former journalist, Elaine has also written a number of nonfiction books aimed at dog owners, as well as having penned an impressive sixty plus short stories for women’s magazines.

She still lives in Kent, with husband Michael and sheepdog Henry; where, when she isn’t writing, she runs the Dartford-based creative writing school The Write Place as well as the blog for the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

You can find out more by connecting with Elaine via Twitter, Facebook and Amazon.

DISCLOSURE

I received a pre-publication Advance Reader Copy of Christmas at Woolworths, from the publisher free of charge, for the purpose of supplying an honest review and participating in this blog tour. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

And, also as always, thanks for stopping by!

Hugs,

Crafty xxx

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[Book Review] Blog Blitz: THE GIRL FROM THE SUGAR PLANTATION by Sharon Maas

As a lover of Historical Fiction, I was understandably very much intrigued when Bookouture approached me with an invitation to participate in an upcoming Blog Tour for Sharon Maas‘s latest novel The Girl From The Sugar Plantation.….

DETAILS

TITLE: The Girl From The Sugar Plantation

AUTHOR: Sharon Maas

GENRE: Historical Fiction

PUBLISHED BY: Bookouture

PUBLICATION DATE: 19 October 2017

EDITION: E-Book

ISBN: 9781786812957

PRICE: £1.99

Currently available to purchase as an e-book from Amazon UK & details can also be found at Amazon US.

An unputdownable story about a woman in search of the truth, the man she falls in love with, and the devastation of the Second World War.

1934, Georgetown.

All her life, Mary Grace has wanted to know the truth about who her parents really are. As the mixed-race daughter of two white plantation owners, her childhood has been clouded by whispered rumours, and the circumstances of her birth have been kept a closely guarded secret…

Aunt Winnie is the only person Mary Grace can confide in. Feeling lost and lonely, her place in society uncertain, Mary Grace decides to forge her own path in the world. And she finds herself unexpectedly falling for charming and affluent Jock Campbell, a planter with revolutionary ideas.

But, with the onset of the Second World War, their lives will be changed forever. And Mary Grace and Jock will be faced with the hardest decision of all – to fight for freedom or to follow their hearts…

THOUGHTS

When we first meet 16 year-old Mary Grace amidst the sugarcanes of her ancestral plantation, the juxtaposition between her family’s social standing and her perceived lower class personal standing due to her mixed race heritage is clear. On the one hand, she has been brought up as a young lady of the English upper classes; but destined to never be accepted by her peers she is unsure of her place in the world.

At times, her behaviour seems spoiled & brattish, as she pouts & wheedles to ensure her mother capitulates to her every whim; but in reality I think the strained relationship with her mother combined with the constant bombardment of racist treatment has left her having no option but to construct this veneer.

Young and naive as she is, Mary Grace is a likeable character, who ultimately aspires for a better fairer life for those around her as well as herself.

As we learn more about the difficulties of being both a young woman and of mixed race in 1930s British Guyana, it is all too clear that Mary Grace is going to have to struggle to find a place where she feels that she ‘fits’.

The author’s passion for both place and time is made obvious by the way her well-researched factual findings are seamlessly woven into the fabric of this thought-provoking, tale evocative of the era.

Whilst this particular book can be read as a stand-alone novel, it is in fact the third offering in Maas’s The Quint Chronicles trilogy and having enjoyed The Girl From The Sugar Plantation, I fully intend to read both The Secret Life of Winnie Cox and The Sugar Planter’s Daughter to find out more of the family’s backstory, as well as reading ahead into the future with The Small Fortune of Dorothea Q.

RATINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Maas presents a tale as perfectly woven as the fluid green silk of Mary Grace’s concert debut gown, her descriptive prose brings the landscape and feelings of the era to life and the story is as full and rich as that skirt.

I rate this touching and enthralling tale 4 out of 5 sugar-encrusted stars.

An utterly compelling and evocative story about the heart-breaking choices men and women had to make during a time of unimaginable change. Perfect for fans of The Secret Wife and Island of Secrets, lovers of Historical Fiction, and those interested in the history surrounding the British sugar trade.

THE AUTHOR

Born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1951, Sharon Maas spent many childhood hours either curled up behind a novel or writing her own adventure stories. Sometimes she had adventures of her own, and found fifteen minutes of Guyanese fame for salvaging an old horse-drawn coach from a funeral parlor, fixing it up, painting it bright blue, and tearing around Georgetown with all her teenage friends. The coach ended up in a ditch, but thankfully neither teens nor horse were injured.

Boarding school in England tamed her somewhat; but after a few years as a reporter with the Guyana Graphic in Georgetown she plunged off to discover South America by the seat of her pants. She ended up in a Colombian jail, and that’s a story for another day…

Sharon has lived in an Ashram in India and as a German Hausfrau–the latter giving her the time and the motivation to finally start writing seriously. Her first novel, Of Marriageable Age, was published by HarperCollins, London, in 1999 and reprinted as a digital edition in 2014. After working as a social worker in a German hospital she finally retired and now has time for her favourite pastimes: reading, writing, and travelling.

The Author’s website SharonMaas.com is well worth a visit; being full of all sorts of bookish treats & tidbits and, always eager to hear from readers, Sharon Maas can also be contacted (and followed, if you are interested in keeping up-to-date with upcoming news!) via Facebook and Twitter.

DISCLOSURE

I received a digital copy of The Girl From The Sugar Plantation, from Bookouture via NetGalley and free of charge, for the purpose of supplying an honest review and participating in this blog tour. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

And, also as always, thanks for stopping by!

Hugs,

Crafty xxx

[Book Review] THE TEA DRAGON SOCIETY by Katie O’Neill

DETAILS:

TITLE: The Tea Dragon Society

AUTHOR: Katie O’Neill

GENRE: Children’s Fiction, Comics & Graphic Novels, Fantasy

PUBLISHED BY: Oni Press /Diamond Book Distributors

PUBLICATION DATE: 31st October 2017

EDITION: Hardcover

ISBN: 9781620104415

PRICE: $17.99 (USD)

THE STORY:

From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons. After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives–and eventually her own.

THOUGHTS:

This beautifully written and illustrated manga-style fairytale is a delight of warm thoughtfulness.

The artwork is sublime, the characters all realistic and eminently likeable, and the tea dragons themselves are quite possibly the cutest creatures ever invented.

The legend of the Tea Dragons, and the story of the strong bond and shared memories they form with their guardians is enchanting; and the addition of Extracts from The Tea Dragon Handbook at the rear of the book was a welcome and intriguing discovery. The Tea Dragon Handbook includes an introduction to Tea Dragon care, information on the history of both Tea Dragons and The Tea Dragon Society, and individual fact-files on each species of Tea Dragon.

However something struck me as I was reading it for the third time that left me utterly insensed! I suddenly realized how inclusive the book was, no fanfares, no wordy blurbs, just honest inclusivity; which is just as it should be. I was angered, not by this book, but by all the ones that don’t get it right!

Gender stereotypes are ignored as Greta’s tall muscular mother is the town’s blacksmith, whilst her slighter framed father keeps shop; promoting and selling his wife’s creations alongside sundries such as tea.

Most relationships appear to be mixed race (or species!?) and same-sex couples are nothing of note.

Physical Disability and Mental Health feature as part of life rather than trotted out as yet another trope.

I utterly and wholeheartedly applaud this book for setting such a high standard that ALL books, graphic novel to weighty prose and everything in between, should aspire to.

Plus, I desperately wish for a tea dragon of my very own!

RATINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS:

I rate this beautifully written and illustrated tale 5 out of 5 magical stars.

I recommend The Tea Dragon Society to lovers of: wonderful tales with a mythological twist, beautifully illustrated graphic novels, diverse reads, dragons, and; of course; tea.

THE AUTHOR:

An illustrator and graphic novelist from New Zealand, Katie O’Neill mostly makes gentle fantasy stories for younger readers.

She is very interested in tea, creatures, things that grow, and the magic of everyday life.

You can find out more at teadragonsociety.com and follow Katie on social media, where she can be found using the moniker @strangelykatie on both Twitter and Instagram.

DISCLOSURE:

I received a digital copy of The Tea Dragon Society, via NetGalley and free of charge, for the purpose of supplying an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Hugs,

Crafty xxx

DIY Felt Pumpkins

October.
Autumn.
Halloween.
Fall.

What is the one thing synonymous with them all?

Pumpkins of course!!

These little stuffed squishy pumpkins are super easy to make (and ever so slightly addictive!).

They can be made in different sizes and used for seasonal decorations, or smaller versions attached to jewellery such as necklets or earrings.

I once made a whole pumpkin patch-full as an extra special gift to include in a Halloween package I was sending to a dear swap friend.

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Draw around your circle template onto your chosen fabric, and cut out. I made this one by drawing around the rim of an upturned cereal bowl.

Draw around your circle template onto your chosen fabric, and cut out.
I made this one by drawing around the rim of an upturned cereal bowl.

A circle of 14cm diameter will result in a pumpkin approx 7cm across.

Using a double thickness of thread, sew a running stitch around the edge of the circle. Remember to securely knot your thread at the start! Once you have sewn all the way around & reached the start point, start to GENTLY pull the thread. Ease the felt around the thread until the edge gathers tightly in the centre, creating a 'cup'.

Using a double thickness of thread, sew a running stitch around the edge of the circle.
Remember to securely knot your thread at the start!
Once you have sewn all the way around & reached the start point, start to GENTLY pull the thread. Ease the felt around the thread until the edge gathers tightly in the centre, creating a ‘cup’.

Tease out stuffing and evenly pack the pumpkin. Close up the opening securely with multiple crisscrossing stitches.

Tease out stuffing and evenly pack the pumpkin.
Close up the opening securely with multiple crisscrossing stitches.

Now it is time to make your ball more pumpkin-like, by giving it some shaping.

Now it is time to make your ball more pumpkin-like, by giving it some shaping. Start by bringing your needle through the centre from top to bottom (PIC.1) & looping it around the outside. Bring it back through again, pulling firmly but carefully - you don't want your thread to snap! (PIC.2) Repeat on the opposite side (PIC.3) Then carry on in the same way to split between these lines (PICs4&5) Continue until you have 8 equally spaced 'grooves' around the pumpkin. (PIC.6)

Start by bringing your needle through the centre from top to bottom (PIC.1) & looping it around the outside. Bring it back through again, pulling firmly but carefully – you don’t want your thread to snap! (PIC.2)
Repeat on the opposite side (PIC.3)
Then carry on in the same way to split between these lines (PICs4&5)
Continue until you have 8 equally spaced ‘grooves’ around the pumpkin. (PIC.6)

Now it is time to attach some leaves, and a hanging ribbon; if required.

Fold a small square in quarters & snip out a leaf shape. Tie ribbon into a loop, and stitch to the centre of the opened out leaf.

Fold a small square in quarters & snip out a leaf shape.
Tie ribbon into a loop, and stitch to the centre of the opened out leaf.

Now it is time to attach the leaf to the top of your pumpkin (this also hides any untidyness where you have sewn the edges together).

FINISHED!!

FINISHED!!

  • Making tiny pumpkins to adorn earrings or a necklace ? Omit the hanging ribbon & sew on the leaves, before securely attaching a jumpring.
  • Fancy scented pumpkins? Add pumpkin spice or fragrance oil to your stuffing.
  • Individual pumpkins can be hung from trees, hooks or branches; or strung along ribbon or twine to create bunting.

 

Any spherical object can be made utilising the same basic technique.

A brown base ball can be topped with a splodge of white felt icing, some green felt holly leaves and three tiny red holly berry balls; to create a delicious-looking Christmas pudding.

As usual, I’d love to see your makes, so if you try these out; please tag me in your social media pictures!

Hugs, Crafty xxx