Wednesday, 28 June 2017

If I blog will I want to sew?

I failed miserably with the destash. I pulled out a huge pile of things I no longer want and have left them in a pile that periodically gets shifted from one chair in the dining room to another. What stalled me was no sooner did I decide to destash, the world and her sewing stash seemed to be doing the same thing and I felt if I put my meagre offerings out there they'd underwhelm everyone else from the big bang destashes going on. I decided to wait until less destashing was going on. Then life got in the way and it's back on hold.

Yesterday, I read a few blogs. I have to say since I stopped blogging I've neglected blog reading and commenting big time. I found I actually missed blogging. I can't ever imagine blogging at the rate I did a few years ago. 200+ posts in one year! But I would like to drop by with the occasional post, because I miss it and I miss the old blog interaction. Don't get me wrong I'm a total Instagram addict. I can hardly keep from checking it every nano second. But it doesn't allow for the sort of interaction that blogging did. Blogging helped me keep my sewjo on track. Even though I had little blips.

This is the longest I've gone without creating. Do I miss it? Yes and no.  Things move on. I like the idea of creating. I like the actual creating bit, but at the moment I feel I'm stuck in a limbo between the two.

I've also been really distracted by travel. Travel is new to me as I've had issues relating to travel and until I went abroad in 2015 I hadn't been for maybe 20 years. Then I binged and managed 6 countries in less than 12 months! I spend a ridiculous amount of time now researching travel destinations and then if I go, sorting the thousands of pictures I take so I can make Blurb books of my travels. Day dreaming about travel has replaced the need to acquire and dream about fabric. (And given the amount of fabric I own, I couldn't be happier!)

I've also been distracted by my garden which got really neglected and has taken some work to start to pull back into shape.

I've got some busy times coming up on the home front and the chances are I'll have less time and inclination to sew over the summer.

But I want to try and start in some small ways.

I'll leave you with a few pics of what I have managed to make this year. Try not to be too underwhelmed!  It seems I put pictures on IG not flickr so I can't even show you bunting and lavender bags.

I know: Must try harder!

Seeing as I don't like to leave without a snap here is a picture I took in Gozo where we stopped off for lunch.

Dwejra, Gozo for lunch

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

On Why A Destash is Imminent.

Hello is there anybody there?

Well, it has been a long time since I put fingers to keyboard and did a blog post. But I have a long last decided to do a destash of fabric and craft materials. Long hoarded (and sadly) these days never used.

It's taken me a while to get my head around destashing. I think the two things that have stopped me are: The thought of getting organised. Spending my work life organising everybody else's life means the thought of coming home and doing more organising does not fill me with enthusiasm. Secondly, what if I let go of stuff only to find that I suddenly wished I hadn't. As I've been waiting for my sewing mojo to return and I absolutely love sewing from stash rather than having to buy and wait for fabric when I'm itching to get stitching.

However, I have a good incentive right now. Immediately after my birthday in January, Chiefs already troublesome back, gave out. He just managed to get home before it got really bad and he was hardly able to move around and off work for about a month. He injured his back many years ago (before I knew him) in a parachuting accident and has been in pain with it ever since. In fact for over 6 months after the accident he was paralysed from the waist down and told he'd not walk again. From time to time his back goes out. Chief said to me when he was bored and stuck at home off work that he wished this had happened when he was at my house because at least we'd be together.

The first thing that occurred to me was sh*t where would he sleep? He'd never manage our cottage stairs and the bathroom is downstairs. Being a problem solver I thought that's ok. We'd just have to take the spare single bed down stairs to the dining room. However, the only way to accommodate it would be move the drawers with the fabrics hoarded in and around. That's a lot of fabric to shift and rehome and I'd not be able to sew while he was in there even if I did feel so inclined.

Sorting my stash
This chest of drawers and beyond is rammed with fabrics! 

It made me realise that the people close to me are more important to the stash around me. That actually if it came to it I'd have to bundle it all into a black sack and transfer it to where the bed had been (no way the chest of drawers would go up our stairs.) But more importantly it occurred to me that actually I was hanging on to most of this because it was pretty and it cost money, so I couldn't afford to just dump it. I'm not actually sewing like I used to. After all how many quilts does one person need? I have limited options of making quilts for other people as gifts and anyway, the last quilt I made was a baby quilt in September. I had to canvas a relative to find out if it had been received, as a thank you wasn't forthcoming, about a month later I got a message on facebook saying: thanks we got you a thank you card but forgot to post it. The only plus side was I managed to make every thing from stash.

So now I'm letting go. I'll probably have to do it in stages. I'm hoping that all the other destashes going on won't put people off buying my stuff there seems to be more destashes going on at the moment than you can shake a stick at!

And who knows maybe when I've reduced my stash I'll find I do want to sew again - with what's left obviously - not buying more!

Anyway, if you're interesting in my destash and seeing what I decide to get rid of please follow my destash account on Instagram @isisjem_destash

Monday, 31 October 2016

Smashing Pumpkin Floral Display

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin

With Halloween upon us I thought I'd share with you a little tutorial on how to make a pumpkin floral arrangement. After all not everyone wants a Jack O Lantern with a gruesome face on it. This design could be used throughout Autumn and for Thanksgiving/Harvest Festival if you're so inclined to celebrate those. 

I've put this together in mind that the average person does not have florist equipment like Oasis to hand. I wanted to make something that anyone would do providing they had a pumpkin and some flowers.

I bought my pumpkin in Asda yesterday for £1.00 and two bunches of seasonally coloured flowers for less than £5.00. (I had enough flowers left over to do a small vase full!) Of course if you have flowers in your garden you can use those. In fact all the greenery was cut from my garden. You will also need an empty plastic drinks bottle or similar. Failing that a suitably sized jam jar. 

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin
Blood red Chrysanthemums and some autumn coloured 'Pinks'.

First up get a sharp kitchen knife and cut a square around the top of the pumpkin stalk. I deliberately didn't slice off the top of the pumpkin like you would to carve for a lantern as I wanted more control over the aperture cut into the pumpkin. I chose a square because I think it's easier to cut, rather than trying to be too precise with a round cut at this stage.

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin

Next you need to scrape out all the seeds and gunk inside. A pyscho style knife and all those pumpkin entrails and I was already in the halloween mood!

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin

When you've scooped out as much as possible and cleaned and dried it out. Place your drinks bottle on top of the hole you've cut and carefully carve away until you can push the drinks bottle inside the pumpkin all the way to the bottom. Don't carve out too much as you want the drinks bottle to sit snuggly inside the pumpkin to hold it in place.  You don't want it to wobble about too much. 

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin

Next use a black marker to drawer a line around the drinks bottle just above where it comes out of the pumpkin.  You're going to cut just below this line you've marked. Don't worry about getting it too level. The chances are your pumpkin isn't that level either. That's why I recommend drawing around the top of the bottle rather than trying to measure and calculate the exact height it needs to be. You won't be seeing the top of the pumpkin once you flowers are in place. Don't cut too low or you drinks bottle might tip over into the inside of the pumpkin. The drinks bottle bottom is going to be the water reservoir for the flowers. 

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin

I got a bit carried away at the next stage and forgot to take any pictures until it was finished. It's really easy though!   

Fill the drinks bottle bottom inside the pumpkin with water. Don't fill quite to the top. Leave about half and inch to avoid water spillage into the pumpkin. I added a sachet of plant food that came with some of my flowers. 

Next get some of focus flowers - in my case the blood red chrystanth's and cut them down so they stick up above the height of the pumpkin by about a third to a half of the height of the pumpkin I used two stems as they were quite bushy.  If it helps you can stand a stem next to the pumpkin and work out where you need to trim from there. Remember you can cut more off, but not stick it back on if you've cut off too much. Strip off any leaves that are going to sit in the water. (If you leave them on they'll go mouldy and taint the water, shortening the life of the flowers).  You'll notice when you first place the flowers they'll lean to one side. This is because you have nothing to support them yet. 

Next I had a wander around my garden (if you haven't got one maybe you forage locally for some suitable greenery) looking for foliage. I deliberately don't over trim my evergreens at this time of year so I can use them to bulk out flower arrangements. I chose a golden variegated Euonymus. (You can just see the corner of the shrub in question on the left hand side of the picture with the bottle sat on top of the pumpkin.) I cut about half a dozen stems of Euonymus longer than I'd needed, so I could cut them down to exactly the size I wanted and get a good supporting shape. It's good to choose something quite firm and bushy so they support the more delicate flowers. You may have to put stems in place and then remove and trim again until you get them just as you like. Again strip off any leaves that will sit in the water. 

Remember when you're placing anything that if you're using this as a table display it will be seen from all sides so you want to keep turning the pumpkin and making sure everything looks balanced. Step back and see where you need to add in more bits or take bits away. 

I took the Pinks next and cut them down so I could infill them among the greenery to add some interest and break up the 'hedge' it was creating around the top of the pumpkin. You'll notice the more you add the more support everything gets. 

I still felt it needed something else so had a walk around my garden and spotted some trails of winter flowering jasmine that were starting to turn slightly autumnal colours. I snipped off about four of these and because the arrangement was quite dense now it was easy to support them among what was already in place. They are quite curvy and whispy and I thought they'd give a different texture and stop everything looking like a dome at the top of the pumpkin.  I popped a couple of stray mini stems of the chrystanthemums that had fell off when I was cutting down the larger stems around the greenery too. 

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin

I had a woodpecker watching my making. I think it approved of the final display.  Any questions please ask! And if you do make one I'd love to see your versions.

Autumn Floral Display in a Pumpkin

Friday, 23 September 2016

Don't faint I sewed!

Just last week some digital scales and some postal bags arrived from Amazon. I decided I needed some scales to weigh wool when I'm working out how much I have left etc. I was also motivated because I decided when the weather turned I was going to have a fabric/materials destash. Maybe starting with scraps and odd cuts I'd never use.

I had been reading the How To Grow Your Creativity posts over on Collettes Blog and it had made me think about this last loss of sewjo. Since I re-started quilting in earnest - largely motivated by Flickr and then the online community of modern quilters and bag makers that grew out of it, I have had little periods when my sewjo was lacking. Most of the time it was because I was simply overwhelmed with ideas and could never make everything I wanted to. I'd have needed 48 hour days and it would totally demotivate me until I could see the wood for the trees again.

This more recent lack of sewjo is more entrenched. Firstly, after years of travel anxiety I finally managed to go abroad again last year. It left me wanting to travel more and I did it again this year - this time flying. (In fact over two trips I've managed six countries!) My head has been full of travel and potential for travel photography and some how sewing and quilting has taken a back seat.

Secondly - life just has a way of getting in the way. 

Also, one of the quickest ways to stop me in my tracks creatively is to lose my purpose for the craft. I have made so many quilts in the last few years that I think goodness do I really need any more? Where will I put them, who can I make one for and gift it, knowing it will be appreciated? The same with bags. I suppose each time I've added to my fabric stash I have kidded myself it will only take up valuable space in the short term because it will be made into something (eventually). But all those somethings need homes and it has got to the stage when I've felt I'm making for the sake of it and that has sapped my enjoyment.

I was never someone who wanted to make a living from my craft. Or at least (unless I was teaching something) never felt that I could compete with the world and his wife already out there doing it and perhaps a lot better than I ever could. Kidding myself amassing a decent sized stash, so I could whip up stuff to eventually sell, was quite frankly, delusional.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what might kick start my creativity and rationalising what I have is definitely the way to go. Hence my thinking I really needed to destash.

And then something unexpected happened. Someone (I can't say who until it's gifted.) I know had a baby and the moment I saw pictures I thought: Oh! I could make a baby quilt as a gift. I have longed for the excuse to make a baby quilt. A simple one can be whipped up in next to no time and ahead of the destash, making something from stash was going to help get shot of some fabric!

I kicked myself for not doing the sewing over the last 6 months I've known the baby was coming. Being out of the sewing groove, it just didn't cross my mind!

I grabbed two packs of Oh Deer! by MoMo that I'd saved thinking they'd be great should I ever need to make a baby quilt.  I wanted to do something different to my 'go to' baby quilt pattern which has been the charm squares baby quilt that Elizabeth Hartman offered up some years ago. But I hadn't got oodles of time (unless the baby was graduating kindergarten before she got the quilt!) and as I had two charm packs I decided to alternate half squares between whole squares much like the original design, but leave out the sashing. I used an off cut of left over wadding and some of that Ikea number print to back it.

Binding was going to be tricky as using fabric from all one line (and a distinctive one at that) there was nothing in my stash that obviously complimented it - until I came across some green solid fabric. Probably left over from another long forgotten project.

Oh Deer Baby quilt

Oh Deer Baby quilt

I'll confess until it was finished I did wonder if it wasn't too 'boyish' in colours and I do think this quilt could be for a boy or a girl. Hopefully the parents will like the bright modern colours and not take one look and wish I'd have created something more pastel and girlie. 

Sewing this I was reminded just how much I like sewing. Also, how I can be really motivated and excited to shop my stash for a project. There is nothing so satisfying as when you can justify that fabric you bought three years ago by turning it into the perfect project. 

I don't want to lose momentum -  I think I may make some more x&+ blocks for that long term quilt project.  I'm also thinking I might make another baby quilt or two. I've got ideas, I've got fabric and as I've got no other babies looming on the horizon, I'm thinking maybe a charity donation, as there has to be some little babies out there in need of a quilty hug? 

So my top tip for anyone who's lost their sewing mojo is: look at your stash with fresh eyes and aim to make something just using what you've got. It doesn't have to be a big quilt. Raid your stash for fabrics for mug rugs or table runners, pouches and cushions. After all Christmas is just around the corner and if you're stash is holding you back get some of it used... can always buy more fabric if you use too much up!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Big Stitch Swap Round 2

I had (pretty much intentionally) dropped off the face of the blogiverse of late. The simple fact is I've completely lost my joy for sewing. I signed up for a swap so I had to sew and whilst I enjoyed coming up with a design for my partner and even doing the whole sewing bit. It's made me want to do little more than think about sewing.

I haven't bought fabric in ages. I was convinced I would be the one bulk buying Mendocino (when my all time fave fabric became available again this spring.) However, I've not felt the urge to buy any. And yes maybe one day I'll regret that. Who knows.

Not sewing has been a major factor in not blogging. Whilst my blog has never been wholly sewing motivated, I have always felt that the bulk of my readership was here to see what I'd made or was making.   Sometimes I miss blogging. I know so many people that were blogging when I started that no longer blog or blog infrequently now. The loss of that sense of community and camaraderie has in some ways helped me not feel too bad about not blogging.

So what have I been doing instead. I am still a prolific photographer. It's the creative 'thing' that over the years has consistently brought me the most happiness. I can't imagine ever getting bored of taking pictures of things. I feel I'm constantly learning and (hopefully) improving. I absolutely love making my blurb year books. And since last years foreign trip (which I never did blog about.) I've started making travel blurb books too. I suffer quite seriously from a travel related anxiety. I am forever trying to get to grips with it. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not so. What usually motivates me greater than anything else is knowing I can take photos of every trip. Next month I'm off on my adventures again. When the trip was booked, I'll confess the excitement vanished into a complete irrational melt down. But as I'm working through all that, the thought I can fill a zillion memory cards to document the trip and then come home and make a photo book and on miserable dark winter nights I can look back and remember, is what's motivating me through all the rubbish stuff that goes on in my head.

But what of the sewing I have done!? My partner made a lovely inspiration mosaic over on instagram and whilst her sign up form indicated a love of bright colours I picked up a sort of vintage love from the mosaic and once I'd run with that idea I found I'd probably gone a bit more muted than I'd intended or she would have liked. But I'm hoping she likes it just the same.

Mini for my partner

I made yo-yo's/Suffolk punches - first time since I was at infant school and most of the square shaped fabric you see is raw edged and sewing down with mini kantha style mini stitches in rows along and across each piece. 

The rabbit is made from a scrap of Heather Ross double gauze I'd been hoarding for just the right project. The lace circle has been in my stash forever. I'm not sure I've used one before. I think they were another item I was saving just because! It is so liberating to no longer feel so precious about my fabric/stash. The binding was left over from another quilt and I had just enough to bind this little mini. The background fabric is a piece of Essex linen. Apart from sewing down the binding on my machine, ready to hand sew down at the back - everything else has been hand sewn. 

I'm sure if I was more motivated I'd have destashed a lot of my fabric by now. I may start off by sorting out some scraps and putting them on instagram. Just don't hold your breath I'll be back to regularly blogging any time soon. 

Monday, 15 February 2016

I made a quilt!

I appeared to have dropped of the face of the blogiverse. That's what a chest infection followed by a cold than hung on and on before and all over Christmas will do for me blogging. Chief gets the blame for the cold. He decided to come and nurse me with my chest infection...he had a stinker of a cold at the time and all that happened was we swapped germs and that put paid to seeing each other between Christmas and New Year! Not spending Christmas with Chief is becoming a tradition now.

Something else that feeling poorly and getting caught up with other Christmas plans put paid to, was finishing the quilt I wanted to give to a family member. I'm fairly sure she won't be stopping by my blog any time soon.  I think I'll get away with revealing it on here before it's been gifted for her birthday.


Country Garden Snowball Quilt

I am calling it Country Garden Snowball Quilt because all the fabric I chose for this, I chose because it reminded me of flowers in a country garden herbaceous border. I was lucky enough to win a give away Jo had and I'm sure she'll recognise a lot of the fabric I won, in this quilt - it fitted the bill perfectly. The rest is from stash. I haven't bought any fabric since before Christmas. Apart from there being a strong chance I'll get myself some Mendocino when it hits the shops I have no interest in buying more fabric. I actually am more determined than ever to get rid of fabric not acquire it. I think part of the reason I've stopped enjoying quilting is: I can't see the wood for the trees any more. The logical thing would be to have a destash. I'm not ruling that out. It just feels like an impossible task at the moment. So I'm hoping to have a real purge on the making front. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed making a quilt. There are stages I don't much like. (Quilting will never be my thing.) But I love sewing the binding on and knowing I'm about to have a finished quilt. 

The white fabric in this quilt is, I believe, Kona Snow - some I bought from Jude's etsy shop because I never have enough white/solid fabrics to use like this in quilts. The binding was made from two fat quarters of  green Denyse Schmidt fabric from the Flea Market Fancy Reprint. The backing (which I didn't get a picture of is a white and green vintage sheet I found in a charity shop.) 

Country Garden Snowball Quilt
Taking pics on a windy day is never easy but you can just
glimpse the backing here!

I forgot to measure the final quilt. I think it's around 45" x 58"

Believe it or not I have already decided to make a quilt for another friends birthday - yes, it'll be another quick simple design where the fabric does the talking and I intend making it all from stash. Also, cutting the wadding for this I have a piece left over that would be about the right size for a baby quilt and I've been wanting to make some baby quilts for a while - and as I have no babies to make for, I'm thinking charity quilt time...If I can get all this done I really can bust my stash. More on what I'd like to do creatively (non quilting wise) another time. 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Advent 11: Oxford at Christmas

Languishing in my drafts folder is a half started blog post about a project I started in the summer to photograph Oxford. It's my local home town (although technically it's a city) and even though I've done many of the touristy things over the years I've rarely taken an decent photographs. I decided after I did my Amsterdam Adventure travel blurb book that I'd do an Oxford one. Maybe giving myself 2 - 5 years to explore via day trips etc and capture the city as if I'm seeing it for the first time. I thought it might also make me explore the city a bit more and on the second photography trip I did something I'd never done before - you'll have to wait for that blog post though!

One of the things I really wanted to do was photograph The Covered Market. Which opened in 1774 and was as the name suggests and indoor market. It was apparently built in response to appeals to tidy up the untidy and unsavoury stalls that littered the centre of Oxford. So far from being just an indoor market with stalls it's actually more like a complex of little independent shops. However, if you stop to look there are some lovely details and I've always thought the best time to photograph the market would be at Christmas. Unfortunately I didn't have much time as I had Mum with me, a trip to the Christmas Market planned and some Christmas shopping. So I really was just taking a few quick snaps.

After a few hours we'd done everything we needed to and both of us were ready to go home. Where we've been resting all afternoon. Yes, definitely hibernation mode here.

The Covered Market, Oxford

The Covered Market, Oxford

The Covered Market, Oxford

The Covered Market, Oxford
That's a cake made in the shape
of The Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford!

The Covered Market, Oxford

The Covered Market, Oxford 

The Covered Market, Oxford

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Advent 10: A knitting update

Seeing as it's been just over a month since I did a knitting blog post I thought it was high time I did an update.

To be fair I haven't been knitting as much as I did last month. Despite getting over the bug I had a few weeks ago. I seem to be lacking in energy and motivation. It comes and goes in fits and starts and even though I have two projects on the needles at present. It doesn't feel like I'm any where close to finishing either. Which has made me reluctant to start something else. I'm not really a winter person. I could quite happily hibernate. If I do though, I definitely won't get any knitting done.


I'm knitting my first ever shawl. In fact a few firsts with this one. First time using cables and first time knitting with 4ply. The pattern is: Simple Shawl and to be fair it is simple and perhaps that's why I'm finding it a bit dull to knit. It seems to be taking forever and it's got to a stage where it feels like it takes longer and longer to knit a row yet it seems like the shawl isn't growing. I'm not in love with this project, and I can't rip it out because I feel too committed. 

Not put off of shawls though I have bought this yarn and purchased The Hitchhicker Shawl pattern and hope to cast this on in the new year. (I'm not optimistic enough to think the other shawl will be finished this side of Christmas and if it is I'm sure I'll want to knit a non shawl project first!)

Look at the rainbow at the end

Also on the needles is my Fancy Dr Who Scarf. I'm loving the pine cone design so much. I never want this project to end. Only I do because I want to wrap this around my neck several times and have long trailing ends to swish about, just like Tom Baker did as Dr Who. However, it's slow growing because it's mainly knitted using aran scraps from other projects. The exception has been that bit of orange I've added in. Even the Khaki colour being added in now has been used to finish a hat knitted in the taupe colour the other side of the orange. I have an aqua coloured ball of the same wool, purchased purely for this scarf. But I feel I need a different aran brand to break up the other taupe, orange and khaki which are all the same brand and have a similar colour tone. I do have two other lots of aran weight yarn. Both need knitting into projects, so I can have the left overs first. They'll be next on the needles as I think this scarf is crying out for some purple next. 

Fancy Dr Who Scarf

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Advent 9: Christmas Traditions

Do you have some little traditions that are personal to you at Christmas? Things you do year in year out because Christmas wouldn't be the same without doing them? I know I do.

First off we always aim to post the bulk of our Christmas cards on December 7th. This was my Gran's birthday. It seems early enough to not be silly (I mean who wants their cards arriving the first week of November?!) and not so late as they'll get caught up in the big Christmas rush. I say the 'bulk' of our cards posted, because inevitably there will be some I need to put letters in that haven't happened yet or foreign ones that need me to calculate specific postage. I'll hand deliver a fair few around the village and normally aim to do this when I have the parish magazines to deliver.

Has to be done.

Another tradition we have is to always open one little present on Christmas Eve. This started when I was a pre-teen and lacking in the patience to wait to open my presents. I made a deal that if I sat up on Christmas Eve past midnight then technically it was Christmas day and I could open a present. I tell you some years I had matchsticks holding up my eyelids just so I could open something! Since then the whole sitting up past midnight thing has been dispensed with. But Mum and I usually open one present on Christmas Eve. In fact Christmas Eve might be my favourite day of the holiday. I love it when I come in from work. The last chores of delivering presents etc has been done. I switch on the tree lights, light some candles and cosy up in front of the TV with a proper Christmas movie or two. 

Christmas Eve 2014
Last year opening a present on Christmas Eve

In a similar tradition I usually give Chief a small silly gift to open when he comes down before Christmas. (Sorry no photos he'd kill me if I did!) Even though we have known each other for 9 Christmases  we are yet to spend a Christmas together. We have made plans. Each time thwarted by him getting ill (he's had pneumonia or bronchitis as well as regular flu over Christmases past!), bad weather or his father being in hospital. I'm not holding out on seeing him this Christmas. He can't really leave his step Mum alone on Christmas day. He has two brothers living on the doorstep but one is likely to be working so won't be around and the other ...well lets just say not all families think of others at Christmas and leave it at that. 

So what Christmas traditions do you have?

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Advent 8: My Autumn Reads (Part 1)


How I lost you - Jenny Blackhurst: This book had me downloading at this line: I have no memory of what happened but I was told I killed my son. And you believe what your loved ones, your doctor and the police tell you, don't you?
What ensued was a twisting and turning thriller about a woman sent to a psychiatric unit after killing her young child.  When she's let out she re-invents her self in a new area. Then she received a letter addressed to her former self and it makes her question whether she really did kill her child (an event she has no memory of ) and in fact whether he's dead at all.

The Children Act - Ian McKewan: This was a book group choice and I confess when the person announced their choice my heart sank. You see many years ago a friend gave me a copy of Saturday and thought I'd like it. I hated it. I never finished it. I didn't like or care about the characters enough to finish the book. I found the writing style pompous, I think I tried another of his books and felt the same. Really I did not want to ever be reading anything else by him ever again. But still it was the choice and I downloaded the book to my kindle and you know what? I enjoyed it. It made for an interesting discussion too. The book centres around a judge who has to made decisions about the lives of children and in one crucial case; whether a Jehovah's witness boy should be given life saving treatment against his and his families wishes. What results is a complex study in human nature and morality. Not a word seemed wasted in this book (which is more of a novella than chunky fiction works.) The characters were well drawn and it was a relief to hear from other members of book group that they struggled with McKewan at times and if a surgeons wife said that Saturday irritated her too (the main character was a surgeon) I felt much better for dissing such an acclaimed author.

Next up with Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym and sent to me by Helen.  Barbara Pym is an author I keep hearing about and yet had never read anything by her or understood her appeal. I even missed a talk about her at the World Bookcrossing Convention in Oxford this year and the room opposite mine in St Hilda's college was named after her. When Helen sent me her first novel to read I was intrigued. Step back in time to two spinster sisters living our their lives in a village where it's quite insular and everything seems to revolve around the comings and goings as the vicarage. In fact there was more men of the cloth in this novel than you could shake an incense stick at. (Oh how village life must have changed.) I enjoyed the subtle humour and characters and having started to learn to knit around the same time I enjoyed the fact someone always seemed to be knitting something.

The Good Neighbour by A J Banner was up next. This was a kindle first deal. At the start of the month Kindle offers a new book at a knock down price. There is usually about five or six books to chose from and this one appealed. Sarah settles into life in Shadow Cove with her doctor husband but when there is a fire next door resulting in the death of the family (save their little girl - who Sarah manages to rescue) and the destruction of Sarah's own home; Sarah starts to discover things about her own life are not all that they seem. A fun, fast paced domestic thriller. The kind of story I can see being made into a good TV movie.

I let you go - Clare Mackintosh. I was scrolling through my kindle and this popped up as unread. At first I thought I had read it and was confusing this with the plot of How I lost You. Similarly this thriller also concerns a woman who thinks she's responsible for a child's death. I don't want to say much more as this was cleverly written to make me think one thing and completely misdirect me for a good chunk of the novel. Much better in fact than How I Lost You.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo was up next. Can you tell I LOVE thrillers yet? I have long given up trying to read the Harry Hole books in order (It hasn't helped they weren't released in the UK in order.) This was quite a chilling one. Women are going missing around the time of the first snow and a snowman is built at the victims home - often wearing the victims clothing or the victims head...Yes, snowman are now set to freak me out as much as scarecrows did as a child! I am used to the false killer trails and I actually plumped for the real killer very early on because there are some big obvious clues left.

By Halloween I was ready for something creepy so I opted for The Others by James Herbert. James Herbert along with Stephen King were my go to modern horror writers during my teen years and as such I probably haven't read any James Hebert for nearly 20 years. This was actually more of a detective cum romance novel with a supernatural twist. I don't find his work as disturbing as I remember it. I enjoyed this just the same and liked the main characters a lot.

It was book group reading again with The Road Home by Rose Tremain. We discussed this at book group just last week and it was a book that largely divided the group. I didn't much like it. It was bleak, depressing, stereotypical and I can't see why it won awards. There were plenty of the group that disagreed and one person even said it was the best book we'd read at book group!

I have read plenty more since, but I'll save that for another post later in the month. I'm already making a list of books I'd like to read next year. Do you have any recommendations? I'd love to hear them.