Monthly Archives: October 2011

Stephen KingWe knew that title would grab your attention! Just like when we found out we’d be getting an exclusive Q&A with author royalty Stephen King … we couldn’t believe our luck! Stephen King needs little introduction – with tens of bestsellers under his belt and numerous film adaptations of his work, from The Shining to The Shawshank Redemption, most of us are familiar with his writing.

His latest novel, 11/22/63, is a tale of a time traveller who attempts to prevent the assassination of American president John F. Kennedy, which occurred on the date of the novel’s title. It has the strong science-fiction element that characterises much of King’s work, but the novel could just as easily fit within the historical fiction genre. Although much of the description of America in the 1950s and early 1960s is based on research, King also used his own memories of living through these decades to inform his writing.

Read on to find out more about 11.22.63


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A Discovery of Witches - Deborah HarknessIt begins with absence and desire. It begins with blood and fear. It begins with a discovery of witches.

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft.

Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist.

Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

Halloween is just around the corner, and A Discovery of Witches is a great read for this spookiest of holidays! Listening to Harkness reading an extract from the novel has already given us chills, so we thought we’d share the scares with our readers with an exclusive giveaway. In the novel, Oxford is the setting for the supernatural experiences that befall Diana – with its gothic architecture and historical legacy, it makes a perfect location for a scary tale. And that got us thinking about all the creepy places we’ve ever visited …

So to enter this competition, we want you to tell us about the scariest place you’ve ever been. It could be anything from a creepy room to a whole city or location – just let us know where it was and why it spooked you. Submit your entries as a comment on this blog post or tweet them to us for a chance to win one of three exclusive, limited edition proof copies of A Discovery of Witches. We’ll pick three winners at random.

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As part of our ongoing crafty competition to mark the release of Kirstie Allsopp’s new book, Craft, Kirstie has been kind enough to share with us her guide to making embroidered cards from scratch, as well as a short guest post.

“The secret’s out – I love embroidery, especially machine embroidery. When I first tried the technique, I thought it would be difficult and limited, but I was amazed at what can be achieved, even by a beginner like me. Claire Coles is a dab hand with a sewing machine and she took me through the steps for making the lovely embroidered card shown here. You start by cutting around shapes on patterned paper, card or fabric, but you can also draw some yourself and cut them out. You then place them on your card and machine-stitch them in place. Please try it – you’ll be glad you did.”

You will need

• Piece of A4 card, any colour

• Pencil

• Selection of paper, card and fabric in various weights and textures, plain and patterned

• Small, sharp scissors

• Glue stick

• Embroidery threads in various colours

• Sewing machine with embroidery foot



1. Fold the A4 card in half, then sketch out your design on the front of it. I drew flowers, leaves and a bird on mine.

2. Choose your papers or fabrics and cut out the shapes you want for your design. Put the cut-outs on a plate to make sure you don’t lose them among the piles of colourful stuff on the table.

3. Place the cut-outs on your card, building them up as a collage, and moving them around to find the best arrangement.

4. When you’re happy with the arrangement, dab the pieces with a glue stick and fix them in place; you don’t need much glue.

5. Now comes the exciting part – you’re going to machine-embroider over your design. Using suitable colour thread, or a contrasting colour for extra interest, put the front of your card under the embroidery foot, lower the feed dogs and use the needle like a pen to sketch a loose outline around the

cut-outs you have stuck down. Don’t go over the same area several times as the paper might tear.

6. The result is a beautiful handmade card that you’ll be proud to give to anyone.

If you’re anything like me, then you too will wonder on a fairly regular basis just how long the world’s longest fingernail is. Or, alternatively, who the world’s most elastic woman is, or the world’s most pierced man. There’s no denying it, at one point another we all find ourselves musing over these things.

And in the past there would have been absolutely no way for us to find out. But for quite some time now there has been a book to which curious souls could turn for no end of “tallest this” and “hairiest that” and “most this ever found inside of that”. It has been a mainstay of Christmas lists for years and, since some things never change, in all likelihood will continue to do so.

Yes, you’ve guessed it. The 2012 Guiness World Records will be out in time for Christmas and if you want a flavour of what you can expect to find inside, check out the video below.

Winning the Tesco Magazine Mum of the Year award made me look at my life from an outsiders point of view. To me, I have just tackled each problem head on.

As a child, there were always schemes to own horses, solve mysteries AKA the Famous Five, fly like Mary Poppins. I just never grew out of this desire to try to push obstacles aside. Luckily for me!

So, when I eventually discovered that not only had both my mum and grandma suffered from breast cancer, but also seven more female relatives – (9 in total!!!) – I knew this was to be my biggest challenge yet. To find a way to prevent the illness before it struck – not just live in fear and trepidation waiting for it to happen, then hoping when the disease emerged it would be caught in time.

So, the story of my fight to get surgery before cancer recognised as an option, became a greater challenge than merely flying with an umbrella. I eventually set up a Helpline – showing options and giving full support no matter what the individual choice might be. People found this to be a lifeline, but it was not as easy as you might imagine.

En route I have encountered and fought plans for patenting my breast cancer gene, European Parliaments, and now bureaucracy in the health service amongst PCTs.

I’m Still Standing – and still with an incorrigible sense of humour which has always seen me through.

Please visit our website I hope you will find it uplifting.



As I’m sure you’re aware, over the course of the week we’ve been posting a series of ‘mystery’ images to the blog each day. We received the first of these on Monday, along with a message letting us know that we can expect one a day until Friday, when the meaning of the images will be made clear.

And here it is, the final piece of the puzzle! It turns out that it was all in aid of the release of John Grisham’s new novel, The Litigators.

Over the course of the week plenty of you have got in touch via Twitter and hazarded various guesses as to the answer, and while all the attempts were admirable and significantly closer than ours, only one of you managed to guess correctly.

So congratulations to @ScrumptiousBook who managed to guess the meaning of the images yesterday. And for your troubles you have earned yourself a free copy of the book!

Teaser 4

So here it is guys, the last of the mysterious images that have kept us guessing all this week! This one is just as ambiguous as the rest, so we’re still pretty flummoxed! You’ve been tweeting and commenting us your ideas and some of them sound very plausible, but we can’t tell you if your guesses are right yet – since we don’t know the answer ourselves!

Keep the guesses coming for your chance at winning a mysterious prize.

We’ll be receiving the answer some time this afternoon.

Teaser 3

As some of you know by now, we’ve been getting these mysterious images popping up in our inbox without any explanation each day this week. Apparently they’ll keep coming until Friday and the first person to correctly guess what they mean gets a prize of some sort.

We’ve been mulling this one over and we’ve got a couple of theories, but we’re far more interested in what you guys think it might be.

So, what’s your hunch?

Last year Kirstie Allsopp, who made her name presenting Location, Location, Location on Channel 4, struck out on her own with her show, Kirstie’s Homemade Home, devoted to craft tips and tricks to help brighten up your house with little more than a bit of creativity and a shoe string budget.

The show was so popular that she’s now got another programme coming to our screens and if you’re into crafts you’ll love the accompanying book, Craft. The book is brimming with tips and tricks on how to craft your way to a beautiful home, and covers everything from paper craft to knitting to food recipes.

To celebrate its release we’re giving you guys the opportunity to win a hamper full of craft goodies and a signed copy of the book, with two signed copies set aside for runners up. We also have five copies of the book to give away on Twitter, so keep your eyes peeled for an opportunity win a copy over there as well.

Included in the hamper are; a Kirstie Allsopp sewing basket, some Button Company buttons, a Cath Kidston tape measure, some John Lewis wooden buttons, an East of India needle case, some East of India ribbon and some John Lewis gingham hearts and flowers.

In the spirit of sharing crafty hints and secrets, to be in with a chance of winning we want you to share with everyone your favourite crafty tips in the comments, it can either be your own or one you learnt from someone else.

We’re looking forward to seeing your responses!

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As some of you already know, yesterday afternoon we received an image that, frankly, stumped us. So we asked for your help in figuring out where it came from and, in particular, why on Earth it’s been sent to us.

A few of you got in touch via Twitter, but as of yet no ones been able to muster an explanation as to what it is or who sent it. The good news is that, as promised, we received the second installment an hour or so ago, along with confirmation from the sender that the first among you to guess correctly will stand to win a prize – although what exactly you’ll receive we’re not quite sure.

To be honest, I’m no closer to an answer, but apparently we’ll be receiving one of these a day so come Friday we expect you to have cracked the case for sure.