Thursday, August 31, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante

On Delia’s birthday her mother died, drowned wearing an expensive new bra, her engagement ring and the earrings given to her by her estranged husband almost fifty years earlier. Desperate to make sense out of the confusion surrounding her mother’s death, Delia embarks on a journey through her native Naples, seeking the truth about her mother, her family and herself.

Troubling Love (L'amore molesto), Elena Ferrante’s second novel to be translated into English, is a meditation on the inherent struggle between mothers and daughters. The struggle between the generations of women within a family is territory oft explored by writers. Ferrante brings freshness to the worn narrative by adding complexity, examining the nature and validity of memory. How valid is anger toward one’s mother if the memory of events isn’t correct?

Ferrante explores the consequences of abuse within the family and attitudes toward domestic violence. Amalia’s brother Filippo believes she had no reason to leave her husband, even though he beat her in front of strangers and her children. Amalia's husband inflicts harsh punishment on her body for the crime of drawing attention to herself, "protecting her" from other men's eyes. The abuse was so pervasive that the children felt they must protect her from touch as well, placing their bodies between their mother and strangers, to prevent the violence from erupting at home.

The dichotomy presented, is that despite the beatings Amalia’s husband gave her for men touching her, he painted her repeatedly as a half-naked gypsy, paintings which peddlers sold to anyone with enough money. This inconsistency calls into question his reasons for the abuse. Logically Ferrante must wish reader’s to view the violence as an issue of control, for just days before her death, Amalia’s husband visits her apartment to once more beat her.

Female children grow up wishing to become their mothers, having their mother’s body. In Troubling Love, Ferrante has created children drawn into complicity with their father’s abuse, guarding Amali from his violence while at the same time believing it was justified.

Ferrante asks, in this situation, can a girl grow up without destroying her mother? In the evolution to become a woman, must a girl, who feels she’s betrayed her mother, excise the mother from her life in order to live with herself?

For such a slender volume, Troubling Love is not an easy or quick read. Significant issues are raised which require contemplation and repeated readings. Ferrante’s writing is raw and earthy, describing bodily functions with a level of detail to which North American readers are unfamiliar. Her blunt use of language communicates the urgency and disorder experienced by Delia, drawing readers with her on the journey of discovery.

Elena Ferrante was born in Naples, Italy. Though one of Italy’s most important and acclaimed contemporary authors, she has chosen to keep her identity and wereabouts a mystery. Theories and speculation as to who Elena Ferrante really is continue to circulate but she has not yet been unmasked. The Days of Abandonment (I giorni dell'abbandono) was a national bestseller in Italy for almost a year.

Ann Goldstein is an editor at The New Yorker magazine. Her many translations from Italian include works by Alessandro Baricco, Roberto Calasso, Pope John Paul II, Pierpaolo Pasolini, and Giuseppe Genna. Troubling Love is the second work by Ferrante, which Goldstein translated for Europa Editions, the first being the critically acclaimed The Days of Abandonment.

Read the review at ReadySteadyBook.

ISBN10: 1933372168
Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

Trade Paperback
Pages: 139
Publisher: Europa Editions
Publication Date: September 20, 2006


Monday, August 28, 2006

Guardian First Book Award longlist announced

From the Guardian website: The Guardian first book award was established in 1999 to reward the finest new literary talent with a £10,000 prize for an author's first book - covers subjects from the world's only surviving giant tortoise to a blind adventurer, Algerian refugees in Boston and the poet John Donne.

Uniquely among book awards, it is open to writing across all genres and judged by both a celebrity panel and members of the public who participate through reading groups run by Waterstone's stores.

The titles on the longlist are:

Harbor by Lorraine Adams
Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan
Running for the Hills by Horatio Clare
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li
In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar
Waiting for the Night-Rowers by Roger Moulson
Lonesome George: The Lives and Loves of a Conservation Icon by Henry Nicholls
A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveller by Jason Roberts
John Donne: The Reformed Soul by John Stubbs
Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany

The judges:
This year's judging panel, chaired by the Guardian's literary editor, Claire Armitstead, consists of G2 features editor Kath Viner, Stuart Broom of Waterstone's, Jude Kelly, artistic director of the South Bank Centre, the authors Joseph O'Connor, Pankaj Mishra, Rose Tremain, and the author, broadcaster and commentator Greg Dyke.

Key dates:
Shortlist announced: first week of November.
Winner announced: first week of December.

I have to admit that I haven't read any of these titles, and over half I haven't even heard of. However, I do own one - Poppy Shakespeare - and must put it near the top of my TBR pile.

What I'm Reading Now and the first Eclectic Closet contest

Taking a page from Danielle and Cam, I thought I'd do a run-down on what I'm in the midst of read and/or on my "must start in the next week" pile.

1. Some of the books longlisted for the Man Booker Prize: Sitting on my pile are The Secret River by Kate Grenville, The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson, and Get a Life by Nadine Gordimer.

2. Books for a feature article reviewing the new/upcoming books on Hurricane Katrina: The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley, Path of Destruction by John McQuaid and Mark Schleifstein and The Ravaging Tide by Mike Tidwell.

3. Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante. I haven't read any of Elena Ferrante's work yet but this slender volume from Europa Editions looks fantastic.

4. Two novels to fulfill my role as a juror for ELLE Reader's Jury, so I can vote on the Grand Prix winner for 2006 (I was part of the January 2006 jury).

5. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist. This is getting so much good press, and I promised a review on it. Top pick for long weekend reading.

6. The Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick. Review copy - from the author of The Sixth Lamentation.

7. Drina Bridge by Jim Bartley. This is one of the advance reading copies I received at BookExpo Canada and I've been eagerly anticipating a chance to read it. It's finally neared the top of the "must read" pile, and I think I'm going to slip it in over the long weekend.

8. Before I Wake by Robert J. Wiersema. Another BookExpo Canada treasure.

9. Famous Writer's School by Steven Carter. The last chapter is sealed in an envelope at the end...I love a puzzle.

10. A Thousand Barrels a Second: The Coming Oil Break Point and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependent World by Peter Tertzakian. This has been on my review pile for a while, as I slowly work my way through it. I'm still processing my response to this challenging book and hope to finish the book, and review, this weekend.

11. This is Not Chick Lit: Original Stories by America's Best Women Writers by Elizabeth Merrick.

CONTEST ALERT: I received two review copies of This is Not Chick Lit and decided it was time to hold my first contest. Here are the details - leave a comment here (including a link to your blog/website/profile so I have a way to contact you if you win) telling me your top pick out of what you're currently reading and why. I'll put all the entries in a hat on September 15 and pick the winner.

BOOK REVIEW: Goodbye Lemon by Adam Davies

Jack Tennant is called home by his mother to reconcile with the father he hasn’t seen in 15 years, after the old man succumbs to a stroke and ends up with “Locked-In” Syndrome. Hahva, his girlfriend and a social worker, is convinced that confronting his family demons will help Jack find peace. However, Jack has never told Hahva what the demons are he’s hiding: about his brother Dexter who died when Jack was five; how his father, the alcoholic, was the killer responsible for Dexter’s death; and that his father broke Jack’s finger, effectively ending his musical career. Hahva also isn’t aware of the circumstances surrounding Jack’s dismissal from his Ph.D. program.

Adam Davies’ second novel Goodbye Lemon, published four years after his acclaimed debut novel The Frog King, shows humanity at its rawest, stripped naked in all its messiness. Jack is angry and emotionally infantile, frozen in time in the moment when he lost his brother, but Davies still engenders the empathy of readers and helps them laugh with the follicly-challenged young man, who calls his childhood home the “Suicide Palace.”

Recently, a number of books have been written dealing with the difficult issue of losing a child. This fundamental loss has far reaching consequences on the siblings who remain, providing authors with a wide range of literary options. Davies chooses to explore the family dynamic resulting from the parental decision to erase every trace of a lost child and shut off emotionally from their remaining children. As Jack states: “I wasn’t just robbed of my brother’s life; I was robbed of his memory…I wasn’t allowed to know the first thing about him.” Later on Jack realizes that he didn’t just have the void left by his brother, the emptiness came from losing his parents as well.

In the Tennants, Davies has created a family where each member exists in their own sphere of isolation and obsessions, only periodically intersecting with one another. For fifteen years, Jack hasn’t returned home or dealt with the loss of his brother. He lives a closed life refusing to acknowledge the void he carries with him and his past, yet chooses a life-partner who is a social worker who makes a career out of determining individual’s truthes. Unable to save Dexter or himself, Jack nevertheless makes choices that hint at his desire to be saved; actions countering his words.

Goodbye Lemon is so effective because Davies writes with a plethora of descriptive language, throwing the lack of real communication among the members of the Tennant family into starker relief. He creates soundscapes out of words, filling up the void with invoked sound and scent, often using obscure vocabulary to invoke the right note or image. For some readers this will be invigorating, causing them to rapidly grab for the well-used dictionary; however, for others Davies’ language choices will have the effect of a wall and may cause them to set the novel aside. This would be a shame, for in Goodbye Lemon, Davies has created a novel whose dark humour and heart is sure to delight.

ISBN10: 1594480710
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: August 8, 2006
Binding: Trade Paperback


Sunday, August 27, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: My Life as a Furry Red Monster by Kevin Clash with Gary Brozek

Few adults who had young children in 1996 will forget the Elmo fever that swept the nation as Tickle Me, Elmo become the “must have” toy of the Christmas season. Anyone who unfamiliar with the baby monster prior to the holiday season, quickly became aware of his red fur, contagious laugh, and the unprecedented fist fights which broke out between some parents desperate to buy the toy.

Few however, would have given much thought to the creator of that laugh. My Life as a Furry Red Monster: what being Elmo has taught me about life, love, and laughing out loud is the memoir of Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who has brought Elmo to life for almost 20 years.

My Life as a Furry Red Monster may be considered by some as a clone of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten or the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Although it does contain many of the same life lessons and advocates seeing the world through the eyes of a child, Kevin Clash does more than just replicate Robert Fulghum’s best-selling work. Clash presents readers with a loving tribute to Jim Henson, Sesame Street, and the simple teachings which helped create the foundation for many readers' childhoods.

My Life as a Furry Red Monster celebrates joy, creativity and following your dreams wherever they may take you. For Clash, his delight in performing with puppets led him on a journey, the result of which was his work on Sesame Street. Being Elmo taught him a powerful lesson: the most fundamental power on earth is the human desire to love and be loved, a lesson which he hopes to share with the world in this new book.

ISBN10: 0767923758
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publication Date: September 2006
Binding: Hardcover
Author Website:


Friday, August 25, 2006

Plymouth-Banjul Challenge: Team IronMighty

To date I haven't put any fundraising appeals on my blog but this one definitely deserves a mention! My friend Linda is participating in Plymouth-Banjul Challenge. Anyone who has to dodge minefields and hire armed escorts in order to support charities has my support! And to top it off, she's getting married at the end.
Anyway the end result of this has been that both Dave and I adopted a "life's too short" philosophy and decided to get married. We didn't want to do anything conventional (one of my long-time friends said "Linda, when you get married there's no way it will ever be a normal ceremony"). So this is what we're planning:

We have been accepted to take part in the Plymouth-Banjul Challenge. This is a charity car race of more than 4000 miles, travelling from Plymouth, England to Banjul, The Gambia. On the way we have to navigate a large stretch of the Western Sahara, pass through a minefield in Mauritania and hire armed escorts in Senegal. It is a totally unsupported race - no break-down trucks, no back-up vehicles, no medical staff standing by.

Oh, and by the way, vehicles are not allowed to cost more than £100, with no more than £15 spent on preparing it. Anything else has to be begged, scrounged or borrowed.

On arrival in the Gambia, all vehicles and equipment are auctioned, with the proceeds going to various Gambian charities.

So we figured since we were going to be in the Gambia, we might as well get married there. My dress and Dave's suit will be made by a local tailor when we arrive. The eco-lodge we are staying in are baking us a local style cake. And the ceremony will be simple and short - down on the beach with whoever wants to watch as witnesses.
Linda has a goal to raise £2000 so please visit the website to follow along on their process, and if you are so inspired, make a donation in support of the charities.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Grayson by Lynn Cox

On her daily, early morning swim off the California coast, 17 year-old Lynne Cox experiences fear for the first time. Energy fills the water and Cox herself as she is surrounded by a giant school of grunion that are being hunted by a small school of albacore tuna that try to sweep the young girl out of their way. Just as she is starting to get worried that she’ll get hit in the head by one of the forty-pound tuna, she realizes there is something very large in the water below her, something big enough to be a white shark.

“The water began shaking harder than before and I was being churned up and down as if I was swimming through a giant washing machine. The water shifted, and I was riding on the top of a massive bubble. It was moving directly up from below, putting out a high-energy vibration. I felt like there was a spaceship moving right below me. I had never felt anything this big in the water before.”

As Cox approached the pier, her friend Steve is jumping up and down, waving to get her attention, and shouting. “You can’t swim to shore…That’s a baby whale following you. He’s been swimming with you for the last mile. If you swim into shore, he’ll follow you…The weight of his body on the beach will collapse his lungs and he will die.” The 55°F water has already chilled her body during her hour training swim, but Cox must keep swimming with the three to four month old gray whale if she wants to help him reunite with his mother and pod. Grayson is the true story of how one teenage girl helps a baby whale find its mother in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.

From this synopsis, most readers would expect Grayson to be fodder for the latest tear-jerker “movie of the week” or an inspirational kids’ movie. Grayson; however, is a memoir rather than fiction and shares a young woman’s dedication to helping a young calf reunite with his mother. Cox stays in the water with Grayson for hours, diving to extreme depths when she believes she’s lost him and swimming out far beyond her comfort zone to an oil-rig, where the whale pod was last spotted.

Cox writes eloquently about the experience, sharing her fears and her desire to give up, as well as the motivation she received from the Coast Guard staff, her friend Steve and Grayson himself. Her descriptions of the ocean and her experiences of swimming with schools of fish, a playful pod of dolphins, and finally Grayson’s mother, are evocative - so real that readers are able to feel the fish brush up against their legs.

Cox’s experience is motivational and, if she periodically ventures into verbiage that falls in the “self-help” realm, readers will excuse her, as the magic found in this small book easily makes up for a few lapses. What stands out most in Grayson is Cox’s deep love for the ocean and her gift to readers is her ability to share an experience few will ever have on their own.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0307264548
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Date: August 2006
Binding: Hardcover


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Challenge of Reviewing

Anne at Fernham has written a brilliant article on the challenges of reviewing books and literary criticism. A highly recommended commentary - and food for thought as I continue to develop my skills as a reviewer.
So, I think about Keats and try not to write a thumbs-down review that would kill a young genius. And, I think about Lockhart and try to remember not to judge literature by my own prejudices but, instead, to judge it on its own terms. For me, that means following the lesson of Woolf, who always tried to discern a book’s own goals for itself. What is it trying to do? Does it do it?


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A trip to Book Depot, otherwise known as a book spree

On Saturday I made my first "pilgrimage" to Book Depot in St. Catharines. This is the physical store associated with BookCloseouts, an addictive source for books online. I went with a group of friends and we made a day of it, spending several hours browsing in the cavernous warehouse, followed by a great dinner at Spice of Life in Port Dalhousie (although we may have been a bit raucous for those diners trying for a bit of romance).

Needless to say, I bought books. Wise? Perhaps not, but who can resist the lure of fabulous books at closeout pricing - especially if said books have been on your wishlist for ages.

Here's the list of what I bought (for under $50):
1. We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
2. Population 485: Meeting your Neighbors One Siren at a Time by Michael Perry
3. The Sixth Lamentation by William Brodrick
4. Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired by Benson Bobrick
5. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco
6. The Secret River by Kate Grenville
7. I & Claudius: Travels With My Cat by Clare de Vries
8. Codex by Lev Grossman
9. The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne
10. The Pack: Serenity Falls Book II by James A. Moore
11. Krazy Kat by Jay Cantor
12. The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break: A Novel by Steve Sherrill
13. The Mineral Palace by Heidi Julavits
14. Forever: a Novel by Pete Hamill
15. The Afterword: a Novel by Mike Bryan
16. The Magic Shop by Denise Little
17. Piratica: Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl's Adventure upon the High Seas by Tanith Lee

Saturday, August 19, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly by Robert Dalby

The Piggly Wiggly in Second Creek, Mississippi, supermarket cum community center and town hall, is about to close its doors for good. The Mega-Mart across town has been drawing away customers and Mr. Choppy can’t figure out how to keep his family business afloat.

Riding to the rescue are the “Nitwitts,” a formidable group of the town’s influential widows. Determined to keep their beloved local supermarket in business, the group’s leader Laurie Lepanto comes up with a whimsical solution: the town’s most eligible silver fox and former ballroom dance instructor, Powell Hampton, will dance with the women of Second Creek for two hours each week, while salesclerks do their shopping.

Will the “Nitwitts” ingenious plan save the Piggly Wiggly? Will anyone win the heart of Powell Hampton? And will Second Creek embrace waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly?

The true stars of Robert Dalby’s Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly are the “Nitwitts,” a group of golden-age widows who meet regularly for Bloody Marys, conversation and support. Dalby’s “Nitwitts” are based on a the real life Nitwitts of Mobile, Alabama. According to the Press-Register, the group has “met for Bloody Marys and lunch on the first Monday of each month for the past 30 years. They call themselves the NitWitts, the Witt in honor of Norma Verneuille Wittendorfer, a member of the group who died in 1976.”

Around this core group, Dalby has created a town peopled by the truly eccentric. One of the highlights of this novel is the Annual Floozy contest, which is one of the most outrageous events about which this reviewer has ever had the pleasure to read. The wide cast of characters suggests that Dalby is planning a return to Second Creek in future books, and that is cause for celebration.

Dalby's novel is light-hearted and fun, about standing up for what one believes in and second chances at love. Despite a few uneven spots in the writing, which most likely will smooth out with time and experience, this book is delightful and certain to bring a smile to reader's faces. The wide cast of characters leads this reader to suspect that Dalby is planning a return to Second Creek in future books. If you enjoy eccentric characters and southern charm, then Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly is the book for you.

Robert Dalby is a lifelong patron of the Piggly Wiggly and a native of Mississippi. Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly is his first novel.

ISBN10: 0399153675
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: August 3, 2006
Binding: Hardcover


Friday, August 18, 2006

Man Booker Prize Longlist announced

The Man Booker Prize longlist was announced this week and many litbloggers have posted commentary on the selections. Per the Man Booker site: "The longlist of 19 books was chosen from 112 entries; 95 were submitted for the prize and 17 were called in by the panel of judges."

I'm familiar with a lot of the titles, having seen them in the catalogues, but haven't read any of them yet. I have Peter Carey's Theft: a Love Story and Kate Grenville's The Secret River on their way to me for review. Nadine Gordimer's Get a Life and James Robertson's The Testament of Gideon Mack are already on my pile for review. So now I have to have a look at the rest of the titles and decide which ones I want to try and read prior to the short list announcement on September 14 and the winner being announced on October 10.

Peter Carey - Theft: A Love Story (Faber & Faber)

Kiran Desai - The Inheritance of Loss (Hamish Hamilton)

Robert Edric - Gathering the Water (Doubleday)

Nadine Gordimer - Get a Life (Bloomsbury)

Kate Grenville - The Secret River (Canongate)

M.J. Hyland - Carry Me Down (Canongate)

Howard Jacobson - Kalooki Nights (Jonathan Cape)

James Lasdun - Seven Lies (Jonathan Cape)

Mary Lawson - The Other Side of the Bridge (Chatto & Windus)

Jon McGregor - So Many Ways to Begin (Bloomsbury)

Hisham Matar - In the Country of Men (Viking)

Claire Messud - The Emperor’s Children (Picador)

David Mitchell - Black Swan Green (Sceptre)

Naeem Murr - The Perfect Man (William Heinemann)

Andrew O’Hagan - Be Near Me (Faber & Faber)

James Robertson - The Testament of Gideon Mack (Hamish Hamilton)

Edward St Aubyn - Mother’s Milk (Picador)

Barry Unsworth - The Ruby in her Navel (Hamish Hamilton)

Sarah Waters - The Night Watch (Virago)

BOOK REVIEW: Andean Inspired Knits by Helen Hamann

Helen Hamann presents her first book of knitwear designs, Andean Inspired Knits: Designs in Luxurious Alpaca, a collection of patterns inspired by the pre-Columbian textiles of her native Peru and South America. Along with the exclusive designs, Hamann includes details about pre-Columbian culture, the origins of alpaca and their development through this rich period in Peruvian history.

Due to the dry desert conditions of coastal Peru, textiles dating as far back as 2000 B.C. have survived to the present day, providing an extensive pattern library. Textiles were highly valued during the pre-Columbian period, used as regional currency with the best alpaca fabrics being surrendered to the monarcy as tax.

Hamann utilizes alpacas for the patterns in Andean Inspired Knits, choosing the textile both for the role the animals played in pre-Columbian Andean culture and for the unique luster, warmth, softness and durability. The traditional patterns from which Hamann draws her inspiration were rendered in alpaca or llama. For this book, she works from the five cultural periods existing prior to the Incan empire: Paracas, Nasca, Huari, Lambayeque and Chancay.

Experienced knitters will enjoy Hamann’s approach to form and fit, her non-traditional silhouettes using short-rows and the bold geometrics dominating her designs. Many of the design elements that make her collections popular on the fashion runways, are featured in Andean Inspired Knits. Beginners will find inspiration in Hamann’s designs and colour choices. Duplicate stitch and embroidery are utilized to reproduce some of the detailed patterns of Paracas, Huari and Lambayeque textiles.

Helen Hamann, a native of Peru, is an internationally known knitwear designer and founding member of the International Alpaca Association. She currently resides in Decatur, Tennessee.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1931499934
ISBN13: 9781931499934

Publisher: Interweave Press
Publication Date: September 2006
Binding: Trade Paperback
Author Website:


Thursday, August 17, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld

“Are there situations, long-term situations, where conflict does not wait around every bend, where time does not unspool only in anticipation of your errors” – from The Man of My Dreams

Hannah Gavener is fourteen in the summer of 1991, the summer she is sent away to her Aunt Elizabeth, the summer her mother finally leaves her father. Hannah’s childhood is spent trying not to provoke her father’s fury and in 1991, after he throws his wife and his daughters out of the house, Hannah’s mother decides she’s finally had enough.

However, even though Hannah doesn’t live with her father any longer, she hasn’t escaped his control. Hannah isn’t sure people really live happily, if it’s peaceful and they’re kind to each other, how does their life have any direction? Hannah’s life has always been directed by her father and preventing an escalation of conflict. “Every fight is about not just itself but all your massive personal inadequacies, your fundamental disrespect from him.” Now, as she enters her senior year of college, Hannah has done the unexpected and cut her father out of her life. Without her rudder, how will Hannah plot the course for the rest of her life? At what point does she have to stop blaming her problems on her messed-up childhood?

Curtis Sittenfeld’s first novel Prep was a breakout hit, ending up on many critics “best of 2005” lists. The Man of My Dreams is a novel that focuses inward and, as such, is unlikely to be as popular as Prep. Sittenfeld’s choice to move in a new direction was a wise one. Comparisons to Prep will happen; however, the two works bear little resemblance to each other except for Sittenfeld’s deft writing ability.

The Man of My Dreams, while beautifully written, is not a happy novel. Hannah lives in as unobtrusive manner as possible, avoiding anything that may “stir the pot,” as she has since childhood. Her father was “the weather system they all live with, and all of their behavior, whenever he is around, hinges on his mood.” Aversion therapy quickly trained Hannah and her sister Allison into approved behavior. “Your goal is not to instigate, and if you are successful, avoidance is its own reward.”

The sisters deal with the abuse of their childhood in very different ways. Allison, an outgoing and charismatic young woman, invites male attention and marries at twenty-four, although Hannah isn’t convinced that Allison truly loves Sam. Hannah heads to the other extreme by isolating herself and, when she finally does begin to interact with men, chooses those she can never truly “have,” preferring to be denied rather than having to open herself up to being hurt.

Hannah has difficulty believing that relationships exist where one doesn’t have to walk on eggshells. Her assumptions on male and female roles were formed from her early observations: men are strong and confident; women are “a little wimpy.” These stereotypes are born out later in her experiences in college where she observes the guys picking girls who need to be rescued. And so Hannah floats through relationships, taking whatever is offered to her but investing little of her self.

What isn’t clear is whether Hannah idolizes people who cause trouble or dislikes them. She tends toward passivity, but almost worships her cousin Fig’s flaunting of rules.

Hannah’s journey toward maturity is heartbreaking and what resonates with readers is the need to leave the past behind as new relationships are forged. How Sittenfeld shapes Hannah’s awakening will linger in reader’s minds long after the last page is read.

ISBN10: 1400064767
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: May 16, 2006
Binding: Hardcover
Author Website:


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

“Being an unpublished author is a bit like being an asylum seeker. You know this is where you belong - your Promised Land - but the gate is guarded. You're desperate to get in, but you don't know the rules.” – Marina Lewycka, Guardian Unlimited interview

Two years after his wife Ludmilla dies, Nikolai calls his daughter Nadezhda (Nadia) with the news that he is planning to remarry, to a thirty-six year old Ukrainian immigrant with golden hair, charming eyes, and superior breasts. The fact that Valentina is still married and only wishes to marry eighty-four year old Nikolai to stay in England does not matter, he is caught up in saving this woman from the home country.

Worried that he is being taken advantage of by the voluptuous gold digger, Nadia calls her sister Vera, putting aside years of bitter rivalry to rescue their father from his Big Ideas and the sexy Valentina. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian looks at sibling rivalry, the conflicts between east and west, the status of immigrants, family, aging and the tricky nature of memory.

It is difficult to ascertain how one should approach this first novel by Marina Lewycka. Reading the description, readers can be excused for assuming that this will be a farce about a December – May romance between a randy senior citizen and an upstart new immigrant. And readers wouldn’t be that wrong, for the early pages of Lewycka’s novel are filled with farcical aspects: the image of the dyed blonde fiancée sitting on her octogenarian groom’s knees, letting him fondle her superior breasts immediately leaps to mind.

However, this is also a serious novel about family relationships and conflict: about relations between immigrants and their children; the effects of a post-war mentality on one’s view of the world; abuse on both a personal and political scale; and about conflicting ideologies and political states. How then to balance the two sides of this novel? Can they work together to create a cohesive whole?

Like Mary Poppins told us as children: “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” By tieing her serious messages up in an entertaining package, Lewycka can make some incisive comments on long-lasting consequences of abuse and certain political systems. Within the characters of Vera and Nadia, Lewycka has presented many opposites. Vera represents the asylum seeker and the immigrant, suffering from the post-war mentality, desperate for the luxuries of the west and believing in the superiority of capitalism to provide security. Nadia represents the child born in freedom, able to live and be idealistic, to work to save the world and make it a better place.

Vera believes that Nadia “can afford the luxury of irresponsibility because she’s never seen the dark underside of life.” Nadia believes that Vera “is out to feather her own nest, and doesn’t understand the value of hard work.” These fundamental differences between sisters represent the central conflict presented within A Short History.

Valentina, although portrayed as a money-grubbing wanton, willing to do anything and take advantage of anyone to be able to stay in England, should in some ways be seen as a sympathetic character. Nikolai forgives her anything, blaming it on the “post-war” mentality:
“Clearly this Valentina, she is of quite different generation…In times of the Brezhnev, everyone’s idea was to bury all gone-by things and to become like in West…New desires must be implanted as fast as old ideals must be buried…It is not her fault; it is the post war mentality.”
Valentina is a victim of the horrors she herself experienced however she carries her rage forward and visits it on others. Nikolai and Vera, also victims of violence, seem to expect such treatment.

This raises an important question: if one lives through violence and abuse in an institutionalized manner (that is from the leadership of one’s country), is the result a belief that it is deserve? Does it lead to an inability to leave an abusive situation or predisposition to impose abuse on others? Nikolai is both abuser and abused and, through his inability to understand or deal with the situation, Lewycka proffers no answer these questions instead leaving it to each reader to reach their own conclusions.

Marina Lewycka was born of Ukrainian parents in a refugee camp in Kiel, Germany, at the end of the war, and grew up in England. She teaches at Sheffield Hallam University. She is married, with a grown-up daughter, and lives in Sheffield. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was nominated for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Orange Prize.

Read the review at ReadySteadyBook.

ISBN10: 0143036742
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: March 28, 2006
Binding: Trade Paperback


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Debate on Günter Grass

The world reacts to The Tin Drum author Günter Grass' revelation that he was drafted at 17 to serve in the Waffen SS during the last months of World War II. Questions are being raised if he should give up his citizenship of Poland or his Nobel Prize for Literature. Grass is well-known for his demands that Germans be open about their pasts, while being economical about his own.

The Independent quotes Wolfgang Boernsen, a "cultural spokesman" for Germany's Christian Democratic Union party, as saying: "Günter Grass has spent his whole life setting high moral standards for politicians. It's about time he applied those standards to himself and renounced all his awards - including the Nobel Prize."

What does everyone think?

(thanks to Bookslut for pointing this out and the links)

Monday, August 14, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Greetings from Knit Café by Suzan Mischer

After leaving her high profile job as VP of Specials and Documentaries at CBS to become a stay-at-home Mom, Suzan Mischer dreamed of opening “a place with great yarn, coffee and tea, music and books, and comfortable welcoming chairs where people could relax.” Four months later after finding a designer to share her vision, and the right location, Knit Café opened on July 1, 2002 in West Hollywood, California.

In the intervening four years, Knit Café has become a refuge for knitters and the community, with regular groups meeting in the evenings and students from the private school across the street wandering in for after-school knitting. Over the years, some basic patterns have developed and these are included in the 30 original designs featured in Greetings from Knit Café: a Classic Sweater, a Chanel style Jacket, Knit Café’s Kid’s Club Skirt and a Basic Hat with sizing from baby to large adult.

The patterns here cover the spectrum, offering a broad range of patterns. Rather than presenting a range of sweaters or a book of patterns relating to a specific topic, Mischer has chosen to showcase a range of unique designs guaranteed to satisfying every skill level and taste. Within Greetings from Knit Café, knitters will find patterns for: boxer shorts; an Oscar-worthy Red Carpet gown; a keyboard cover; a polo shirt with subtle shaping; a denim messenger bag with lots of detailing; a saddle blanket; a terry bathrobe; a fabulous stripped bikini; and yarmulke.

An especially useful feature is the exercise section following the patterns, which should help knitters avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and adopt proper posture while knitting. Knitters wishing to create the patterns featured in Greetings from Knit Café should first visit the store’s website, where a few corrections are provided to the book’s patterns.

Greetings from Knit Café features photos and anecdotes from the store and Mischer’s customers, providing knitters with an armchair journey to this eclectic, yet welcoming store.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1584794836
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
Publication Date: July 1, 2006
Binding: Hardcover
Store Website:


Sunday, August 13, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Andean Folk Knits by Marcia Lewandowski

Marcia Lewandowski spent a total of eight years living in Bolivia during the 1980s and 1990s. During this period she developed a love for the hand-knit bags that the women wore as part of the traditional dress, and observed a decline in their usage as they were replace by mass produced items. In an effort to preserve the rich traditions represented by the patterns and colours of these traditional items, Lewanski “began a crusade which took me across five of the countries in the Andes Mountains collecting and recording the bags I found in the marketplace, in the countryside, in museums, and in private homes. I also listened to the stories and folklore associated with the bags I collected.”

The result is the wonderful resource Andean Folk Knits: Great Designs from Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador & Bolivia. Lewandowski collected traditional design, patterns and colours and created the bags and other accessories included in Andean Folk Knits. The first section reviews the history of the Andean people and their traditional folk bags, including: the difference between llamas and alpacas and applications for each type of fiber; the different type and uses of traditional folk bags; and the meaning of the motifs used in their designs.

The subsequent sections each review the styles and colours typical of the knitting in each of the five countries. Sprinkled through, Lewandowski reflects on the natural features of the countries she visited during her travels, providing a window into the life in the Andean Mountains.

While the bags may not be patterns most people wish to carry, Andean Folk Knits is a wonderful addition to any knitter’s reference library. Lewandowski has provided charts for all the symbols and patterns used in her designs and these could easy be adapted for use on sweaters or other garments fitting a knitter’s personal style.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1579909531
Publisher: Lark Books
Publication Date: September 2006
Binding: Trade Paperback


Saturday, August 12, 2006

One Book Meme

Oops! I missed being tagged by Victoria for the meme that's been cycling through the blogs. So, please accept my apologies and here is my response.

1. One book that changed your life:
Only one? Like Victoria, I had books at every major turning point in my life which seemed to speak exactly to the issue of the moment. Picking only one - it would have to be Snowshoe Paws by Margaret Johnson. It filled a lot of age 6 since it was the first book to make me cry and yet fall in love with a particular book.

2. One book you have read more than once?
There are a few that I read regularly but picking one, that would probably be Persuasion by Jane Austen.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
The full edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (yes the one with 13 volumes)

4. One book that made you cry?
Charlotte's Web. How could it not?

5. One book that made you laugh?
Good Omens: Being The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. When the Father of Evil starts speaking in the voice of Freddy Mercury, I just started howling with laughter.

6. One book you wish had been written?
Lady Jane Grey's diary - what did she really think about being a Queen for nine days.

7. One book you wish had never had been written?
Hmm...well rather than mention a specific book, I'm just going to give a category: books that inspire hatred of others.

8. One book you are currently reading?
I'm reading so many right now! The main one I'm working on is The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
My list of books I want to read is over 2,000 now (and that's only those I've written down). There are so many on the list that are "should have read by now" books, so picking one is tough. I'm going to go with A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth since it's sitting on the shelf staring at me right now.

10. Now tag five people
Lotus Reads, Kimbofo, Morsie, Nimrodiel and Danielle.

Friday, August 11, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Butterfly Workshop by Gioconda Belli

Odair, one of the Designers of All Things and grandson of the esteemed inventor of the rainbow, dreams of creating a cross an animal which flies like a bird and has the beauty of a flower. His dream; however, breaks the one strict line that all Designers of All Things must follow: they are not allowed to mix animals and plants.

Odair is blessed with an overactive imagination and continues to dream up new ways to combine the species, an activity which causes the Ancient Wise Woman to banish Odair and his friends to the insect laboratory. “The order of the cosmos is based on harmony, on rules that are perfect in their simplicity. So that you may learn that even the smallest things are designed with wisdom and that the laws of creation should not be taken lightly, we have decided to transfer you…”

Downcast at being transferred to a division where the designers are shy and the creatures ugly, Odair protests and it is only when the Ancient Wise Woman suggests that insects can be beautiful and fun, that things begin to turn around.

The Butterfly Workshop is a delightful tale about an artist trying to find his way in the world. Children will be fascinated by the whimsical nature of Wolf Erlbruch’s illustrations and the creation of many familiar animals. However, to dismiss Gioconda Belli’s tale as purely a story for children would be a mistake.

Contained within this slender volume is a study on the difference between motivation and obsession. Odair’s pursuit of breathtaking beauty pushes him into working longer and longer hours and further into solitude. His friends and superiors try to help him: “You must be careful, Odair.” The Ancient Wise Woman admonished him. “By trying to design something perfect you might end up creating monsters. Your obsession with making life more pleasant and beautiful might, if you’re not careful, result in pain and fear for the other creatures that inhabit Nature.”

Unfortunately, Odair is not satisfied, “I can’t rest until I design something that is as beautiful as the combination of a bird and a flower.” Belli uses this simple tale to show how today’s obsession with perfection and beauty can create evil. Hard work can bring rewards but can result in unexpected and unpleasant consequences.

Belli shows readers that the simplest lessons can be found if they open their eyes and slow down to see the beauty around them. Dreams should be treasured in balance with the rest of one’s life and as Odair’s friends say, “Never again will we laugh at other people’s dreams.” A lesson worth learning, by which everyone should live.

Gioconda Belli's novel, The Inhabited Woman, was a worldwide bestseller. Belli was politically active from a young age, involved in the Nicaraguan Revolution and occupied important positions in both the Sandinista Party and the Nicaraguan Writer’s Union. In 1993 she resigned from the Sandinista Party and now divides her time between Nicaragua and Los Angeles. She is married to Charles Castaldi, translator of The Butterfly Workshop, and has four children. Her next novel, The Scroll of Seduction, is scheduled for publication by Rayo in September 2006.

Wolf Erlbruch, the author of over a twenty-five illustrated books, is the recipient of many international prizes. The Jury of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) recently named Erlbruch winner of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration, which will be awarded in September 2006 at IBBY’s congress in Beijing. Erlbruch currently lives in Wuppertal, where he is a professor of illustration at the University.

Illustrator: Wolf Erlbruch
Translated from Spanish by: Charles Castaldi

ISBN10: 1933372125
Publisher: Europa Editions
Publication Date: May 2006
Binding: Trade Paperback
Author Website:


Thursday, August 10, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Waking Lazarus by T.L. Hines

Jude Allman has cheated death three times: at age eight he drowned; at age sixteen he was hit by lightening; and at twenty-four he freezes to death in a snow storm. Jude wants to know why he is still walking around and he is desperate to get away from the media who has labeled him as a modern-day Lazarus. The worst are the people who expect him to be able to heal them, when he can’t stand to touch anyone. In an attempt to have some sort of life away from the media’s prying eyes, Jude changes his name and disappears into anonymity in a small Montana town.

Now however, Jude’s privacy and solitary life is threatened. He is receiving visions of people’s pending deaths just as children begin disappearing from town. Are these signs pointing toward a brutal child molester? Is he finally about to find out the reason he keeps returning from the dead?

Waking Lazarus is a confident entry into the psychological thriller market. In Jude, T.L. Hines has created a character desperate to hold onto the last strands of sanity he possesses. Living in fear of the supernatural forces seeming to control his life, Jude lives a strictly regulated life guided by extreme paranoia.

As the narrative skips back and forth through time, as well as between narrators, readers quickly become disoriented and confused. This quickly puts readers into a state similar to the one in which Jude exists every day. Whether this was deliberate on the part of Hines is unclear; however it does add to the atmosphere of dread permeating the novel.

The most uneven part of Waking Lazarus is the character of Kristina. She appears suddenly at Jude’s door, knows his history and barges into his home. Despite Jude’s clearly defined paranoia, he still takes time to talk to her rather than throw her out of his home – and agrees to meet with her again. This runs so counter to Jude’s character, as Hines has defined it, to present a stumbling block to the flow of the narrative. This flaw pulls the reader out of the world of the novel and hinders the tension Hines is building.

While this is published by a Christian publisher and marketed as a Christian thriller, many readers may find the scenes written from the viewpoint of the child molester too repulsive, no matter what your religious leaning. This is definitely not a book for the sensitive or for the faint of heart, but if you want your thrillers to delve into a mind filled with pure evil, then Waking Lazarus is probably the book for you.

T.L Hines is the Creative Director for a large Montana advertising agency. While Waking Lazarus is his first foray into fiction, he has been writing professionally for fifteen years with articles published in the Conservative Theological Journal, Travel & Leisure and Log Homes.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0764202049
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: July 2006
Binding: Hardcover


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Dead Fish Museum by Charles D'Ambrosio

Charles D’Ambrosio’s second story collection, The Dead Fish Museum, is a collection of eight short stories, six of which were previously published in The New Yorker. D’Ambrosio has masterfully captured human misery, exposing the darkest place of the human soul to the light of day. Reading some of these stories can be likened to picking up a rock and finding maggots, except in this case, what the reader finds are realities most wish to hide from themselves.

In The Dead Fish Museum, normal lives and healthy relationships are an illusion. D’Ambrosio’s characters are the forsaken, the lost and the marginal of society. A consistent theme found within his stories is despair, often beyond that felt by the “average” person.

Within these eight short stories, individuals are mired in lives where hope barely exists. In ‘Screenwriter,’ the narrator meets a ballerina in rehab, a young woman who burns her flesh to put “the pain in a place I can find it. On the outside.” The narrator suffers from despair; however the ballerina, while appearing to be on the road to recovery, suffers from a deeper anguish which is continually exposed through her attacks on her skin. Ramage, the protagonist of the collection’s titular story, ‘The Dead Fish Museum,’ carries with him a gun which is both his adversary and his passion: “a theater where he poured out his lonely ardor, rehearsing scenarios, playing with possibilities.” While in his mind Ramage still believes he will use the gun to end his life, in reality the gun has become a talisman with all the same comforts a security blanket cedes to a child.

The agony with which D’Ambrosio infuses his stories is almost unbearable, yet there is beauty to be found in his evocative descriptions and word choices. In ‘Screenwriter’ he describes the ballerina’s grandparents: “…with their hopeless, past-tense faces and their old leafy clothes; standing beside them in a gauzy spring dress, the ballerina seemed a mere puff of self, passing like a spirit out of their heavy Old World sadness, whatever it was about.” He shoots out words until their sharp edges almost wound the reader. In ‘Drummond & Son,’ Pete suddenly confronts his father with the statement “Jesus Christ was brain-dead,” a phrase which stops readers dead, like a slap in the face. With one simple, yet aggressive phrase, D’Ambrosio pulls away from the comfort provided by the straightforward narrative, and forces readers to feel Drummond’s despair and loneliness.

Charles D’Ambrosio is the author of two short story collections, The Dead Fish Museum and The Point, as well as Orphans, a collection of essays. A finalist for the Pen/Hemingway Award for his first story collection, D’Ambrosio is known to many as a “writer’s writer,” one who continues to plow his own path, writing essays and stories about what interests him in the world. As he shared in an interview with Dan Wickett (Emerging Writers Forum): “Stories strike a more resonant chord in my soul and wrestling with them I usually come out the other end feeling renewed; essays leave me feeling a little ragged.”

D’Ambrosio is not an author who hawks his work, in fact he is leery of the entire business of promotion. For Orphans, he sent copies of the collection to some bloggers: “The only thing I did on my own was share the book with various bloggers. I'd never heard of these things, these blogs, until the book came out, but my name came up on a few, and I got a quick education, and it immediately seemed like a place where the whole conversation of books, largely an underground thing, these days, was still alive and even thriving. I can't say I sold any books because of blogs but I don't really care --things circulated, and that's enough for me.”

The Dead Fish Museum has garnered a great deal of attention in the blogosphere and quickly became a favourite, promoted on most of the highly respected litblogs. However, no litblog explains D’Ambrosio’s standing as a writer as well as this review by Kirkus Reviews: “Though D'Ambrosio is hardly among the most prolific writers of the contemporary American short story, he ranks with the best....”

Read the review at ReadySteadyBook.

ISBN10: 1400042860
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Date: April 18, 2006
Binding: Hardcover


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Conduct in Question: the first in a trilogy by Mary E. Martin

Harry Jenkins has worked under his senior partner’s thumb for years in a Toronto small estates practice. When his partner drops dead from a stroke in their office, suddenly Harry is on his own and free to run their law-firm his own way. Almost immediately, he is swept into the conflict surrounding the estate of his wealthy client, Marjorie Deighton, and the massive money-laundering scheme engineered by the enigmatic Mr. Chin. Harry is convinced Marjorie was murdered but Sergeant Welkom gives little credence to his theories until Marjorie’s will is stolen and her maid found murdered.

At the root of Conduct in Question is the sadistic murderer dubbed by the media as “The Florist.” The Florist haunts Toronto, a serial killer who marks his victims with his “art,” floral designs he carves into their skin. The Florist hides behind the rigidly controlled mask he presents the world. Is The Florist somehow involved in the money-laundering scheme in which Harry is mired? Will Harry, despite his naïveté and personal troubles, find the answers before The Florist kills again?

Mary E. Martin has crafted a solid beginning to her trilogy of legal thrillers. A bit slow at the start, readers will soon be drawn into the drama created by the bickering members of Marjorie’s family, and the slowly blossoming relationship between Harry and realtor Natasha Boretsky. Harry is a very human character who is torn between his desire to uphold the ethics of the law and to keep his practice afloat. The manner in which Harry faces these dilemmas provides heart to this thriller.

Mary E. Martin, a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, practiced law in Toronto for twenty-eight years. Conduct in Question is her first novel.

ISBN10: 0595358209
ISBN13: 9780595358205

Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.
Publication Date: September 2005
Binding: Trade Paperback
Author Website:


Tealish and Trinity-Bellwoods Park

Readers of Eclectic Closet may soon lose patience with me for continually mentioning Type Books; however my friend Jennifer pointed out that I forgot to mention an integral part of visiting the bookstore. After picking out your selections, wander around the corner to Tealish (198 Walnut Street, Toronto, 416-203-3301), pick up a fantastic cup of iced tea or a tea smoothie and then go find a bench in Trinity-Bellwoods Park where you can read and sip while enjoying this fabulous weather. Tealish has only been open a few weeks but has an extensive selection of loose leaf teas and a great atmosphere.

Monday, August 07, 2006

After cottage report

I had such grandious reading plans for the long weekend and did read quite a lot; however, not nearly as much as hoped. The weather was so fabulous and the lake so inviting for swimming.

I did manage to read The Dead Fish Museum by Charles D'Ambrosio, Sins and Needles by Monica Ferris, and 1/3 of Douglas Brinkley's massive tome, The Great Deluge. Reviews of the first two will be posted here in the next few days.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Dearth of posts this week

As CAP's horoscope for Scorpios implies (see below), I'm rather tired right now. Alright, I'll be honest - I'm burned out. I had too many late nights in a row finishing a giant grant application and I'm now so burned out I haven't been reading at all! The horror...

I'm cottage bound tomorrow am, to take part in the annual Canadian tradition of retreating to a cottage when temperatures soar, tempers fray and peace and loon calls become a necessity. (For those not in possession of a family cottage, we cling to friends who have the coveted trophy, hoping and begging for an invitation.)

Since I am going to a cottage with other people, I will have to limit the number of books I bring since some social interaction is required. I'm hopeful that the chance to catch up on some sleep, and read while looking at the lake, will lead to lots of reading. This requires careful consideration and planning. I have a lot of reading that "has to get done" for reviews but a cottage implies fun reading.

After much pondering, here's what I've packed:
1. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
2. The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley
3. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist
4. A Peach of a Murder: A Fresh-Baked Mystery by Livia Washburn
5. The Ravaging Tide: Strange Weather, Future Katrinas, and the Coming Death of America's Coastal Cities by Mike Tidwell
6. The Dead Fish Museum: Stories by Charles D'Ambrosio
7. Sins and Needles by Monica Ferris

August Horoscopes are up

Did I mention I love Crazy Aunt Purl's horoscopes, have a total infatuation with the way she writes?

Here's mine...she certainly nailed my past few months...
SCORPIO (Oct. 24 - Nov. 21)
All work and no play makes Scorpio so irritated and tired and annoyed that at any minute ya'll are about to fling off and snatch someone baldheaded. I know that the work you're doing is VERY good, and this whole period from about March onward has been exhausting, and kind of rewarding but still, you're tired, and why can't you just get some peace and quiet already! but you just have to endure a few more weeks of nose-to-grindstone and then you can take a much needed rest. If it's any consolation, this entire Jupiter-infused period of your life has been really excellent for your future financial picture. Does that help? A little?
So how does your horoscope look this month?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Medieval Psalter found in Irish Bog

This should be of interest to anyone who was intrigued by my review of Lake of Sorrows by Erin Hart. A Medieval Psalter was found recently in the bogs of the Irish Midlands, the same area portrayed in Hart's novel. The Medieval Psalter is estimated to have been in the bog for 1,000 - 1,200 years.

According to The Guardian:
"The National Museum of Ireland hailed the discovery as the "Irish equivalent to the Dead Sea scrolls" and the "greatest find ever from a European bog". The Dead Sea scrolls, found in the mid-20th century, contain some of the earliest known surviving biblical documents...The 20 or so pages, which seem to be those of a slim, large format book with a wraparound vellum cover, were taken to the museum last Friday. After a long and painstaking process of restoration, they will be displayed in its Early Christian gallery alongside such treasures as the Ardagh chalice and the Derrynaflan paten."
The National Museum of Ireland Press Release on the find can be found here.

Thanks to Reading Matters for pointing out this find.