Wednesday, December 27, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Rhythm of the Road by Albyn Leah Hall

Josephine Pickering has grown up on the highways of the United Kingdom, in her father Bobby's rig. Abandoned by his wife shortly after Jo’s birth, Bobby took to the road with his baby daughter. A Northern Irishman, Bobby was a country musician before he became a father and he passed his love of country music and the open road on to his daughter.

When Jo is twelve, her father stops to give hitchhiker Cosima Stewart a lift. Cosima, lead singer of Cosima Stewart and Her Goodtime Guys, quickly becomes an idol to Jo, although over time the idolization turns into obsession. When Bobby finally gives in to the depression which has haunted him for years, Jo follows Cosima’s band to America where she must finally confront the truth about her life and the choices she’s made.

Albyn Leah Hall’s debut American novel, The Rhythm of the Road is a quiet work; full of teenage angst, the desperation to belong and a search for meaning. Hall has created a strong voice for this young woman seeking roots and a place to belong and Jo’s agony is almost painful to experience. While Jo’s spiral out of control is violent at times, Hall never lets the reigns slip from her firm grasp, ensuring that Jo remains an empathetic character.

Although The Rhythm of the Road is the story of Jo’s development into a woman, by far the strongest character is Bobby. His quiet strength balances Jo and Cosima; however, it is the buried pain and words he doesn’t share which remain with the reader. While Hall’s writing in The Rhythm of the Road is at times uneven, she has a manner of character development which means she is a writer to watch.

ISBN10: 0312359446
ISBN13: 9780312359447

304 Pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: January 9, 2007
Author Website:


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Warrior and Witch by Marie Brennan

When a witch is born, a doppelganger is also created. In order for a witch to gain control of those powers, her doppelganger must be destroyed according to traditions passed down for generations. Mirei, a blending of Miryo (witch) and Mirage (warrior), is the most powerful witch alive. Instead of killing Mirage, Miryo merged with her doppelganger, and her acceptance within the hallowed halls of Starfall has wrecked havoc within the political and religious structure of this closed society.

Viewed by many as an abomination, Mirei’s very existence has created a schism and war has been declared between the rival factions. Now, Mirei is in a race to reach the hidden doppelgangers and ensure they have a chance to merge with their other halves; while trying to discover the extent of her new powers and discover the fate of Eclipse, Mirage’s hunting partner and her true love.

Warrior and Witch commences shortly after the closing pages of Doppelganger, Marie Brennan’s first novel. While readers can enjoy Warrior and Witch without having read its predecessor, the experience will not be as immersive. Brennan’s interest in cultural anthropology is evident in the depth and complexity of the world she created. The history behind the traditions and social structures are explained in the first novel, although keen readers will quickly understand that the warrior traditions owe a nod to martial arts training.

Brennan states on her website that she has no further plans for novels within this world; however, the culture she has described is so vibrant that many windows are still open - if she chooses to return.

Marie Brennan (the pen name of Bryn Neuenschwander) is a graduate student in cultural anthropology and folklore at Indiana University at Bloomington, studying fantasy and science fiction. Her studies focus both on the media manifestations of fantasy and science fiction, as well as on the communities which spring up around them.

Read an excerpt here.

ISBN10: 0446616974
ISBN13: 9780446616973

Mass Market
464 Pages
Publisher: Warner
Publication Date: October 1, 2006
Author Website:


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Random House - Winter/Spring 2007 Titles

Random House is the distributor for some of my favourite UK imprints; most notably Harvill Secker and Chatto & Windus. They also have a number of other important imprints. So with a period covering 6 months, it shouldn't be surprising that my picks comprise such a long list.

I haven't had a close look at their non-fiction offerings, so this list is mostly adult fiction. A number of notable books are being released in trade paperback over the next few months and, for those I listed as picks last summer, I've included them here again.

Note: Books marked with the "%" symbol are books I reviewed in hardcover. The link will take you to the blog entry of my review.

* The Day Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (January 30, 2007)
* The Unbinding by Walter Kirn (January 30, 2007)
* The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure: Curious Stories by Jack Pendarvis (February 6, 2007)
* Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan (Trade Paperback, April 10, 2007)
* The Attack by Yasmina Khadra (May 8, 2007)
* The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue (Trade Paperback, May 8, 2007) %

Ballantine Books
* Blood of Paradise: a Novel by David Corbett (March 6, 2007)
* Damsels Under Stress by Shanna Swendson (May 1, 2007)
* Summer Reading by Hilma Wolitzer (May 22, 2007)
* The Sonnet Lover: a Novel by Carol Goodman (June 12, 2007)

* Sixty Days and Counting by Kim Stanley Robinson (February 27, 2007)
* The Hindi-Bindi Club: a Novel with Recipes by Monica Pradhan (May 1, 2007)

Bond Street Books
* The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (April 24, 2007)

Broadway Books
* French by Heart: An American Family's Adventures in La Belle France by Rebecca S. Ramsey (April 24, 2007)
* The Book of Jane by Anne Dayton & May Vanderbilt (June 12, 2007)

Chatto & Windus
* Death of a Salaryman by Fiona Campbell (April 27, 2007)

* The Secret Magdalene: a novel by Ki Longfellow (March 27, 2007)
* Adventures of an Italian Food Lover: With Recipes from 213 of My Very Best Friends by Faith Willinger (April 3, 2007)
* The Five-Forty-Five to Cannes by Tess Uriza Holthe (May 8, 2007)
* Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon (May 15, 2007)
* Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War by Joe Bageant (June 12, 2007)
* Mary Modern: a Novel by Camille Deangelis (July 10, 2007)
* The Water's Lovely: a Novel by Ruth Rendell (July 17, 2007)

Del Rey
* Ink: the Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan (February 27, 2007)
* The Music of Razors by Cameron Rogers (May 1, 2007)
* Maledicte by Lane Robins (May 29, 2007)

Delacorte Press
* The Blood Spilt by Åsa Larsson (January 30, 2007)
* All Saints by Liam Callanan (February 27, 2007)

Dial Press
* Send Me by Patrick Ryan (January 30, 2007)
* Paradise Park by Allegra Goodman (Reissue, March 17, 2007)
* Cellophane by Marie Arana (May 1, 2007)
* The Archivist's Story by Travis Holland (May 1, 2007)

Doubleday Canada
* Overture: a Novel by Yael Goldstein (January 16, 2007)
* The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson (January 23, 2007)
* Death Comes For the Fat Man: A Dalziel and Pascoe Mystery by Reginald Hill (March 6, 2007)
* The Color of a Dog Running Away by Richard Gwyn (March 20, 2007)
* Rant: The Oral History of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk (May 1, 2007)
* Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann (June 5, 2007)
* The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham (June 12, 2007)

Harvill Secker
* Montano by Enrique Vila-Matas (January 23, 2007)
* Nada by Carmen Laforet (February 27, 2007)

* Adam Haberberg by Yasmina Reza (January 2, 2007)
* A Handbook to Luck by Cristina Garcia (April 10, 2007)
* The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander (April 24, 2007)

Little Bookroom
* Literary St. Petersburg by Elaine Blair (May 1, 2007)

Nan A. Talese
* The Fabric of Night: A Novel by Christoph Peters (January 9, 2007)
* Delirium by Laura Restrepo (March 20, 2007)
* The Sirens of Baghdad: a Novel by Yasmina Khadra (May 8, 2007)

NYRB Classics
* That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana by Carlo Emilio Gadda (Reissue, February 27, 2007)
* Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (Reissue, April 3, 2007)
* The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya (Reissue, April 17, 2007)

Random House
* Still Water Saints by Alex Espinoza (January 30, 2007)
* Radiance by Shaena Lambert (February 13, 2007)
* Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart (Trade Paperback, April 3, 2007)
* No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong (May 1, 2007)
* A Death in Vienna by Frank Tallis (May 8, 2007)
* Tom Bedlam: a Novel by George Hagen (June 5, 2007)

Shaye Areheart Books
* The Prince of Nantucket: a novel by Jan Goldstein (April 24, 2007)
* A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans (May 22, 2007)

Three Rivers Press
* The Moonlit Cage: A Novel by Linda Holeman (March 27, 2007)
* 13 Bullets: a Vampire Tale by David Wellington (May 22, 2007)
* To Dance with Kings: a Novel by Rosalind Laker (May 22, 2007)
* Dark Angels: a Novel by Karleen Koen (May 29, 2007)
* Wish Club by Kim Strickland (May 29, 2007)
* Turning the Tables: A Novel by Rita Rudner (June 26, 2007)

* The Cat in the Coffin by Mariko Koike (June 5, 2007)

* There's a Slight Chance I Might be Going to Hell by Laurie Notaro (May 29, 2007)

Vintage Canada
* The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeister (Trade Paperback, January 9, 2007)
* Lost Echoes by Joe R. Lansdale (February 13, 2007)
* The Truth About Sascha Knisch by Aris Fioretos (February 27, 2007)
* The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly (Trade Paperback, March 6, 2007)
* The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers (Trade Paperback, March 27, 2007)
* Giraffe by J.M. Ledgard (Trade Paperback, March 27, 2007)
* Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (Trade Paperback, April 10, 2007)
* The Dead Fish Museum by Charles D'Ambrosio (Trade Paperback, April 10, 2007) %
* By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt (Trade Paperback, May 8, 2007)

William Heinemann
* Nine Nights by Bernardo Carvalho (February 27, 2007)
* Cupid's Darts by David Nobbs (March 27, 2007)
* Forgotten Dreams by Katie Flynn (May 22, 2007)
* A Most Dangerous Woman by Lee Jackson (May 22, 2007)


Friday, December 15, 2006

Faber & Faber titles from early 2007

Faber & Faber has some great upcoming titles, including the trade paperback version of Milan Kundera's newest book.

Here are my picks from their winter/spring line.

* Imposture by Benjamin Markovits (January 2007)
* Utopian Dreams by Tobias Jones (January 2007)
* Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by Simon Armitage (January 2007)
* The Observations by Jane Harris (February 2007)
* A Night at the Majestic: Proust & the Great Modernist Dinner Party by Richard Davenport-Hines (February 2007)
* The Amnesiac by Sam Taylor (March 2007)
* In Search of a Distant Voice by Taichi Yamada (March 2007)
* Beowulf (Bilingual Edition) translated by Seamus Heaney (March 2007)
* The Curtain by Milan Kundera (Trade Paperback, March 2007)
* Jack the Lad and Bloody Mary by Joseph Connolly (April 2007)
* Seizure by Erica Wagner (April 2007)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Vida Winter, one of Britain’s best-loved novelists, is known for her reluctance to share the truth of her life story. Having spent the past six decades creating outlandish stories, Vida is facing death and wishes to leave the truth as her legacy.

Margaret Lea is surprised to receive the request from Miss Winter, an author she’s never spoken to, asking her to act as biographer. Margaret has published a few articles on lesser known author but is unable to fathom why an author of such reknown would choose her. In an effort to learn more about her potential subject, Margaret picks up her father’s rare copy of Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation and is mesmerized by the stories. As she nears the end of the volume she is confronted by one of Britain’s biggest literary mysteries: where is the thirteenth tale? Margaret agrees to meet with Miss Winter and is quickly engaged in the unfolding story of her complex life and the destroyed estate of Angelfield.

Diane Setterfield’s debut novel The Thirteenth Tale rocketed up the best-seller lists soon after its release mid-September and many skeptics wondered how much of this success was due to aggressive online marketing efforts rather than its merit. This reviewer is pleased to report that, in her opinion, Setterfield’s success is due to a well-crafted plot, engaging characters and frequent nods to gothic novelists of the past.

The Thirteenth Tale centres around a story-within-a-story, as Vida recounts the family history leading up to her birth and beyond. All the elements of a gothic novel are found here; a mouldering old house, mental illness, twins, neglectful parents, a domineering governess, isolation and ghosts. Margaret, an exceptional narrator, is drawn into the action as she tries to substantiate Vida’s story, while battling the specters of her own past.

Initially Margaret is reluctant to be drawn in by Vida, maintaining a professional distance from her subject. Her research, and the parallels she sees between Vida’s and her own story, eliminate her defenses and, like a du Maurier or Brontë heroine, Margaret becomes consumed by the story around her.

Setterfield uses her descriptions of place to increase the readers’ understanding of her characters. Miss Winter has spent so many years suffocating the truth that “..the other rooms were thick with the corpses of suffocated words: here in the library you could breathe.” The library, Margaret’s domain, is the place of truth, therefore a place within which light and air preside.

Essentially, The Thirteenth Tale is about the battle between truth and fiction, and the consequences of each. Fiction is easier, as Miss Winter points out: “What succour, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story?” As readers soon learn, there is a price for each and no simple line can be drawn in the sand.

ISBN10: 038566284X
ISBN13: 9780385662840

416 Pages
Publisher: Bond Street Books
Publication Date: September 12, 2006


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S Wilce

Flora Segunda (or Flora the Second) has become the caretaker of her family’s home, Crackpot Hall, and her father ever since her mother banished the magickal butler. Whether Poppy or Crackpot Hall is more of chore is open to debate but at least Poppy is somewhat predictable. Crackpot Hall has eleven thousand rooms and they are prone to move around at random. Flora knows better than to step of the proven paths through her house but one morning she is really late for school so she chances a ride in the elevator and ends up lost in her on house.

Is it really fate that she stumbles upon the long-banished butler or is this the break she needs to have a normal life? With her best friend Udo, Flora is in a race to finish her Catorcena speech, look after Poppy, and find a way to break it to her mother that she isn’t going to follow the family tradition of entering the barracks. Could it really hurt to ask Valefor the butler for some help?

Following in the tradition of Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After: Being the Private Correspondence Between Two Prominent Families Regarding a Scandal Touching the Highest Level), Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog is a coming of age story wrapped within a traditional adventure story. Feeling both old-fashioned and post-modern, Ysabeau S. Wilce has combined elements of Eastern life (names which sound decidedly Eastern - such as Califa and Huitzil - and butlers who owe much to genies), as well as Asian traditions of warcraft and meditation. Interlacing these are elements of the western traditions of courtly love and elements of common to fantasy novels. Much here will provoke vague feelings of familiarity and in the early pages this becomes very distracting, as the reader keeps trying to find connections. The novel quickly grabs all the reader’s attention and the earlier distractions dissipate.

Wilce has a strong voice and distinctive style, which she exhibits with much aplomb in Flora Segunda. The titular heroine is delightful and readers will identify with her challenges and desire to carve her own path in life. Udo, the glass-gazing sidekick, provides the necessary balance to Flora Segunda and provides the right amount of frisson to add spice to the tale, but not distract from the main adventure.

Deliberate or not, Wilce has left herself room to develop Flora Segunda into a young adult series and this reviewer hopes that a follow-up novel will soon be available. Many interesting details of life within Califa have been introduced but not explored, such as the politics behind the current wars, why the Rangers were disbanded and what caused some of the great houses (families) to decline. Revelations made in the final pages also create many new avenues to explore within this captivating world.

Read an excerpt here.

ISBN10: 0152054332
ISBN13: 9780152054335

448 Pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Publication Date: January 2007


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Like many of the children in the fairy tales he adores, twelve-year-old David has lost everything. His beloved mother has died; his father has married Rose, a nurse from the hospital where his mother stayed during her illness, and started a new family. To escape the German bombs, they’ve moved out of London to the house where Rose grew up and David is installed in the attic room.

Filled with books from a previous occupant, David’s aerie appears to be part of the woods surrounding the house. Ivy has worked its way through the mortar and is spreading over the interior walls. Bugs are at home in his sock draw and spiders have taken over many of the room’s dark corners. Nature’s invasion is the least of his worries; David’s books have started talking and he is having attacks that leave him with peculiar memories of wolves and faded kings. After a particularly nasty row with Rose, David hears his mother’s voice begging him to rescue her and he follows the call into the darkness.

John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things is the quintessential outsider tale. David has entered an unknown world when his father remarries and the family moves to a new home to escape the bombing of London. The move, close on the heels of the birth of Georgie, has David uncertain of his role within this new family group.

In typical fairy tale manner, the outsider embarks on a quest during which he/she endeavours to seek what has been lost. David hears his mother’s voice pleading with him to save her, providing him the opportunity to become a hero and leave behind the family he believes has no use for him.

Readers will find many familiar faces within the pages of The Book of Lost Things; however, that sense of familiarity will not last. In Connolly’s world, the forest holds cruel things that will include a lost child in a genetic experiment before eating them. Snow White didn’t ride off into the sunset with her prince and very few people live happily ever after.

Of course, what David is really seeking in the forest is himself. As divergent as Connolly’s book is from childish fairy tales, that morale centre is still present. David finds his inner strength and place within his family as he moves into adolescence. This is the expected outcome but the true ingenuity and magic in this adult tale is how Connolly reaches that ending.

Connolly has reinterpreted traditional tales, found the dark, secret core and created something fresh, new and exciting. By placing it during World War II, a time when childhood meant a gray world full of evil and very real horrors, the terrors of Connolly’s world loom in even starker contrast.

The Book of Lost Things marks a new direction in Connelly’s writing. If this reviewer’s experience is anything to go by, readers will be unable to set this book aside until David returns safely home.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0743298853
ISBN13: 9780743298858

256 Pages
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: November 2006


Friday, December 08, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Lion Brand Yarn Vintage Styles for Today

Nancy Thomas and Charlotte Quiggle have combed the Lion Brand archives for patterns to reinterpret for today’s modern lifestyles. Lion Brand Yarn Vintage Styles for Today: more than 50 patterns to knit and crochet is the result, illustrating the company’s contribution to fashion over the last century.

To use vintage patterns to make modern garments, attention must be paid to sizing and fit. In the past, styles were more fitted with higher armholes, narrower waists and less ease. As the editors point out, “since our bodies are so different today from those of our forebears, whether because of undergarments or because of diet, any reference to “size” in a vintage pattern is relatively meaningless.”

Today, fit is looser and for some patterns in Lion Brand Yarn Vintage Styles for Today significant design changes have been made to create modern looks. One blanket, originally created as a baby item, has been redesigned in bulky yarn resulting in the stitch pattern now appearing as a modern leaf design.

The patterns in Lion Brand Yarn Vintage Styles for Today are evenly split between knit and crochet and all skill levels are covered. All patterns of course use Lion Brand yarns; however, the Standard Yarn Weight system icons are included for each pattern, allowing for yarn substitutions. Patterns cover the gamut from unusual shrugs to sweaters, layettes to something for man’s best friend – there is something here for everyone on your list.

ISBN10: 1400080614
Trade Paperback
192 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: January 24, 2006
Website: Lion Brand Yarns


Wednesday, December 06, 2006


A big Eclectic Closet shout-out to Bookninja for being featured tonight on The Arts Tonight with Eleanor Wachtel. The feature which ran just after 10 pm tonight should be posted in a few days on the Arts Tonight website so check it out if you get a chance.

Congratulations as well to Bookninja for winning the Canadian Blog Award for Best Entertainment Blog.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Famous Writers School by Stephen Carter

Famous Writers School is the grandiose name of Wendell Newton’s correspondence writing school. He seeks his students through advertisements in the back pages of literary magazines and what his students don’t realize is that Wendell is utterly lacking in talent. A former editorial staff member of America’s Farmer, his school is made up of a collection of unusual students. Rio is a torch singer and Ph.D. candidate with a penchant for confessional writing; Linda Trane is a housewife who may just be a stalking Wendell; and Dan, the only talented one in the bunch whose work has the potential to be published, if Wendell doesn’t steal his novel first.

Famous Writers School: a Novel is the second novel of Steven Carter (author of I was Howard Hughes). A send-up of correspondence courses for would-be writers, Carter chronicles the correspondence between a teacher and his students. Composed in an epistolary manner, the novel is made up of advertisements for the school, the welcome package sent out to lure in students and the lessons Wendell sends to his students. As the novel progresses, the reader is introduced to each of the students through their personal statements and writing assignments.

Wendell’s relationship to each student is different and it is through this interaction that the reader gains some understanding of his character. He is full of frustrations and self-important opinions and, rather than being annoying, he is a sympathetic loser. Carter possesses an understanding of the type of ego that drives Wendell and has painted him vividly for readers.

From the beginning it is obvious that the relationship between Dan and Wendell will be adversarial. Dan has the talent Wendell longs for and is seeking editorial advice Wendell is in no way equipped to give. Carter has portrayed this relationship most clearly in Famous Writers School. The relationships between Wendell and his other two students, while explored in some depth, do not possess the same resonance.

During one of his lessons, Wendell states: “True subtlety in fiction requires more than pyrotechnics with language; it requires that every sentence deliver the punch that is appropriate for the story at that particular moment and that leads to its inevitable conclusion.” Carter’s novel contains subtlety, he deftly maneuvers his plot without exposing his hand too early and he manages the novel’s pacing with a master’s skill.

Unfortunately, his obvious delight in playing with the epistolary method of novel construction becomes tedious with time and the novel’s strongest points are those when Carter sets aside his agenda and presents Dan’s “novel” in a straightforward manner.

Wendell is a character who remains with the reader long after the final page is read. Since reading Famous Writers School, this reviewer often hears his voice echoed when reading a particularly pompous piece of writing. This then, is perhaps the greatest compliment to be paid a writer – the knowledge that his creation lives on in the minds of readers.

Read an excerpt of Famous Writers School here.

ISBN10: 1582433569
ISBN13: 9781582433561

256 Pages
Publisher: Counterpoint
Publication Date: October 2006


Monday, December 04, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Home Knits: Luxurious Handknits for Every Room of the House by Suss Cousins

Home Knits: Luxurious Handknits for Every Room of the House is the latest offering from Suss Cousins, author of two previous knitting books (Hollywood Knits and Hollywood Knits - Style). Best known for her yarn collection and designs for Hollywood movies (her latest project can be seen on Tim Allen in Santa Clause 3), in Home Knits Cousins designs 30 projects to bring her trademark style to your home.

When Cousins moved to a new home, she was inspired to create the designs in Home Knits. The designs combine the clean Swedish designs Cousins grew up with and mix old with new. Since she wanted to use a subdued colour palette, the designs in Home Knits have an emphasis on texture. In some projects, unusual materials are employed: curtain tiebacks are made using cotton twill tape and coasters are constructed out of jute twine; however, the rest of the patterns are made using Cousins’ line of yarn. Any of these designs can be made using other yarn and a helpful yarn substitution guide is included at the back of the book.

Home Knits has patterns for knitters of all skill levels for everything from pillows and napkin rings to bedspreads and wall hangings. Beginners will be tempted by the luxurious colours and textures of the Big Pillow Cover or the softness of the Luxurious Bedcover. More experienced knitters will be itching to knit up one of Cousins’ lampshades or her Ottoman Cozy. Experts will want to knit up the Kimono Robe in their favourite colour or be inspired to create their own piece of wall art.

Suss Cousins’ next book, Wedding Knits: Handmade Gifts for Every Member of the Wedding Party, will be published by Potter Crafts on January 2, 2007.

ISBN10: 0307335917
ISBN13: 9780307335913

160 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: November 2006
Author Website:


Friday, December 01, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther

Maryam, the young daughter of an Iranian general, wants a different life than the one envisioned for her by her father. A man of influence, her father begins arranging a marriage for his beautiful sixteen-year-old daughter while Maryam longs for a life of adventure and to be a nurse. Her strong will and dreams cause her to be unsettled with her life and longing for freedome.

As violence erupts in her hometown, Maryam is left behind in the family compound and in her desperation she leaves safety to seek shelter with her father’s assistant Ali, for whom she secretly harbours feelings. Her return to the family home is noted by a family servant and - her secret out - she is summarily banished while Ali is brutally punished.

In present-day London, the arrival of Saeed, Maryam’s young nephew, sets off a chain of events whose roots extend back forty years. Maryam flees to her past in Iran leaving her daughter Sara behind to piece together long hidden secrets while caring for Saeed and her father.

Yasmin Crowther’s The Saffron Kitchen is set during the U.S.-backed 1953 coup that toppled Iran’s prime minister, Mossadegh. As the daughter of one of the Shah’s generals, Maryam’s willful behaviour causes shame for her father, an act which he is unable to forgive. His retribution is swift and fierce, setting off a deadly chain of consequences.

Maryam’s story is one of repression and a struggle for identity. Seeking a life different from that offered by her culture, she seeks a chance to be heard in a culture where her only value is as a bride and mother. “I thought of Zohreh, the deaf and dumb girl in Ehzat’s story and wondered whether I would ever be permitted to use the voice with which I had been born.”

Her punishment and subsequent banishment effectively silenced Maryam for decades. Even though she constructed a life in England and lived within a family, the violence in her history caused her to be cold and distant – a woman without country or identity.

Despite her history, Maryam’s belief that punishment made her strong and able to survive leads her to lash out at the weakness she perceives in Saeed. This act of aggression perpetuates the cycle of family violence and is the catalyst for change.

The Saffron Kitchen is told in the alternating voices of Sara and Maryam, moving through time to piece together Maryam’s fragmented story. The reader shares Sara’s quest to understand her mother and shares her anger at the wake of destruction which follows Maryam’s path.

Readers will feel horror at what Maryam lived through; however, Crowther makes the difficult choice to allow readers to feel outrage and anger toward her protagonist. Through this, Crowther forces readers to confront their own stereotypes and assess how individual choices affect family and friends, and eventually, to understand and accept Maryam’s decisions.

Yasmin Crowther shows exceptional promise with The Saffron Kitchen. It is difficult to fathom that such a strong voice is portrayed in a first novel. Where her inexperience shows is in balancing Maryam and Sara’s voices. Sara, unfortunately, is not an equal player and functions as a mechanism to move her mother’s story forward.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0670038113
ISBN13: 9780670038114

272 Pages
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Publication Date: December 28, 2006 (United States)
(released in Canada in August 2006)


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Spring/Summer 2007 Books from Europa Editions

Europa Editions is one of my favourite small press publishers. The books they publish offer a window into worlds I don't normally view and they certainly cause me to think about new ideas.

Here are my picks from their spring/summer 2007 line.

* The Fugitive by Massimo Carlotto, trans. by Antony Shugaar (April 15, 2007)
* Prime Time Suspect by Alicia Giménez-Bartlett, trans. by Nicholas Caistor (June 24, 2007)
* The Worst Intentions by Alessandro Piperno, trans. by Ann Goldstein (July 20, 2007)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Volume Three: Color Knitting by Vogue Knitting

Collecting together more than 200 color knitting patterns from the pages of Vogue® Knitting magazine, Color Knitting is the third volume in the Vogue® Knitting Stitchionary series. Calling these volumes the “ultimate stitch dictionary,” the editors of Vogue® Knitting magazine have selected a range of designs sure to challenge and inspire knitters of all skill levels. For each pattern, a large sample swatch is shown; some in quite unusual color combinations.

Color Knitting is made up of five chapters: Two Color, Fair Isle/Multicolor, Intarsia/Motifs, Adding Texture, and Slip Stitch. In each chapter the patterns are organized from easiest to hardest. The patterns in the first three chapters are presented as graphs only. The final two sections, which incorporate both stitch patterns as well as color, are presented with both charts and written instructions.

Color, perhaps more than any other element of design, is subjective. Everyone has preferred colors, and the colors in which a design is shown can lead one to reject it without assessing the pattern itself. To provide an overall flow to the stitch dictionary, the editors have presented each chapter in a different palette. For this to be a useful volume, knitters must use it as a starting point, find their own preferred color scheme and be creative.

Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Series
Vol. 1 - Knit & Purl
Vol. 2 - Cable Knitting
Vol. 3 - Color Knitting

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1933027029
ISBN13: 9781933027029
240 Pages
Publisher: Sixth & Spring Books
Publication Date: October 2006


Monday, November 27, 2006

Spring & Summer 2007 Book Lists

After reviewing the Spring & Summer 2007 offerings from the various publisher's catalogues, I created several lists of my personal recommendations. This post is intended to provide a summary of the publishers I listed, with links to the relevant original post. If publishing houses are missing it is because I have not yet looked through their Spring & Summer offerings.

My disclaimer: These are the books which I personally am looking forward to hearing more about and perhaps reading. This is in no way a reflection on what I think is going to be a big hit nor am I suggesting that any author is publishing a "bad" book by not listing it here. At the time the lists were created, I had not read the books.

List of Publishers
Alma Books
Arcadia Books
Ballantine Books
Back Bay Books
Bloomsbury UK
Bloomsbury USA
Bond Street Books
Broadway Books
Canadian Manda Group
Chatto & Windus
Chicago Review Press
Chronicle Books
Couteau Books
Del Rey
Delacorte Press
Dial Press
Doubleday Canada
Douglas & McIntyre
Europa Editions
Faber & Faber
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Gibbs Smith
Greystone Books
Harcourt (HBJ)
Harvill Secker
Henry Holt
Hesperus Press
Houghton Mifflin
Hyperion Books
Key Porter Books
Kondansha International
Little Bookroom
Little, Brown & Company
Metropolitan Books
Miramax Books
Nan A. Talese
NYRB Classics
Owl Books
Pelican Publishing
Penguin Group
Raincoast Books
Random House
St. Martin's
St. Martin's Minotaur
Shaye Areheart Books
Simon & Schuster
Stewart, Tabori & Chang
Tachyon Publications
Thistledown Press
Three Rivers Press
Touchwood Editions
Vintage Canada
Walker & Company
Warner Books
William Heinemann

Spring/Summer 2007 Titles from Hachette Group

Today I got the catalogues from the Hachette Group covering April to August 2007. I love wading through publishers' catalogues, it's almost like Christmas - seeing all the upcoming books and deciding what you want to read. Then comes the wait until you finally get a chance to buy the books, open them and have that new book smell. Nothing could be better!

So after extensive review, here are my picks of upcoming 2007 titles from Hachette. (Photos to follow)

Little, Brown & Company
* The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin (April 2007)
* Afternoons with Emily by Rose MacMurray (April 2007)
* Addled by JoeAnn Hart (May 2007)
* The Confetti Cakes Cookbook: Spectacular Cookies, Cakes, and Cupcakes from New York City’s Famed Bakery by Elisa Strauss (May 2007)
* The Blood of Flowers: a Novel by Anita Amirrezvani (June 2007)
* Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff by Rosemary Mahoney (July 2007)
* Exposure: a Novel by Kurt Wenzel (July 2007)
* By George by Wesley Stace (August 2007)

Back Bay Books
* Transparency: Stories by Frances Hwang (April 2007)
* Bank: a Novel by David Bledin (May 2007)
* The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo: a Novel by Peter Orner (May 2007)
* Tiare in Bloom by Célestine Vaite (June 2007)
* Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst (Trade Paperback, July 2007)
* Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England by Juliet Barker (Trade Paperback, August 2007)
* The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler (Trade Paperback, August 2007)

Warner Books
* Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson (Trade Paperback, May 2007)
* The Devil You Know by Mike Carey (July 2007)
* The History Book by Humphrey Hawksley (August 2007)

Twelve Hardcover
* Boomsday: a Novel by Christopher Buckley (April 2007)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

It is a historical fact that in 1909 Sigmund Freud paid his only visit to the U.S., after which he labeled Americans as “savages.” In Jed Rubenfeld’s debut novel, The Interpretation of Murder, Freud’s arrival in New York coincides with a rash of attacks against beautiful young socialites. Dr. Stratham Younger, a Freud devotee, is asked to help the second victim, Nora Acton, regain her memory. He turns to his teacher for help in treating his reluctant patient and, in turn, must aid his mentor by allaying the cloud of suspicion hovering around Freud.

The Interpretation of Murder is based around the real-life mystery surrounding Freud's visit to America in 1909. In an interview with, Rubenfeld says he was inspire to use, as the jumping off point for his novel, a basic question which has puzzled Freud's biographers for a long time: “Could something have happened to Freud during his week in Manhattan, something we still don't know about, some event that could account for his severe antipathy to America?” In his detailed author’s note, Rubenfeld carefully delineates the line between his fiction and historical fact.

Rubenfeld portrays a New York City well known to readers of Edith Wharton and Henry James’ work. Dr. Stratham Younger and many of the other characters inhabit the world of the beau monde, the Vanderbilts and the Astors. These glittering figures wander carelessly through the events portrayed with the same cold disdain portrayed so cleverly in The House of Mirth. By invoking the spectre of Wharton and James’ writing styles, Rubenfeld effortlessly exposes the hollowness filling the houses and settings his killer treads.

This world of excess is in sharp contrast with corruption found within the New York police department and government. In these early days of investigation, crime scene investigation is almost non-existent and the wealthy can easily circumvent procedure. What is particularly fascinating in The Interpretation of Murder is the commentary he provides on American society in the early 1900s. The resistance to Freud’s theories is expounded upon at great length and the developing rift between Freud and Jung gradually exposed.

Many of the theories expressed are laughable viewed from a century later; others however, are extremely repugnant. Many Americans felt that Freud was promoting sexual license and believe his theories would lead to all sorts of social ills. At a dinner party attended by Freud, one of the guests suggested that, as a man of science, Freud should be concerned with the dangers of sexual emancipation such as the problems of overpopulation. His proposal is that every immigrant without means should be sterilized so that American society “are not required to bear the charge of their unfit offspring, who end up as beggars and thieves” although the guest is willing to “make an exception, of course, for those who can pass an intelligence test.”

Early in The Interpretation of Murder, Dr. Younger explains one of his most exciting theories - man’s moments of revolutionary genius have all happened at the turn of a century, specifically in the first decade of a century. Rubenfeld has brought this dynamic period vividly to life and proposed a fascinating solution to the mystery of Freud’s visit to and the rise of psychoanalysis in America.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0805080988
ISBN13: 9780805080988

384 Pages
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date: September 7, 2006


Friday, November 24, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Intellectual Devotional by David S. Kidder & Noah D. Oppenheim

When I first heard about The Intellectual Devotional: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education and Roam Confidently with the Cultured Class by David S. Kidder & Noah D. Oppenheim I have to admit to being skeptical. I relate the word "devotions" to its ecclesiastical meaning of "religious observance or worship, religious texts" and was having difficulty with the idea of daily lessons/readings of an intellectual nature.

The Intellectual Devotional is structured so you can begin using it at any time in the year. Each day of the week has a different field from which the day's lesson is drawn: Mondays focuses on history; Tuesdays on literature; Wednesday on visual arts; Thursdays on science; Friday on music; Saturday on philosophy; and Sundays on religion. As the authors say: "The book’s goal is to refresh knowledge you’ve forgotten, bring to light fresh insights, and exercise modes of thinking that are ordinarily neglected once our school days are behind us."

So what can you learn by including The Intellectual Devotional in your daily routine? The daily essays provide a brief synopsis of the topic followed by additional facts. One item the authors may wish to include in future editions is to include sources for follow-up readings on each topic as a footnote to the essays. The daily entries cover a broad spectrum in each field of learning. For example, some essays in the literature section are on individual authors while others address a specific book or literary movement such as the Harlem Renaissance. The field of religion covers all major faiths, as well as important leaders and theological understandings.

I can see this book as one readers will utilize for the year and keep around as a reference volume and it is for this function that the included index will come in handy. Of concern are the ragged page edges which, while initially providing a lovely look to the book, with repeated flipping have the potential to become dirty looking and quite worn.

The book's website has a forum where you can offer suggestions for the second edition and sign up for a free 7 day trial prior to buying the book.

ISBN10: 1594865132
ISBN13: 9781594865138

377 Pages
Publisher: Rodale Books
Publication Date: October 2006
Book website:


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Museum of Kitschy Stitches by Stitchy McYarnpants

“…The Museum of Kitschy Stitches, a collection of the most groan-inspiring crimes against hand-crafted fashion ever to assault the senses.”

Based on Stitchy McYarnpants’ description of this book, it is understandable if a reader hesitates before picking up The Museum of Kitschy Stitches: a Gallery of Notorious Knits. McYarnpants has been delighting readers by investigating crafting’s most embarrassing moments and exposing them to the world's scrutiny on her blog. Hideous hats, granny squares gone mad, and more are featured in all their awful glory.

In The Museum of Kitschy Stitches (the book), McYarnpants has selected the best of the worst and added her own juicy descriptions to the devastating fashion choices. In her preface to the first chapter "Hoodwinked: Never Trust a Homemade Hat", McYarnpants advises: “Choose carefully, for in the turbulent waters of fashion, the fish stinks from the head down.”

Many of the designs in The Museum of Kitschy Stitches are sure to induce nightmares but none as completely as the hat featured on page 17, a particularly abhorrent ski mask. McYarnpants counters the horror with her trademark wit inducing gales of laughter in readers ending with this outrageous statement: “Oh, how rude of me! Let me introduce you. This is Leatherface’s more sadistic cousin, Yarnface.”

This is perfect coffee table reading material, a great conversation starter and the perfect cautionary tale for when good knitters go bad. As Stitchy McYarnpants says: “Remember, only use your knitting powers for good.” An important lesson for us all!

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1594741115
ISBN13: 9781594741111

127 Pages
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: June 2006
Author Website:


Monday, November 20, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Northampton Wools Knitting Book by Linda A. Daniels

Quintessential New England sweater patterns fill The Northampton Wools Knitting Book: the Shop Patterns by Linda A. Daniels. These thirty-four original patterns are customer favourites designed by Daniels during her two and a half decades of running Northampton Wools. Also included are several designs created for Charlize Theron to wear in the movie, The Cider House Rules.

The Northampton Wools Knitting Book is the perfect collection of patterns for beginner and advance beginners. The patterns are divided into sections by skill level with the first two (Little Things and Simple Sweaters) containing projects perfect for the beginner looking for something more than a simple garter stitch scarf. The fourth section (Stitch Pattern) features challenging stitches that build on basic sweater construction for the knitter moving beyond the basic projects.

Scattered throughout are a few patterns sure to engage the imagination of the experienced knitter. The Reversible Cable Scarf features ingenious cables twisted in a way that looks the same on both sides of the scarf. The Fancy Watch Cap, designed by KeriAnne Shaw (an employee of Northampton Wools), features many examples that highlight Shaw’s love of getting every detail exactly right.

The final section features children’s patterns from Northampton Wools, Too, the store opened in 2003 to expand Daniels' business. The patterns in this section cover designs from infant wear to four years.

The Northampton Wools Knitting Book is a sure winner for the beginning or intermediate knitter on your Christmas list.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0881506834
ISBN13: 9780881506839

115 Pages
Publisher: The Countryman Press
Publication Date: September 2006
Store Website (coming soon):


Friday, November 17, 2006

Selsi Sea Rocks - a new Toronto shopping establishment

If you're looking for something different for gifts, you should visit Selsi Sea Rocks. Celebrating everything salty, this unique sea salt bar offers truly flavourful gift ideas. Owner Andrea Brockie used to have an outdoor stall at the St. Lawrence Market but decided to move to a retail location to expand her range of products.

As a special treat, every Sunday in December you can experience complimentary sea salt mini massages and reflexology, to help combat the stresses of holiday shopping!

Selsi Sea Rocks
2 Gladstone Ave.
(at Queen St. W.)

UPDATE (February 13, 2007): Due to condo construction, Andrea had to give up her storefront. You can now find her back at the St. Lawrence Market but indoors on the lower level.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Welcome to the world Matthew Timothy

Making his first appearance, my four-hour-old nephew - Matthew Timothy. Weighing in at 7 pounds, 14 oz. and 20 inches long, Matthew has brown hair with curls.

Happy Birth Day Matthew!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Must Love Dragons by Stephanie Rowe

Booklist describes Stephanie Rowe’s paranormal romances as “blissfully bizarre” and this reviewer must concur. Not having read Date Me Baby, One More Time, I was unsure what to expect in the second volume of the Goblet of Eternal Youth Series, Must Love Dragons. The plot picks up at the end of Date Me Baby, One More Time and continues the development of the love affair between Theresa Nichols (dragon and interim Guardian of the Goblet) and Zeke Siccardi (ex-dragon-slayer turned PI).

Theresa Nichols, stuck in dragon form, is hungry and thoroughly bored. Quincy, who is supposed to look after Theresa and the shape-shifting Goblet she guards, has been rather lax in fulfilling his duties. Zeke, her cyber-sex buddy, is pushing really hard to get her to agree to finally meet him in person. But an eleven-foot dragon walking the streets of New York City is sure to cause chaos but hunger finally drives Theresa out of the apartment and straight into an attack on her life. Desperate to regain her human body, Theresa decides to sell her soul to Satan in return for a favour owing to Satan to be claimed at a time of his choosing. Of course, this decision can't possibly be a good one and all out chaos ensues.

While the love affair between Theresa and Zeke is fiery and fascinating, the secondary characters in Must Love Dragons add to the blissfulness of the book and in many ways steal the show. The fountain of youth turns out to be a shape-shifting Goblet with attitude known as Desdemona’s Temptation, more commonly known as Mona. Satan is lovesick for Iris, a defrocked Guardian who spurns his attention while she is secretly more than a little in love with him herself. Becca, a hostile Rivka who is Satan’s right-hand woman, is exasperated by most of Theresa’s antics but is intrigued by her zest for life.

The third volume in Stephanie Rowe’s Goblet of Eternal Youth Series, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Hot, is scheduled to be published in May 2007 and will feature Becca as she tries to break free on her own, away from serving Satan.

Read an excerpt of Must Love Dragons here.

ISBN10: 0446617679
ISBN13: 9780446617673

Mass Market Paperback
384 Pages
Publisher: Warner Forever
Publication Date: November 1, 2006
Author Website:


Monday, November 13, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Scot, the Witch and the Wardrobe by Annette Blair

Victoria Cartwright, unlike her friends Melody Seabright (The Kitchen Witch) and Kira Fitzgerald (My Favorite Witch), is convinced she doesn’t have a magical bone in her body despite her supposed magical heritage. Upon the death of her beloved grandmother, Vickie receives a key with a cryptic tag “Unlock the wardrobe with the magic inside you and meet your destiny.” According to family legend, her ancestor Lili Lockhart left the key to her female descendants a century previously and only the daughter who inherited her magical gifts will be able to open the wardrobe and complete her spell. When she opens the wardrobe and finds a carousel unicorn, Vickie is flabbergasted.

Rory MacKenzie, hermit and carousel expert, immediately recognizes the carousel unicorn when it appears on an antiques television show. The unicorn was carved by his ancestor Drummond, for the Immortal Classic Zodiac Carousel, and its recovery is key to ending his family curse and the curse on the town of Caperglen, Scotland. Rory heads for Salem, Massachusetts intent on recovering his unicorn but is unprepared for the sparks that fly when he meets Vickie. Will Rory be able to end his family’s curse before succumbing to Vickie’s spell?

The third volume in Annette Blair’s ‘Accidental’ Witch trilogy picks up where My Favorite Witch left off. The Scot, the Witch and the Wardrobe focuses on Victoria Cartwright and her quest for a knight on a charger. Vickie and Rory make a wonderful pair and the witty dialogue the two fling at each other will have readers laughing out loud. The double entendres fly thick and fast throughout: “Some wooden chargers are specimens of piercing beauty and should be taken for at least one good…gallop…before a decision is made.”

Despite the disparaging view each holds of the other - Vickie is convinced that Rory is a “lack-wit shoddy-mannered Scot” and Rory believes Vickie to be “lady stubborn spitfire” – the heat between the two shimmers off the page. The Scot, the Witch and the Wardrobe is full of sexual tension but first and foremost it shows the power of love as these scarred individuals find healing.

Blair will continue to write about witches with her upcoming Triplet Witch Trilogy, focusing on Victoria Cartwright’s triplet half-sisters who provided a great deal of comedic appeal in The Scot, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The first book, Sex and the Psychic Witch is scheduled for release in August 2007.

Read an excerpt of The Scot, the Witch and the Wardrobe here.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0425213463
ISBN13: 9780425213469

Mass Market Paperback
304 Pages
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Publication Date: December 5, 2006
Author Website: