Wednesday, October 25, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Spin to Knit: the Knitter's Guide to Making Yarn by Shannon Okey

Have you ever been in the yarn store wishing that a particular specialty yarn came in a different color or contained beads rather than eyelash? Perhaps you wished that beautiful alpaca hand-dyed came in lace-weight rather than bulky? Many knitters naturally take up spinning as a way to design yarns to fit specific projects and to gain a better understanding of the individual characteristics of the various types of fiber and the methods of yarn construction.

In Spin to Knit: the Knitter’s Guide to Making Yarn, Shannon Okey walks new spinners through the basic information required to begin spinning: fiber, spindles, wheels, and techniques. Spinning can be done on traditional spinning wheels; however, for those wishing to try this craft out before making an investment in tools, Okey provides instructions to make a basic spindle and a “lazy kate” out of supplies you may have around the house.

While the first half of Spin to Knit covers tools and techniques, the second half contains patterns designed for handspun yarn. Whether you have 25 yards or 2500 yards of spun yarn, Okey suggest methods to incorporate the yarn into a knitted project. The felted Mammoth Tea Cozy designed by Laura Jefferson is the most unusual project in Spin to Knit. The majority of the projects are sweaters and accessories, designed to highlight the beauty of handspun fibers and allow the individual characteristics of the yarn to stand out.

Scattered through the book are profiles of fiber artisans or those who make spinning tools. A resource directory is included at the back and contact information is also included at the end of each profile. Spin to Knit is a great resource for any knitter wishing to learn more about spinning.

Orangina, a sample pattern from Spin to Knit, can be found in the Fall 2006 edition of Knitty, an online knitting magazine.

Power Station Hat, one of the fun hat patterns, is available free on the Spin to Knit website.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1596680075
ISBN13: 9781596680074

Trade Paperback
128 Pages
Publisher: Interweave Press
Publication Date: October 2006


Monday, October 23, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Incantation by Alice Hoffman

"I am someone
I never would have imagined.
A secret.
A dream…
body and soul…"

Growing up in the small village of Encaleflora, Spain, Estrella deMadrigal is aware of the Spanish Inquisition but believes it has little to do with her. She and her family attend one of the Catholic Churches in town and her brother is studying to be a priest. However, Estrella is forced to face the brutal reality of the Inquisition as Jews from the ghetto are murdered and she discovers her own family’s secrets – they are Marranos, a community of Jews who public profess to Roman Catholicism while secretly practicing their Judaism and Kabbalah at home.

Shortly after this momentous discovery, her family's secrets are made public and Estrella confronts a world she's never imagined, where neighbours turn on each other, where friendship ends in flame, and where betrayal has tragic and bitter consequences. To create a future for her family, Estrella must reach deep within herself and find sources of strength to craft a new reality.

Incantation, Alice Hoffman’s newest novel for young adults, introduces readers to a turbulent period in European history through the eyes of Estrella. Sixteen year-old Estrella enjoys spending time with her best friend Catalina, believing that their destiny is to marry and live next door to each other. “We thought we knew exactly what our lives were made of: still water, not a moving river.”

Fate; however, has different plans for Estrella and Catalina. In 1478, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella established the Spanish Inquisition in a bid to maintain Catholicism in their kingdoms and in 1500 the Inquisition arrived in Encaleflora and snared Estrella and her family in its trap.

In Incantation, Hoffman has crafted a compelling coming of age story. At a time when the biggest decision facing her should be choosing a young man to marry, Estrella must confront a life built upon lies. Yet even within this dark period, Estrella manages to find dignity and hope.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0316010197
ISBN13: 9780316010191

176 Pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: October 4, 2006
Author Website:

Further Reading:
The Cross by Day, the Mezuzzah by Night - Deborah Siegel
Mystery of the Missing Candlestick - June Weltman


Sunday, October 22, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Knitting for Peace by Betty Christiansen

For as long as people have been knitting, they have been knitting for other people. Often called “charity knitting,” “community knitting” or “knitting for others,” knitters have been bonded by a desire to make the world a better place, “through handmade gifts of love and peace.”

In Knitting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time, Betty Christiansen has interviewed knitters across America to find out how knitting was helping people around the world. Christiansen set out to find the stories behind the movements and to collect them into this unique volume, sharing how “we can, stitch by stitch, inch the world in a more positive direction.”

In each of the first four section - Peace and War; Peace on Earth; Peace at Home; and Peace for Kids – Christiansen delves into the organizations making a difference through knitting. She explores their history, how they are being the change they wish to see in the world and how knitters can assist their efforts.

Some are organizations such as Lantern Moon and Peace Fleece, companies making a difference by providing employment, income and self-reliance for producers. Others are aid organizations such as Afghans for Afghans, an organization providing warmth to families in Afghanistan. Scattered throughout are patterns appropriate for knitters to make and donate to the featured organizations.

The final section, “Knit for Peace,” provides helpful hints for finding projects not covered by Christiansen, for individuals and for groups. Knitting for Peace has projects sure to appeal to everyone and is the perfect gift for the compassionate knitter on your gift list. Since a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Knitting for Peace will be donated to charity, this is the gift that gives twice.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1584795336
132 Pages
Publisher: Stewart Tabori & Chang
Publication Date: October 2006


Saturday, October 21, 2006

I've been quoted!

What a thrill to discover that you are being quoted by an author in their press material. I'm still waiting for that elusive quote on the book jacket!

Here are links to quotes I've discovered:

For The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster

For Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman

For The Scot, the Witch and the Wardrobe by Annette Blair

For The Unwritten Girl by James Bow

For In Arctic Waters by Laura Crawford

For Some Like it Haute by Julie K.L. Dam

For Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante

For A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch

For Waking Lazarus by T.L. Hines

For The Exquisite by Laird Hunt

For Miss Understanding by Stephanie Lessing

For The Inhabited World by David Long

For The Things That Matter by Edward Mendelson

For The Restoration of Emily by Kim Moritsugu

For Luxury Knitting by Linda Morse

For Damsel Under Stress by Shanna Swendson

For Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Thursday, October 19, 2006

2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize - Shortlist Announced

The Scotiabank Giller Prize awards $40,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English and $2,500 to each of the finalists. The Scotiabank Giller Prize is named in honour of the late literary journalist Doris Giller and was founded in 1994 by her husband Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch.

The winner will be announced on November 7, 2006.

2006 Shortlist
* DeNiro’s Game by Rawi Hage (House of Anansi Press)

* Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam (Doubleday Canada)

* The Perfect Circle by Pascale Quiviger (Cormorant Books)

* The Immaculate Conception by Gaétan Soucy (House of Anansi Press)

* Home Schooling by Carol Windley (Cormorant Books)

It is interesting to note that Rawi Hage has been nominated for both the Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award this year.


2006 Governor General's Awards for Fiction

From the Press Release:
Ottawa, October 16, 2006 — The Canada Council for the Arts announced today the names of the finalists for the 2006 Governor General’s Literary Awards, in English and in French, in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, children’s literature (text and illustration) and translation.

A total of 68 books have been nominated for this year’s awards; 36 of the shortlisted writers, translators and illustrators are finalists for the first time.

The Canada Council for the Arts funds, administers and promotes the Governor General’s Literary Awards, worth $15,000 each. The publisher of each winning book will receive $3,000 to support promotional activities. Non-winning finalists will each receive $1,000 in recognition of their selection as finalists, bringing the total value of the awards to more than $300,000.

The winners will be announced on Tuesday, Nov. 21 at 10 a.m. at simultaneous news conferences in Toronto and Montreal.

Nominees for Fiction (English)

The Law of Dreams by Peter Behrens

The Fearsome Particles by Trevor Cole

Gargoyles by Bill Gaston

The Dodecahedron, or A Frame for Frames by Paul Glennon

DeNiro’s Game by Rawi Hage

I've only read one of this year's nominees - The Dodecahedron - (an all-time low for me!) but it was fantastic. I reviewed this at the beginning of July and highly recommend it. Overall, it looks like a fantastic group of nominees - more titles to add to my must-read list.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Hidden Assassins by Robert Wilson

On Monday, June 5, 2006 Inspector Jefe Javier Falcón faced the most mutilated corpse he has ever had to investigate: scalped, faced burned by acid, handless and found on a garbage heap. The next day a massive explosion destroys an apartment building and preschool, killing many and putting the region on high alert. When it’s discovered that a mosque was in the basement of the razed building, everyone’s worst terrorist fears are realized. As political and media pressure intensifies, Falcón works frantically to uncover the truth, while facing personal tragedy connected to the case.

The Hidden Assassins is the third volume in the Inspector Jefe Javier Falćon series. Fans of British police procedural mysteries are the logical audience for Wilson’s novels; however, readers should expect to put some work into unraveling the structure and hierarchy of the Spanish police and judicial system.

Robert Wilson writes crisp, lean prose that veers toward the austere, throwing the horror of destruction and violence into sharper relief. With no padding, the reader is left no choice but to confront the picture Wilson presents. In a crime of terrorism, “truth” is slippery, changing with each person’s perspective. Utilizing terse, unambiguous prose, Wilson ensures this point is unavoidable to readers. Terrorism and violence are horrific and yet, somehow, Wilson provokes empathy for almost all his characters. By the final pages, readers understand the motivation of the main players, while still questioning the outcome of the case.

The Hidden Assassins can be read as a stand-alone work, although some of the undercurrents will make more sense if you’ve read the previous two books in this exceptional series. Those interested in the political aspects of The Hidden Assassins should read the excellent interview with Robert Wilson at HarperCollins Crime & Thrillers.

In the interview, Wilson explains the connected history of Morroco and Andalucia, two regions that are essentially the same other than their religions and some culture. He delves into the arrival of terrorism in continental Europe and its incorporation into the work of Inspector Jefe Falćon and Wilson’s books. As the interview explains: "But after the Madrid bombings on March 11th 2004, and their startling effect on Spain's election results, Rob knew he had to deal with the issue. Islamic terrorism had come to mainland Europe and contributed to a change in government and that was unquestionably going to affect his characters."

In addition to the Inspector Jefe Javier Falćon series, Robert Wilson is also the author of the Bruce Medway series and two stand-alone novels, A Small Death in Lisbon and In the Company of Strangers. In 1999, A Small Death in Lisbon was awarded the Golden Dagger Award by Crime Writers’ Association.

ISBN10: 01510129393
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
464 Pages
Publication Date: November 2006
Binding: Hardcover

Javier Falcon series:
1. The Blind Man of Seville
2. The Silent and the Damned (US Title: The Vanished Hands)
3. The Hidden Assassins


Friday, October 13, 2006

Fall Title Feature

I wrote this article in August for an online publication which did not end up using it. So, even though it is already early October I thought it was worth posting here.

2006 has been a year of scandals for the publishing industry. In January, James Frey’s bestselling memoir A Million Little Pieces was exposed as fiction by The Smoking Gun, to the utter embarrassment of one of the author’s biggest fans, Oprah Winfrey.

Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, took Random House and Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, to court for breach of copyright. Baigent and Leigh claim that Brown “stole the whole "architecture" of their non-fiction work.”

A few months later Kaavya Viswanathan was exposed as a plagiarist. The Harvard student, whose heavily promoted novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life has since been recalled by Little, Brown & Co., was accused of flagrantly copying the works of authors Megan F. McCafferty, Salman Rushdie, and Sophie Kinsella, with over 40 specific instances now cited.

So after all this excitement, what should readers expect in the remaining months of 2006? The fall is generally when most publishers release their “big guns,” the titles they expect to lead sales in the lucrative Christmas sales rush. With so many new releases on the horizon, how does a reader determine what to read?

If you survey the litblogs, most seem to be eagerly waiting for St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell, a collection of short stories (Knopf, September) and The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón (Hill and Wang, September). If you go by the trade publications, the focus seems to be on the lead nonfiction titles, such as Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City by Jed Horne (Random House, July) or Palestine: Peace not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter (Simon & Schuster, October).

2006 may not see a blockbuster title release on the magnitude of a Harry Potter or The Da Vinci Code; however, a wide range of great and exciting titles continue to be published each month. Interesting experimental and “literary” fiction continues to be offered, often from smaller publishers. With the rise in litblogs and the ease of online book purchases, readers have access to a much broader range of titles than ever before.

After attending BookExpo Canada (the annual book publishing trade show) earlier this year, I believe that reports of books being “doomed” are grossly exaggerated. Publishing may change but readers will always want books. With that in mind, here are some of the titles I believe will catch some “buzz” in the coming months.

Giraffe by J.M. Ledgard (Penguin Books, August). J.M. Ledgard is a foreign correspondent for the Economist. Giraffe, a debut novel, is based on the true story of the massacre of the largest herd of giraffes ever in captivity.

The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud (Knopf, August). A comedy of manners in a post-September 11th New York City, from a masterful observer of human nature.

Only Revolutions: A Novel by Mark Z. Danielewski (Pantheon, September). Danielewski, author of the cult hit, experimental horror novel House of Leaves, has taken his experiments in literature in this story about teenage lovers. Printed on two sides, readers hear the story from Hailey's point of view, flip it over and get Sam's.

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell (Knopf, September). A debut collection of ten short stories on the perils and pains of growing up in a dysfunctional home, from an author many are heralding as the next great voice of American literature.

The Interpretation of Murder: A Novel by Jed Rubenfeld (Henry Holt, September). A historical thriller featuring Sigmund Freud inspired by his one visit to New York City in 1909. Freud is drawn into the mind of a sadistic killer who is savagely attacking Manhattan’s wealthiest heiresses.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (Atria, September). In this tribute to gothic novels, Margaret Lea, a London bookseller's daughter, is invited by author Vida Winter to her estate in Yorkshire. Having finally decided to share the secrets which made up her tragic past, she has selected Margaret to be the author of her biography and repository of her ghosts.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (Crown Books, September). Chronicling the apocalyptic years through the testimony of survivors, Brooks creates a chilling account of the Zombie War which came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity.

Lisey’s Story by Stephen King (Scribner, October). In the two years since author Scott Landon died, professors and collectors have tried to get their hands on his unpublished manuscripts and letters. After receiving threats, Lisey decides to prepare her husband’s papers for donation to an appropriate archive. From there, the story heads off into typical Stephen King territory.

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson (Little Brown, October). After retiring a millionaire at the end of Case Histories, former detective Jackson Brodie once again finds himself in the midst of several mysteries which intersect in one giant and sinister scheme.

Restless by William Boyd (October). Restless is the story of Eva Delectorskaya, recruited in 1939 in Paris and trained as a spy. Fast-forward 30 years and Eva is living a quiet life in the Cotswolds as Sally Gilmartin, when suddenly she must confront the demons of her past.

The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford (Knopf, October). Resuming in the fall of 2000 where Frank Bascombe’s story left off (Independence Day), Richard Ford’s long awaited sequel may be his finest work yet. Its release is sure to be one of the main literary events of the fall.

The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits (Doubleday, October). In late afternoon on November 7, 1985, sixteen-year-old Mary Veal was abducted after field hockey practice at her all-girls, New England prep school. Or was she? A novel of many layers and twists.

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier (Random House, October). After his stunning success with his debut novel Cold Mountain, Frazier made his fans wait for almost ten years for Thirteen Moons. A novel of one man’s passion for a woman and how her loss, and love, can shape a man’s destiny.

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra (HarperCollins, January 2007). Weighing in at 912 pages, Sacred Games is the epic saga of a notorious Hindu gangster and a police inspector whose lives unfold and eventually intersect with cataclysmic consequences.

Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City by Jed Horne (Knopf, August). A Times-Picayune metro editor vividly depicts the storm and its horrific aftermath, through the stories of the men and women who experienced it.

The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science and What Comes Next by Lee Smolin (Houghton Mifflin, September). With clarity, passion, and authority, Smolin, one of the founders of Canada's Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, charts the rise and fall of string theory and takes a fascinating look at what will replace it.

The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón (Hill and Wang, September). The 9/11 Commission report and final report card in graphic format from two giants of the comic industry - the 9/11 Report for every American.

The War of the World: Twentieth Century Conflict and the Descent of the West by Niall Ferguson. A consideration of why unprecedented progress has coincided with unprecedented violence and why the “seeming triumph of the West bore the seeds of its undoing.” A big book from an influential historian. (September 2006)

50+: Igniting a Revolution to Reinvent America by William Novelli (St. Martin's Press, October). Novelli, the CEO of AARP challenges boomers on their role in America.

Palestine: Peace not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter (Simon & Schuster, October). Former US President Jimmy Carter’s assessment of what must be done to bring permanent peace to the Holy Land.

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham (Doubleday, October). Grisham’s first nonfiction title is sure to be a big hit. Ronald Keith Williamson, a second-round draft pick of the Oakland Athletics in 1971, was convicted in the late 1980s of raping and killing a waitress in Oklahoma. Williamson was five days away from execution in 1999 when he was exonerated by DNA evidence.

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson (Crown Books, October). Larson, author of The Devil in the White City (2003), pairs the story of Hawley Harvey Crippen's unhappy marriage (leading to a love affair with young Ethel Le Neve and the murder of his wife) with Guglielmo Marconi's struggles to develop and perfect wireless technology in the face of adverse weather, envious fellow scientists, and everything in between. Marconi’s technology is eventually used to apprehend Crippen.

Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield (Da Capo Press, November). The shocking, decadent, true story behind the making of the Rolling Stones' beloved double album Exile on Main Street.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Kiran Desai wins 2006 Man Booker Prize

From the press release:
Youngest ever woman wins Man Booker Prize at age of 35

Kiran Desai was tonight (Tuesday 10th October) named the winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Inheritance of Loss, published by Hamish Hamilton.

The Indian-born writer has a strong family tie with the prize as her mother Anita Desai has been shortlisted three times since 1980 but has never won. This year, however, her daughter, Kiran, has won the acclaimed literary prize.

Author of the 1998 universally praised Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, Desai is the first woman to win the Man Booker since 2000 when Margaret Atwood scooped the prize with The Blind Assassin. Her winning book, The Inheritance of Loss, is a radiant, funny and moving family saga and has been described by reviewers as ‘the best, sweetest, most delightful novel’.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Knit 2 Together by Tracey Ullman & Mel Clark

Most people are familiar with actress Tracey Ullman for her zany sense of humour and the eccentric characters she created over many years. What most people won’t know is that she is an avid knitter who learned to knit at age four but for most of her life was only able to knit long “holey” scarves, never having learned the mysteries of increases and decreases.

That all changed when Tracey discovered that knitting was enjoying a renaissance and knitting stores were offering both classes and yarns that weren’t anything like the “tightly wound, bottle green acrylic type” of her youth. Soon Tracey had made a new friend in Mel Clark; the owner of wildfiber, a knitting store in Santa Monica, California. The two decided to collaborate on a knitting book geared to knitters like Tracey, who “may be just starting out but quickly realize that they want to learn new skills and take on a challenge.”

Featuring more than 30 of Mel Clark’s original patterns, Knit 2 Together: Patterns and Stories for Serious Knitting Fun is definitely not your grandmother’s knitting book. This is fun knitting for people who don’t mind being noticed; knitting inspired by Tracey Ullman’s kooky sense of humour. What other knitting book would include a pattern for a knitted gym slip, complete with bloomers (called Witches Britches); a tutu tea cozy or an anemone-inspired messenger bag?

Although the book doesn’t include the pattern for Tracey’s knitted dreadlocks, the sense of fun needed to make your own and wear them is definitely present in this fabulous book. So grab a cuppa, your best girl-pal and kick back with Tracey and Mel for a good dose of giggles and inspiration.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1584794844
ISBN13: 9781584795346

168 Pages
Publisher: Stewart Tabori & Chang
Publication Date: October 2006


Monday, October 09, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

Jackson Brodie, retired from the private investigation business after a client leaves him her millions, has spent the last two years living a life of ease in France. In Edinburgh for his girlfriend Julia’s performance in a Fringe Festival play, Jackson ends up a reluctant witness to a rear-end collision cum road rage incident. As a chain of events is set in motion, a number of the bystanders’ paths begin to intersect with Jackson: the wife of an unscrupulous real estate tycoon; a timid but successful crime novelist; and a hardheaded female police detective.

As the other bystanders begin experiencing unexpected consequences from witnessing the accident, Jackson is attacked by the Honda driver and then charged for defending himself. Suddenly Jackson must figure out what is going on if he wants to keep out of jail, and have time to figure out why Julia is acting weird.

After years of writing award-winning literary novels, Atkinson scored a breakout hit with Case Histories, her first foray into the mystery genre. In One Good Turn, Jackson Brodie returns and faces a puzzling mystery that unfolds over four days. Atkinson doesn’t write straightforward mysteries with a central crime that must be solved; rather, she presents details and events that are slowly woven together to create an emerging image. Certainly the reader can guess at what is emerging; however, Atkinson possesses a master’s skill and readers may be unaware at how effectively they are being manipulated.

To avoid any spoilers, little can be said about the plot of One Good Turn. As always, Atkinson creates characters so real that it wouldn’t be surprising to find them striding off the page. One Good Turn features some truly irritating characters, shallow to the extreme.

The sign of a good writer is one who can emotionally engage the reader in the created world. Atkinson is a literary writer, renown for her ability to create character studies and here she uses irritation to engage her readers. Some of the characters are so banal, passive and frustrating that the reader almost wishes violence upon them. And with that realization, readers are forced to face their own inner evil and propensity to violence, as the characters are within One Good Turn.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0316154849
ISBN13: 9780316154840

432 Pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: October 11, 2006


Sunday, October 08, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Natural Knits for Babies and Moms: Beautiful Designs Using Organic Yarns by Louise Harding

Inspired by the organic yarns encountered on a visit to America, Louisa Harding decided to design a collection reflecting her “philosophy of new life and new babies: keeping them wrapped in as natural an environment as possible, just like the one they’ve come from.” The result is Natural Knits for Babies and Moms: Beautiful Designs using Organic Yarns, 21 patterns for mother and infant for their first eighteen months together.

Harding has provided patterns in organic wool and cotton, as well as wool/cotton blends. Her designs range from layettes to nursing sweaters to toddler sweaters and matching stuffed animals. With an ever-increasing range of organic yarns to choose from, Harding has deliberately selected simple designs to allow the natural beauty of these yarns to shine.

With many books and pattern leaflets of infant designs available, a knitter may well ask what recommends this book besides Harding’s name? The simple answer is that these patterns provide basic shapes upon which to build your own designs. The classic hats, booties and toys can be adapted to suit the style of any expectant mother, making this a book you will use for years to come. The more complex answer is that the nursing sweaters Harding has designed are unique and flattering and a “must knit” for the expectant mother on your gift list. These are designs you won’t find in any other knitting book.

With a new nephew on the way, this book arrived at a timely moment. I have some organic cotton in my stash that I’ve been itching to try and the “Harvey Kimono” looks like just the pattern to make for his Christmas arrival.

Louisa Harding is an internationally renown knit designer best known for her work with Rowan Yarns as an in-house designer. She and her husband Stephen Jessup created the “Miss Bea” line of knitting books.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1596680105
ISBN13: 9781596680104

Trade Paperback
128 Pages
Publisher: Interweave Press
Publication Date: June 1, 2006
Author Website:


Saturday, October 07, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Knitting Nature: 39 Designs Inspired by Patterns in Nature by Norah Gaughan

When I first heard that Norah Gaughan was publishing a book of knitting patterns, I was very excited. Her patterns have always delighted me for they tend to incorporate her love of science, as well as interesting knitting shapes and construction. Knitting Nature: 39 designs inspired by patterns in nature did not disappoint, within moments of opening I had found countless patterns I wanted to start knitting immediately.

Knitting Nature takes its inspiration from the book The Self Made Tapestry by Philip Ball. Gaughan found it in a bookstore and as she explains “it was filled with patterns and shapes that I knew would relate to the shapes I wanted to use in my knitting.” The patterns in Knitting Nature, as the title implies, draw their inspiration from the natural principles. Gaughan explains it best in an interview found on the website: “I was definitely approaching nature from a physics point of view. Rather than looking to the things we associate with nature (like leaves, flowers, and trees), I found in natural objects the examples of physical principles.”

The patterns are unique and look incredibly challenging; however, as Gaughan states in her introduction, “I like things to look complicated, but have an underlying simplicity.” The patterns in Knitting Nature are organized by their underlying shapes: hexagons, pentagons, spirals, phyllotaxis, fractals, and waves.

Knitting Nature includes a wide range of patterns, from skirts to sweaters to accessories. The designs themselves range from fairly basic scarves to very unique outfits, sure to provide something for every taste. An added bonus is the truly stunning photography by Thayer Allyson Gowdy. Knitting Nature is a recommended addition for any knitting library.

Norah Gaughan, is the design director for Berrocco Yarns and has been working in the design industry for more than 20 years. An internationally known knitwear designer, her work has been featured in all the major knitting publications. Knitting Nature is her first book.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1584794844
176 Pages
Publisher: Stewart Tabori & Chang
Publication Date: April 2006


BOOK REVIEW: Luxury Knitting: The Ultimate Guide to Exquisite Yarns by Linda Morse

When knitters enter a yarn store today, they have an endless selection of fibers from which to choose. Increasingly, some of those choices are high end, luxury fibers with equally high price tags. Most knitters would relish to opportunity to knit with cashmere, but want the exactly right project to warrant the cost.

Luxury Knitting: the Ultimate Guide to Exquisite Yarns Cashmere ● Merino ● Silk is designed to help knitters over the hurdle of purchasing luxury yarns. The culmination of Linda Morse’s personal journey searching for the most superb yarns, she chronicles time spent talking to yarn suppliers, testing fibers, reading books about textiles and touring the factories making these exquisite yarns.

More than just a book of patterns, Luxury Knitting explains just what makes these fibers so special and helps knitters understand the characteristics that make them so exceptional. By understanding the yarns, knitters are better able to turn them into exceptional pieces, which will be cherished for years to come, and understand the price tag associated with the fibers. Morse helps knitters understand why one type of cashmere is better than another and which luxury fiber is best suited for the piece you wish to make.

Luxury Knitting is required reading for any knitter wishing to undertake a project with these yarns. While the patterns may not appeal to all, the information contained in this volume is essential. Once a knitter understands the properties of these special fibers, she’ll be better able to select the appropriate yarn and pattern for that special project, resulting in an investment piece she’ll wear for years to come.

Linda Morse is the owner of String, a high-end knitting boutique found in the heart of New York City’s fashion district, which specializes in providing knitters with the most luxurious yarns available. Luxury Knitting is her first book.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1931543860
ISBN13: 9781931543866

128 Pages
Publisher: Sixth & Spring Books
Publication Date: November 2005


Friday, October 06, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Swimming Upstream, Slowly by Melissa Clark

Sasha Salter is on the fast-track to success. She has her own hit children’s TV show Please Pass the Salter, she’s being profiled as one of the “20 under 30-Ones to Watch”, and she’s living a life she loves. So the news that she’s pregnant, even though she hasn’t had sex in more than two years, is completely unwelcome. Quickly her life spins out of control: the specialist she’s sent to wants her to track down every man she’s ever had sex with; Melanie, the writer profiling her for 20 under 30 is determined to ferret out all her secrets; and Sasha doesn’t know if she’s ready to be a mother. Are “lazy sperm” going to make her the poster girl for medical anomalies, or will the journey down the rabbit hole turn out to be a blessing in disguise?

Swimming Upstream, Slowly takes as its basic premise an unlikely occurrence – lazy sperm – and then explores the painful ramifications of such an event. The confusion, denial and painful outcomes experience by Sasha are to be expected; however, Melissa Clark pulls to the forefront the comedic elements which prevent Swimming Upstream, Slowly from becoming just another “poor me” chick lit novel.

Beginning novelists are advised to “write what they know” and Clark has taken that to heart. The creator/executive producer of the award-winning children’s show Braceface, Clark’s knowledge of the inner workings of children’s programming clearly shows in Please Pass the Salter. This solid framework of verisimilitude makes the plot device of “lazy sperm” more believable, preventing readers and critics from dismissing Swimming Upstream, Slowly as too extreme or silly. The strong base of reality allows doubt to creep in for readers and renders Sasha’s fears more potent and sympathetic.

Like most first novels, Swimming Upstream, Slowly has a few uneven moments. The character of Melanie comes off a bit forced at times and occasionally the pacing feels off; however, these minor glitches will smooth out with time as Clark’s writing continues to mature.

Read the review at Front Street Reviews.

ISBN10: 0767925262
ISBN13: 9780767925266

Trade Paperback
240 Pages
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publication Date: September 2006
Author Website:


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Sins and Needles by Monica Ferris

When Lucille Jones walks into Crewel World, Betsy notices that she looks an awful lot like Betsy’s friend Jan Henderson. It turns out that Lucille is an adoptee and she’s in town searching for her roots, convinced that Jan must be her sister. Everyone becomes suspicious when Jan's eccentric great-aunt is found dead in her bed, and the only ones to inherit her fortune are the female children of her nieces. Was it just fortuitous timing that led Lucille to town?

Sins and Needles is the 10th book in the Betsy Devonshire needlecraft mystery series and this time the customers of Crewel World are focused on sock knitting. Part of the enjoyment of this series is discovering how Monica Ferris will incorporate the featured needlework skill into the mystery.

Unlike many of the earlier offerings in this series, Betsy and Godwin do not play as central a role in this book. Sins and Needles focuses mostly on Jan, Lucille, the members of their extended families and the challenges faced in clearing Jan’s name.

Those who enjoyed the Stanley Steamers featured in A Murderous Yarn, will be delighted by Great-Aunt Edyth’s Baby Gar boat and details about boating in the 30s and 40s.

Since Betsy is not as central a character in Sins and Needles, there is little development with Betsy’s personal life. While this was an enjoyable read, this reviewer missed the banter between Detective Mike and Betsy. Their chemistry adds a welcome element to this series.

For an overview of this series, visit Front Street Review.

ISBN10: 0425210030
ISBN13: 9780425210031

320 Pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: June 27, 2006
Author Website:


Monday, October 02, 2006

The 2006 Book Sense Halloween Top Ten

Book Sense has announced their Halloween Top Ten (part of the "Get Caught Reading" campaign)and two books I've reviewed this year made the cut.

#2 - The Mercy of Thin Air: a Novel by Ronlyn Domingue

#8 - The Inhabited World: a Novel by David Long

If you haven't read these titles yet, may I suggest you take the earliest opportunity to pick these up? Oh, and what books would be on your top ten for Halloween?

What is Get Caught Reading?
Get Caught Reading is a nationwide book and magazine industry-supported literacy campaign to remind people of all ages how much fun it is to read.


BOOK REVIEW: Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

Thirteen-year-old Tiffany Aching is a trainee witch, but not just any witch. Tiffany comes from the Chalk and gained from her talents from her Gran. When she was 9, Tiffany went up against the Fairy Queen before she had any training. When she was 11, she had to battle an evil that steals bodies. And then there’s the little matter of the Nac Mac Feegles - the little blue pictsies who consider it their duty to keep watch over Tiffany and consider her to be their “big wee hag.”

Granny Weatherwax sent Tiffany out as apprentice to Miss Treason, one of the scariest witches around, and her training is going well until the night she joins the Dark Dance (the transition from summer to winter) and draws the attention of the Wintersmith.

Now it’s snowing miniature representations of Tiffany and the Wintersmith is in love for the first time. Can Tiffany fix things or will it be winter forever?

Some of Terry Pratchett's best books are the ones where he takes on fairy tales, perhaps because all of them feature Granny Weatherwax. These books have an imposed structure (the original tale which provides the outline) and theme within which Pratchett works his magic. Granny provides the necessary acerbity to counter the arch sweetness of fairy tales, although Pratchett's versions are much darker than the originals.

Wintersmith is closer to the earthy fairy tales of old, touching on Tiffany's burgeoning sexuality. Since Tiffany is no ordinary witch, it makes sense that her first sensual adventure would be with the embodiment of winter.

In Wintersmith, readers meet some of the other young witches-in-training - perhaps setting the stage for future books in the "Witches" series (Lords and Ladies, Witches Abroad)? Wintersmith is the 3rd Tiffany Aching adventure, following Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky.

ISBN10: 0060890312
ISBN13: 9780060890315

Trade Paperback
272 Pages
Publisher: HarperTempest
Publication Date: September 26, 2006


Sunday, October 01, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

In 1999 John Berendt shot into the limelight with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, a book that won him an unprecedented four-year run on the New York Times bestseller list. Seven years later, Berendt presents readers with his long-awaited second book – The City of Falling Angels.

What readers enjoyed most about Midnight is Berendt’s ability to capture a sense of place with words. Readers felt as if they had traveled to Savannah, investigated the mystery themselves and knew the eccentric denizens intimately. Berendt’s legion of fan will be delighted to know that his familiar tone graces The City of Falling Angels, and readers will be quickly captured by the charms of Venice.

City opens on the evening of January 29, 1996, the night a devastating fire destroys the historic Fenice opera house. This catastrophic loss is soul-destroying for many Venetians and, fortuitously arriving in Venice three days after the fire, Berendt chronicles the aftermath.

While peripherally an investigation into the causes of the Fenice fire, really this event only provides Berendt the setting, around which to wrap a chronicle of the characters he meets in Venice. Once again, Berendt appears to be a magnet for the eccentrics, whom appear drawn to any notorious city. As Berendt hunts for the key players to help him understand the political dynamics shaping the reconstruction of the Fenice, he uncovers the love/hate relationship many Venetians feel for their city – and the constantly shifting political sands driving any major effort in Venice.

Venice is a city loved by many tourists and in City, Berendt explores the efforts many have made to save the history, art and architecture from the ravages of rising water and decay. In a post-9/11 world, many understand the symbolism a building can represent. Places tend to mean much more than just the daily uses citizens make of it. In the Venice of permanent residents, the Fenice is one of the few remaining buildings that is theirs, rather than the tourists’. Rebuilding it means restoring the soul of this magnificent city and Berendt brilliantly chronicles the political challenges complicating the task.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0143036939
ISBN13: 9780143036937

Trade Paperback
416 Pages
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Publication Date: September 26, 2006