Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Upcoming Small Press Titles - Spring/Summer 2007

In honour of Small Press Month, here are a few titles I'm eagerly awaiting. Perhaps I should say, some of my Top Picks.

* The Collaborator of Bethlehem by Matt Beynon Rees (Soho Crime Press, February 1, 2007)
* Greed: a Novel by Elfriede Jelinek (Seven Stories Press, April 1, 2007)
* Havana Blue by Leonardo Padura (Bitter Lemon Press, UK April 2, 2007/US June 2007)
* Eternity Is Temporary by Bill Broady (Portobello Books, April 12, 2007)
* The Fugitive by Massimo Carlotto, trans. by Antony Shugaar (Europa Editions, April 15, 2007)
* The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett (Persephone Books, April 19, 2007)
* Out of Cleveland: short stories by Lolette Kuby (Esplanade Books, Canada May 7, 2007/US September 2007)
* Memories from a Sinking Ship: A Novel by Barry Gifford (Seven Stories Press, May 10, 2007)
* The Incomplete Husband by Ben Faccini (Portobello Books, June 2007)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring/Summer 2007 from Houghton Mifflin

The biggest title in Houghton Mifflin's Spring/Summer 2007 line is the much anticipated The Children of Húrin, the final Tolkien book due for release on April 17, 2007. Here are my picks:

* The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien, Edited by Christopher Tolkien (April 17, 2007)
* The Visible World: a Novel by Mark Slouka (April 19, 2007)
* Incendiary Circumstances: A Chronicle of the Turmoil of Our Times by Amitav Ghosh (April 23, 2007)
* The Last Chinese Chef: a Novel by Nicole Mones (May 4, 2007)
* A Day at the Beach: a Novel by Helen Schulman (June 1, 2007)
* Fun Home: a Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (Trade Paperback release, June 5, 2007)
* The Inhabited World: a Novel by David Long (Trade Paperback release, July 2, 2007)
* On Kingdom Mountain: a Novel by Howard Frank Mosher (July 11, 2007)

I've been a huge fan of the Miss Read novels (pseudonym of Mrs. Dora Saint) since I first visited Fairacre and Thrush Green in the early 90s. Houghton Mifflin is releasing four novels in the Fairacre series in new editions in August and I would highly recommend them, along with the first volume Village School for anyone who loves quiet British character novels.

"The English village of Fairacre, comfortably nestled in the heart of the Cotswolds, is a picturesque place of tile-roof cottages, a historic church, a post office, and a small primary school. Through the school’s beloved headmistress, Miss Read, we meet the inhabitants of Fairacre and share in their trials and tribulations, their milestone celebrations, and their daily joys."

* Village Diary
* Storm in the Village
* Over the Gate
* The Fairacre Festival
* The Caxley Cronicles: containing Market Square and The Howards of Caxley

Sunday, March 25, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Knitty Gritty Knits by Vickie Howell

As Vickie Howell says on her website, "Craft This!" She is on a personal quest to eliminate the negative social stigma attached to knitting and crafting by bringing more recognition to the hip, creative, and edgy sides of these forms of expression. Her popular show on DIY Network, Knitty Gritty, features projects and techniques, taught by some of the today’s best-known knitting personalities and designers. Viewers are invited to join Vickie and her Knitster Girls as they showcase projects suitable for all levels of knitters.

In Knitty Gritty Knits: 25 Fun & Fabulous Projects, Vickie has collected projects featured on the show, including one from Lily Chin. What makes this book particularly suitable for beginners is the first section on knitting basics. Everything from basic stitches to gauge swatches to knitting tools is covered. Projects feature close-up photos at crucial stages, to enhance the written instructions. Unfortunately, there are no extra or bonus projects provided in the volume, only projects included on the show.

The patterns in Knitty Gritty Knits will appeal to the hip and trendy, as well as novice knitters. Fans of The Breeders and Kelley Deal will be eager to knit Deal’s Rock Star Bag. Amy Finlay has designed a thigh garter with pockets to handle essentials such as lipstick and ID, for those wishing to travel light on their next night out. Tina Whitmore’s felted backgammon board can either be rolled up for easy transport or side panels and handles can be added to use the game board as a tote.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1579909167
ISBN13: 9781579909161

Trade Paperback
128 Pages
Publisher: Lark Books
Publication Date: January 28, 2007
Author Website:


Saturday, March 24, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Pretty in Punk by Alyce Benevides & Jacqueline Milles

Pretty in Punk: 25 Punk, Rock, and Goth Knitting Projects is THE knitting book for anyone who came of age in the 80s, idolized everything British and is more Vivienne Westwood than Laura Ashley in their fashion sense. Alyce Benevides and Jacqueline Milles, owners of the counter-culture knitwear company knit-head, have gathered together 25 of their signature designs and invite knitters to “unleash their inner rockstar.”

Beginning with their signature Mohawk hat (currently being sported by Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore on tour) in the chapter “For the Head”, the designs in Pretty in Punk are divided into six sections depending on where on the body the garment is to be worn. While the patterns themselves are simple (suitable for beginners although there are no learn to knit instructions), these designs have serious attitudes. Benevides and Milles’ sense of style carries throughout production of this book. Everything here reflects punk, rock and goth sensibilities; from the high-fashion style photographs to pattern names – although in this case, punk gets a nudge of luxury for these ladies aren’t above using cashmere.

Even if your style no longer runs to mod micro-minis or sporting the union jack, Pretty in Punk is the perfect inspiration for your inner rebel. Instead of plain gauntlets, why not indulge your quirky side by using the “Love Bites” arm warmer pattern? My inner goth is mentally digging through the stash to find the perfect mohair for the “Goth Girl” jumper and “Vamp” scarf. Benevides and Milles suggest that anti-authority knitting means injecting yourself into what you make, whether your style is goth, mod, punk, ska or rockabilly, it’s all about individuality. “All you need is two sticks and a ball of yarn.”

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0811857441
ISBN13: 9780811857444

Trade Paperback
120 Pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: May 3, 2007
Author Website:
Photos courtesy of Pretty in Punk MySpace


Friday, March 23, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: KnitKnacks: Much Ado About Knitting

KnitKnacks: A small ornamental article used in the act of knitting; a trinket no knitter should be without (from the back cover of KnitKnacks)

With the resurgence of interest in knitting has come a commensurate interest in vintage knitting patterns. When not actively knitting, we enjoy reading about the world of knitting and the obsession we have with sticks and strings. With KnitKnacks: Much Ado About Knitting, Voyageur Press has combined these two elements presenting images from vintage pattern books, old photos and artwork along with essays from several well-known knitters.

The three essays are humourous and cover a range of topics. Laura Billings asks the question “Could knitting be so addictive that it’s like a drug” and helps knitters determine when they’ve crossed the line from recreational knitter into an honest to goodness addict. Clara Parkes considers the journey from yarnilepsy to yarnirvana and hopes that her personal story will help others realize that, no matter how long the journey, it is possible to reach yarnirvana and its infinite rewards. Sigrid Arnott ponders on knitting for the man in your life as a means of staving off guilt and has found creative ways to ensure your gifts are truly useful and tailored to his interests. Grab the needles and some nylon rope and knit your man an Electric Cord Snood or use twine and wooden beads and knit up a Car Seat Shrug. And don’t forget to read Arnott’s small section at the end and you too can use guy talk; never again will your partner’s eyes glaze over as you discuss your latest project. “Have you seen my on-demand textile fabrication toolkit?”

Knitters are encouraged to see themselves in the images of knitting in unusual places and the vintage images used to illustrate the various signs of yarn addiction. Muffled laughter is a sure sign that you recognize the “signs that yarn (and acquiring more of it) dominate your existence.” This little book is the perfect size to slide into a knitting bag and skim when you need validation that you are not alone in your relationship with yarn.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0760328471
ISBN13: 9780760328477

96 Pages
Publisher: Voyageur Press
Publication Date: April 15, 2007


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: The Virgin of Flames by Chris Abani

Black, a bi-racial mural artist in East L.A., lives above “The Ugly Store” café run by his friend Iggy. Depressed and haunted by the ghosts of a tortured childhood, Black’s life is focused on his art, his obsession for the transsexual stripper Sweet Girl and the space ship he has built on the roof. Black’s mind has fused together the Virgin Mary and Sweet Girl into the inspiration for his newest work, an homage to Fatima as the Virgin of Flames.

Black’s identity and sexual confusion has been influenced by several critical factors. His Nigerian-born father believed in an Igbo family curse in which a malevolent spirit kills the male children and to prevent this, he dressed his son as a girl until age seven. Around the same time, he was sent to Vietnam on a NASA-related mission, during which he disappeared and was presumed dead. The death of her husband sent Black’s Salvadorian mother into religious fanaticism in which she forces her son to spend hours in prayer while kneeling on rice and other acts of mortification of the flesh. When she was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in Black’s early teens, he nursed her until her death, after which Black traveled around the US for several years.

Chris Abani’s latest novel, The Virgin of Flames, is a seething mass of conflicted emotion and despair. Black floats through life in a self-focused bubble, unaware of the damage he causes his friends, acquaintances and the devote Catholics of Los Angeles. His practice of donning the wedding dress he stole from Iggy and climbing on his space ship has been reported as sightings of the Virgin of Guadalupe. “The Ugly Café” has become a site of pilgrimage for devout Catholics, a fact which doesn’t trouble Black – although the increasingly frequent visitations from the angel Gabriel (sometimes as a pigeon) do.

Black carries with him rituals which help order the chaos of his life, many of which are tied to his art. He views the painting of Fatima as his salvation, “the mystery was the only thing that could save him now.” In the same way that the devout are seeking a miracle at the “Ugly Store,” Black is seeking a miracle at the feet of his 50-foot Fatima.

What that miracle may be is unclear and Adani’s suggests that Black is conflicted. Part of him seeks a transformation while, at the same time, he desperately fights to maintain his masculine identity. The violence of his surroundings reflects the violence swirling within his soul. His friends inhabit a world of violence and exhibit the same tendency to self-flagellation; Ray-Ray with his drugs, Iggy in her piercings and tattoos, and Bomboy who translated his childhood experience killing in Rwanda into a profitable career as a butcher.

The Virgin of Flames disturbs as it illuminates, causing a visceral reaction for most readers who will find themselves recoiling from the truths revealed in Abani’s dazzling prose. This is a novel which will linger long after the final page is read.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 014303877X
ISBN13: 9780143038771

Trade Paperback
290 Pages
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: January 30, 2007
Author Website:


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: My Name is Bosnia by Madeleine Gagnon

“Who would have imagined that in wartime you could want so much to love?”

Sabaheta, despite her young age, has experienced great loss and violence. Her brother is taken by thugs, causing her mother to retreat into madness. Sabaheta turns herself into a boy to join her father and the guerillas fighting in the forests until the day her father is killed. After burying him in a makeshift grave, Sabaheta changes her name to Bosnia and returns to her life in Sarajevo as a female in hopes of finding friends and a way to escape.

Back in Sarajevo, Bosnia finds her friend Adila still resides in their student apartment with her partner Marina. The reunion with friends provides Bosnia with comfort and a brief respite, although the daily search for food and water is still fraught with peril. The girls benefit from supplies their friend Adem gets through his position with the Bosnian resistance army. After several months with supplies and fuel running low, the girls dream of finding a way to leave their birthplace and find a country where they can live in peace; however, the price for that peace may be more than they are willing to pay.

My Name is Bosnia developed from Madeleine Gagnon’s research for her non-fiction work Women in a World at War: Seven Dispatches from the Front. Her research took her to the former Yugoslav republics of Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina; Israel and Palestine; Lebanon; Pakistan; and Sri Lanka where she collected stories from women whose lives have been torn apart by war. As Rachel Hanel states in her review of Women in a World at War: “They’ve endured horrors most of us raised in the Western world could only dream of – living in a rape “camp,” having a baby girl killed because she is not a boy, or seeing most male family members – fathers, brothers, sons -- brutally killed in war.”

The greatest gift humankind has is hope. Despite war and conflict, people still fall in love, have children and dream of a new life. My Name is Bosnia is Gagnon’s meditation on maintaining hope during the worst examples of human violence. Having lost everything except Adem, Bosnia pushes forward into the future. “But she did not want to dwell on memories; she had submitted herself to the duty of forgetting in order to survive. So she appealed to the future and threw herself into endless scenarios of which she was the heroine – when you’ve come out of hell, it is hard to imagine a happy fate other than your own.”

Keeping hope alive not only provides a future for survivors, it is also their responsibility. It some cases, they are the sole remnants of their culture, language or religion. Their survival ensures that the world will never be able to forget. Even though Bosnia does not always see a destination when she looks into the future, she continues forward. This is the message that Gagnon wishes to share with readers, no matter what how large or small the conflict face, people must move take the first step forward. Hope must be maintained.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0889225427
ISBN13: 9780889225428

Trade Paperback
256 Pages
Publisher: Talonbooks Ltd.
Publication Date: August 25, 2006

Talonbooks Ltd. - Publishing from the Margins

About Talonbooks Ltd.:
Talonbooks Ltd., founded in Vancouver in 1967, publishes authors of international stature, writing in the literary genres of poetry, fiction and drama, as well as non-fiction books in the fields of ethnography and environmental and social issues. Its authors' books continue to make a difference to the world we live in. They have contributed to the establishment of protected wilderness areas and the redress of social injustices; they have given a public voice to First Nations peoples; and they have been recipients of many prestigious national and international awards for arts and letters. (Information courtesy of Literary Press Group of Canada)


Monday, March 19, 2007

2007 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction Longlist Announced

The longlist for the 2007 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction has been announced, with 20 books on the list. (None of which I've read, although I have two in my possession.)

* Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

* Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan

* Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk

* The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

* Peripheral Vision by Patricia Ferguson

* Over by Margaret Forster

* The Dissident by Nell Freudenberger

* When to Walk by Rebecca Gowers

* A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

* The Observations by Jane Harris

* Carry Me Down by MJ Hyland

* The Girls by Lori Lansens

* Alligator by Lisa Moore

* What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn

* The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

* Careless by Deborah Robertson

* Afterwards by Rachel Seiffert

* Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley

* Digging to America by Anne Tyler

* The Housekeeper by Melanie Wallace

The shortlist will be announced on April 17 and the winner named on June 6.

"This year’s longlist honours both new and well-established writers, featuring eight first novels alongside Margaret Forster who is longlisted for her 23rd novel and Anne Tyler who is listed for her 16th novel. Three authors appearing on this year’s list have previously been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, whilst a further three authors have also been longlisted.

There are nine British authors on the list, four Americans, two Australians and two Canadians. The other three are from China, India and Nigeria."

So many good books that I haven't read.

(courtesy of Reading Matters)

BOOK REVIEW: The Annotated Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s story of love and misunderstanding in late 18th century England is perhaps best known for its opening sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” The Bennett family has five daughters and, since the estate will pass to a cousin on their father’s death, the girls must make good marriages if their futures are to be secure. When the wealthy Mr. Bingley moves into the neighbourhood, Mrs. Bennett is determined that Jane, her eldest daughter, will win his heart. All seems to be progressing according to plan until Bingley’s snobbish friend Mr. Darcy whisks him away from Netherfield, leaving Jane devastated and her sister Lizzie sure the cause is Darcy. When Darcy then proposes to Lizzie, she is astonished and roundly denounces him for the pain he caused her family.

Originally published in early 1813, Pride and Prejudice became a literary success before the end of the year. This new edition has been annotated and edited by David M. Shapard, a specialist in European history of the 18th Century. The Annotated Pride and Prejudice follows faithfully the text of the first edition (1813), which was checked by Jane Austen. The only changes made to the text were to make spelling or capitalization of proper names consistent.

The text is presented on the left page and annotations are presented on the right page. Annotations are provided on a wide range of topics: literary interpretations, word meanings, explanations of items such as a “chaise and four” which in some cases include illustrations, and explanations of historical context. While this classic can be enjoyed without the extras, understanding the small distinctions between a phaeton, gig, carriage and “chaise and four” can help demystify social interaction in 18th Century society. For anyone wondering what four or five thousand a year would be today (Bingley's estimated income), Shapard explains the sources of a gentleman's income and what it would be worth today ($250,000 - $300,000 US per year).

Devotees of Austen’s work will find that The Annotated Pride and Prejudice provides a fresh illumination to a favourite work. Those reading it for the first time will find the annotations, maps, and bibliography helpful in understanding this exceptional novel.

Of special interest is the chronology Shapard includes for the events in the novel. The specific dates Austen provides are not consistent with the novel happening in 1811 - 1812. Shapard provides various theories on the debate and as he concludes: "no specific year can be identified as the clearly appropriate one for the novel's chronology, and that the safest course, except for the early part of the novel, is to be precise when possible about the sequence of days, without ever assigning specific calendar days."

Although Persuasion is my favourite Jane Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice is still one I read regularly. Using The Annotated Pride and Prejudice for this year's reading forced me to slow my pace and savour the text anew. Even though this is a novel I've read numerous times, the annotations still provided some new information and helped confirm suppositions made in past readings. I'll be keeping both this new edition and my old faithful copy and future readings will probably be a combination of the two.

Read my condensed review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0307278107
ISBN13: 9780307278104

Trade Paperback
784 Pages
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publication Date: March 13, 2007


Friday, March 16, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: How to Marry a Ghost by Hope McIntyre

Lee Bartholomew is having relationship troubles so she jumps at the chance to leave London and travel to the Hamptons to attend her mother’s commitment ceremony to the Phillionaire. Plus it gives her the opportunity to interview for the job to ghostwrite rock legend Shotgun Marriott’s autobiography. The aging rocker is more reknown for waking up beside a dead groupie in the 60s than for his music but has always refused to talk about it until now. Lee isn’t pleased to discover that her ghostwriting competition, Bettina Santa Cruz, has been in New York for two weeks and appears to have won the ghostwriting job.

A Miss Havisham-like woman briefly interrupts her mother’s beachside commitment ceremony but it doesn’t seem to bother the happy couple. Unfortunately the body of Shotgun Marriott’s son washing up on the beach dressed in a wedding dress marks the end of festivities. When Bettina is also murdered, Lee suddenly finds herself filling her rival’s shoes investigating Shotgun’s past. Faced with a bevy of suspects, none of whom she wants to believe is guilty, Lee undertakes her own investigation. Since Shotgun is also the prime suspect in his son’s murder, should Lee worry about ending up in the same state as Bettina?

How to Marry a Ghost is the second mystery book by Hope McIntyre featuring neurotic ghostwriter Lee Bartholomew. McIntyre has taken an acerbic recluse with minimal social graces and turned her into a winning heroine. As Lee slowly learns to know the residents of the East End of Long Island and their secrets, readers uncover details of her turbulent relationship with Tommy.

McIntyre has woven together not only an interesting cast of characters but several fascinating plot lines. Lee’s search for a new family circle, Franny’s secret past and possible relationship with Rufus, “Miss Havisham’s” story, and, of course, Shotgun Marriott’s history all intertwine with the central mystery to create a complex and satisfying novel.

At times readers may become frustrated with Lee's obsessive nature and “undercover polar bear” nature (the males and females don’t live together, coming together only to mate - her picture of the ideal marriage); however, in this cast of eccentrics she becomes a shining star. Long before Bettina’s body is found, readers will be firmly in Lee’s corner.

Hope McIntyre is the pseudonym of well-known author and editor Caroline Upcher. She is perhaps best known for her work as ghostwriter on Naomi Campbell’s novel Swan.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0892960140
ISBN13: 9780892960149

368 Pages
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Publication Date: January 3, 2007
Author Website:


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Twinkle's Big City Knits by Wenlan Chia

Wenlan Chia launched her fashion design label Twinkle by Wenlan in 2000 and made her runway debut in 2002. Famous for turning chunky yarn into feminine designs, Wenlan creates shapes such as tuxedo jackets, shrunken capelets and unique scarves as well as a range of sweaters. No longer are chunky yarns only for oversized, baggy sweaters.

In Twinkle’s Big City Knits: 31 chunky-chic designs, Wenlan shares some of the patterns which have made her clothes sought after by fashionistas everywhere. Included are her famous signature pieces: the seed-stitch Twinkle Hoodie, the Best Friend Cardigan, and the Shopping Tunic. The designs are fashion-forward and fitted; many of these garments are meant for layering.

The majority of the patterns are designed using Twinkle’s own line of handknitting yarns, although some Lopi and Classic Elite yarns are also featured. Patterns range in finished chest size from 22” to 35”, meaning the largest size garment is a women’s size 10. Many knitters will have to undertake serious alternations to the patterns if they want to make a larger size, meaning this may not be a book for all knitters.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0307346110
ISBN13: 9780307346117

160 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: February 13, 2007
Author Website:


Monday, March 12, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Luscious Craving by Cameron Dean

Sexy vampire killer cum security agent Candace Steele has her hands full at the Scheherazade casino. As the year draws to a close, the No-Limits Foundation Charity Poker Tournament is ramping up with the final game to occur on New Years Eve. When rumours of a con tied to the tournament become more persistent, Candace is assigned to determine just how involved the vampires are in the setup.

When Candace meets Michael, one of the players in the tournament, sparks fly and they quickly become involved. The last thing Candace wants is to become involved with someone; however when Ash reappears in her life, Michael seems to be exactly the distraction she needs. Unfortunately the information she uncovers on the con seems to suggest that Ash may be in danger. Now she is in a race against time to save the man she loves and her job.

In this second installment of her Candace Steele vampire killer series, Cameron Dean raises the bar she set in Passionate Thirst. What makes Luscious Craving so enjoyable is the additional insight it provides into Ash and Candace’s relationship. Dean provides Ash’s perspective on his relationship with Candace and the events of the fateful night in the elevator. By fleshing out Ash into a three dimensional character, Dean allows reader to feel empathy for him and understanding of his motivations. Readers will also understand the extent of challenges facing Ash and Candace, if they ever hope to have a real chance at happiness.

Cameron Dean intersperses this serious relationship development with details of Candace’s life in Las Vegas. It is through these small details, such as information on the type of barriers in front of the casinos or a group of vampires who style themselves as the reincarnation of the Rat Pack, that Dean brings to life the flamboyant nature of Las Vegas. Candace’s friend Bibi and campy mole Blanchard also help lighten the mood. Blanchard inevitably comes out with a line guaranteed to get a laugh, such as his description of Candace: “I swear to God, you have the fashion sense of a fruit fly.” However, it is exactly these types of flaws which make Candace such a lovable heroine.

Cameron Dean has established a solid foundation for future volume in this series. The development of Ash and Candace’s relationship will be fascinating to watch a lovable heroine.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0345492544
ISBN13: 9780345492548

Mass Market Paperback
328 Pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: December 2, 2006


BOOK REVIEW: The Elegant Knitter by Gina Macris

In The Elegant Knitter, Gina Macris has designed a collection of quick projects. “But no matter where you go with your knitting, rest assured that the finish-line will never be very far from the starting point. Sometime life calls for a quick yarn fix. A little ball of softness calls and we can’t wait an entire sweater’s length of time to see the results. Hence this book.”

Macris has focused on accessories in this book: scarves (Macris’ favourite accessory), hats, mittens, gloves, bags and even two sweaters for your favourite pooch. To each pattern she adds her special flair - an interesting stitch pattern, a unique detail or a luxurious ribbon - to enhance the elegance of the project.

The first part of the volume includes the technique information required for the project in The Elegant Knitter. In addition to the basics, Macris covers cabling, felting, short row and Fair Isle techniques, as well as colour and yarn theory and selecting appropriate embellishments.

Many of the projects in The Elegant Knitter are suitable for beginning or novice knitters, with a few intermediate projects providing knitters something to which they can aspire. All the projects are small enough to be easily portable and since the yarn requirements are minimal, luxury fibers could be selected for a truly exceptional piece. The most unusual project is the Shibori Scarf. Knit as a simple rectangle in alpaca, glass pebbles are wrapped into the fabric prior to felting, creating a unique, three-dimensional look.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1402739923
ISBN13: 9781402739927

128 Pages
Publisher: Sterling
Publication Date: April 1, 2007


Friday, March 09, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: The Exquisite by Laird Hunt

“Once upon a time I was someone and then that stopped.”

Henry, a destitute New Yorker, is instructed by his friend Tulip to visit the apartment of Aris Kindt who has lots of things worth stealing. In truth, Tulip has sent him there to meet Mr. Kindt, who is seeking another member for his crew of assassins. The eccentric, herring-loving Mr. Kindt stages simulated murders for New Yorkers suffering from post-9/11 anxiety.


Henry, a destitute New Yorker is sinking into a life of vagrancy until the day he wanders into the path of a florist’s truck. At the hospital Henry’s daily visitor Mr. Kindt, also under the care of Dr. Tulp, convinces him to make money by stealing pharmaceuticals.

Is Henry living one life or two?

Laird Hunt’s new novel, The Exquisite, is stylishly noir. Alternating between the two stories of Henry, readers are presented with two potential realities. In both scenarios, Henry is a troubled, young homeless man. He is drawn into the orbit of Dutchman Aris Kindt, whose mysterious origins are somehow connected to the corpse depicted in Rembrandt’s painting, The Anatomy Lesson.

To review The Exquisite without revealing important details is difficult. Unlike many mysteries, there is no key “crime” which must be unraveled. Instead, readers must unravel Henry’s situation and, at the same time, the mystery of Aris Kindt.

Any serious consideration of The Exquisite must consider the painting with which it is so closely connected. Hunt has given two of his key characters names from the painting. Aris Kindt is a criminal like his namesake and Dr. Tulp, Henry’s doctor at the hospital, bears the same name as the anatomist from the painting. Sprinkled throughout are hints that there are closer ties to the painting than just character names.

According to A.C. Masquelet, Rembrandt is not portraying a typical anatomy [dissection] lesson. “This is not a static, descriptive anatomy lesson, but a lesson in physiology and functional anatomy. It also displays one of the essential qualities of Rembrandt’s genius: the depiction of movement.”

So with this interpretation of Rembrandt’s painting in mind, how does Hunt mirror these concepts in The Exquisite? Hunt focuses on the nature and meaning of identity and death. The movement in Hunt’s novel comes from Henry’s shifting understanding of connections and relationships. As Henry tries to dissect the changing patterns of his relationships, and the power dynamics swirling around him, the reader is forced to question Henry’s reliability as a narrator and determiner of truth.

While readers may initially focus on determining what is “real” in Henry’s situation, what will linger is Hunt’s playful use of language. He uses unusual descriptions, “the lamplight loving away at her cheekbones,” and frequent repetition to create a tide of words meant to sweep away his readers. At one point, Aris describes Rembrandt’s painting to Henry: “Then it became, in its combination of spectacle and fervid speculation, quite blurred.” He could easily be describing what Laird Hunt has achieved with The Exquisite.

ISBN10: 1566891876
ISBN13: 9781566891875

Trade Paperback
256 Pages
Publisher: Coffee House Press
Publication Date: September 1, 2006
Author Website:

Coffee House Press - Where Good Books are Brewing

About the Coffee House Press:
Coffee House Press is an award-winning, nonprofit literary publisher. We produce books that present the dreams and ambitions of people who have been underrepresented in published literature, books that shape our national consciousness while strengthening a larger sense of community.

Coffee House Press was founded in 1984, and took its name from the long tradition of coffee houses as places for the free exchange of ideas, where each individual had equal time for expression, regardless of station or background. The English coffee house of the 1600s was a place of fellowship and discussion of the events of the day. The Parisian cafes of the early 1900s witnessed the birth of Dadaism, cubism, and surrealism. The American coffee house of the 1950s, a refuge from conformity for beat poets, exploded with literary energy. This spirit lives on in the pages of Coffee House Press books.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

March is Small Press Month

March is the month to celebrate all things small press. From the organization's website: "Now in its 11th year, this is a nationwide promotion highlighting the valuable work produced by independent publishers. An annual celebration of the independent spirit of small publishers, Small Press Month is an effort to showcase the diverse, unique, and often most significant voices being published today. This year's slogan is Celebrate Great Writing."

Even though this is an American organization, I've decided to call March Small Press Month here at Eclectic Closet. I have a number of small press books on my shelves awaiting review and I will highlight as many of these as I can over the next few weeks, beginning with The Exquisite by Laird Hunt (Coffee House Press, September 1, 2006). I also plan to highlight the spring/summer releases of some Small Press publishers. So check back and discover some great writing!

To get you in the mood, here is some small press trivia:

Did You Know?

1. Almost 80% of all books published in 2005 were by "small' independent presses?

2. Frazier's Cold Mountain, originally published by Grove Atlantic, was at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List for 61 weeks, and was the recipient of multiple awards before becoming a blockbuster hit movie.

3. Edward St. Aubyn's Mother's Milk, published by Open City Books, was nominated for the prestigious Man Booker Prize.

4. In January 2007, Kitty Burns Florey's Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences , from Melville House Press, made the Los Angeles Times Bestseller List.

5. Kurt Vonnegut, who was the face for National Small Press Month in 2006, hit number 5 on the bestseller lists with A Man Without a Country, published by Seven Stories Press, an independent publisher who has had more than a few titles in the New York Times Bestseller List over the last few years.

6. Samuel Johnson's Dictionary was its own small publisher.

7. Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass--were self-reviewed!

8. James Joyce's Ulysses was published by a small bookstore-owned company, Shakespeare & Company.

9. Virgina Woolf's husband Leonard ran a press, Hogarth Press, that published Virginia's great work, and others'.

10. Anais Nin's first novels were self-published.

11. Call It Sleep by Henry Roth, considered a classic novel of immigrants in America was financed by believers in the author originally in the 1930s and then supported and financed by a very small press at the start of its revival in 1960.

12. Harper & Brothers' first book was a small printing of Seneca.

13. Simon & Schuster started by publishing the new newspaper craze of the 1920s—crossword puzzles—echoed today by independent publisher Overlook, which published the first book in America on the new newspaper craze of the new century—Sudoku.

"As water to flowers...Independent Publishing to Democracy." - Alice Walker

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis

In some places, the veil between this world and the next is stretched very thin. In thin places unearthly powers can be drawn upon and twelve-year-old Mees Kipp accesses these powers to bring the dead back to life. Mees and her friends Sunny and Lorna stumble across the body of Mr. Banner face down on the local beach. While Sunny and Lorna run to call for help, Mees stays behind and reaches inside to pull Mr. Banner back through the veil. Thus begins the tale of an unusual summer in the small New England village of Varennes.

The Thin Place is the story of the inhabitants of Varennes; the people, animals and even the earth. Kathryn Davis has created a cacophony of unique voices, each pitch a small part of the complete composition. Like the ubiquitous blackflies which permeate The Thin Place, each character is necessary to Varennes’ biosphere. Initially the swarm of characters may simply annoy readers; however, in time each individual becomes clear and its part defined.

While The Thin Place is definitely a character driven novel, Davis obviously enjoys playing with language. Her descriptions are inventive and she ably captures the thought patterns of young girls. “Soon he wouldn’t be able to contain his anger, whirling around and giving Mees a piece of his mind. A piece of his mind, Lorna thought. He did that so often, no wonder it sometimes seemed like there wasn’t any left.” However, Davis doesn’t restrict her inventive prose to the human narrators. She weaves various elements into her engrossing novel; police logs, old journals, horoscopes, sermons, and the viewpoints of animals, plants and even the earth find voice here.

“Life has nowhere to move, being everywhere, doesn’t move though it’s always in motion, is the leaf is the trash is the girl’s pierced navel the worm the cat’s paw the lengthening shadows.” Words, like the characters, intertwine to create patterns and hyper-awareness of the otherness of Varennes - and the novel Davis has crafted.

Summarizing The Thin Place is no easy task; it must be read to be fully appreciated. She expects her readers to follow her through this created labyrinth and just as readers believe they have found the path and are on solid footing, the ground moves again. She challenges readers with obscure mystical references and yet on the surface The Thin Place feels accessible. In the end, Kathryn Davis forces readers to explore the thin places around them and contemplate the nature of life and death.

ISBN10: 0316014249
ISBN13: 9780316014243

Trade Paperback
304 Pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Publication Date: February 1, 2007


Monday, March 05, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Knits from a Painter's Palette by Maie Landra

For the past ten years, knitters have delighted in knitting with the yarns produced by Canadian company Koigu Wool Designs. Founder and designer Maie Landra is an artist who found her perfect medium, each skein is a miniature work of art. Every batch of Landra’s beautiful yarns produces slightly different results due to the handpainting process, meaning no projects will ever be identical. She believes that “the perfect dyelot must be alive with highlights and depth, not dead and lifeless” and to date has created more than 300 colourways. The designs in Knits from a Painter’s Palette: modular masterpieces in handpainted yarn celebrate the beauty of Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino, known as KPPPM.

Landra is known for her use of modular or domino knitting and the majority of the patterns in Knits from a Painter’s Palette utilize this technique. This collection contains many favourites from the past ten years, including the famous Charlotte’s Web Shawl and Landra’s first design, the Oriental Jacket. Beginners will find projects such as Basic Squares Scarf, to assist in learning modular knitting techniques, and the Knit Yarn-Over Scarf. Experienced knitters may be inspired by the Spirit Skirt, which raised quite a stir when originally published in the Fall 2005 Vogue Knitting magazine, or the Magique Cloak.

While the majority of the patterns included are oversized, some pieces are quite form-fitting such as the Groovy Dress (image in upper right), Jazz Cardigan (image in upper left) or the Patchwork Pants. Several patterns are also provided in children’s sizing.

Koigu designs are very colourful and require a certain panache to carry off for everyday wear. At $13/skein, the larger projects requiring upwards of 40 skeins must be viewed as investment pieces, ones which are saved up for or purchased a few skeins at a time.

Knits from a Painter’s Palette
is sure to please Koigu fanatics and neophytes alike.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1933027061
ISBN13: 9781933027067

128 Pages
Publisher: Sixth&Spring Books
Publication Date: January 28, 2007
Author Website:


Sunday, March 04, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Knitting Color by Brendon Mably

In the 1980s, Kaffe Fassett took the knitting world by storm. He revolutionized the way that knitters worked with color, giving us permission to let our creativity free and use twenty or more colors in a single piece. The second sweater I knit was Kaffe Fassett’s Ribbon sweater from his 1985 book Glorious Knitting. His gift to knitters was helping us believe that we could do anything, even undertaking one of his sweaters soon after learning to knit.

Brendon Mably took over running the “Color in Design” workshops and the Kaffe Fassett studio. Most knitters will never be able to attend one of these workshops in person; however Knitting Color: design inspiration from around the world explains Mably’s three-step process, then illustrates it by showing garments alongside the scenery and/or indigenous fabrics which inspired them. Throughout Mably puts into practice his process: 1) look at the color combinations and the proportion of each color in the design; 2) assess the tonal range and 3) put in the subtle transitions from shade to shade to bring the piece to life.

The Kaffe Fassett Studio is known for loose fitting, over-sized garments and Knitting Color does not break with tradition. Mably’s designs are suitable for novice knitters, the challenge comes in managing the multitude of colors. Patterns range from children’s vests to pillows to oversized coats.

If your penchant is for minimal ease in your clothing then this book will function as inspiration in planning a garment better suited to your individual preferences. The colors are worked Fair Isle and intarsia style, although knitters can easily utilize another knitting method and all twenty patterns are designed using Rowan yarns.

The most compelling component of Knitting Color is Mably’s reflections on his travels, the inspiration for each garment and how he sees color in the world around him.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 193302707X
ISBN13: 9781933027074

144 Pages
Publisher: Sixth&Spring Books
Publication Date: October 28, 2006
Author's Website:


Saturday, March 03, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Ticknor by Sheila Heti

On a rainy night, George Ticknor departs for his friend William Prescott’s dinner party, carrying a pie. During his journey, a lifetime of resentment at his own failure and jealously of Prescott’s success is reviewed as Ticknor deliberates on real and imagined slights, awkward social events and professional failure. Morose, wet and bearing a ruined pie, Ticknor would rather not arrive at Prescott’s but is incapable of returning home with yet another black mark on his character. Through his rambling recollections, a picture of the complex relationship between biographer and subject is drawn.

Ticknor is loosely based on the real-life friendship between historian William Hickling Prescott and his biographer George Ticknor. As author Sheila Heti shared in an interview with her publishers: “I picked up a fake leather-bound book…I opened to the middle and was shocked by what I read – there was something so obsessive and petty about the writer.” Heti walked out of the café with Life of William Hickling Prescott by George Ticknor and the subject for her first novel was found.

Several critics have called Ticknor “Prufrockian” and the comparison makes sense. Like T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” it is difficult to determine exactly what is occurring in Ticknor. Readers are exposed to the seething mass of thoughts, images, emotions and memories running through Ticknor’s head as he makes his way to Prescott’s dinner party. It is unclear if Ticknor is speaking directly to the reader or if he is carrying on an internal dialogue designed to rewrite his own history.

Ticknor is a bitter man and Heti has perfectly captured the obsessive nature of his character, filling the narration with repetition, self-justification, bitterness, hatred, obsession and love. Readers are quickly pulled into the mire that is Ticknor’s mind, leaving the reader in a state of heightened anxiety similar to the one experienced by Ticknor as he steps out his door.

Sheila Heti runs the popular Trampoline Hall lecture series held in Toronto and New York City, which features people speaking on subjects outside their areas of expertise. She has published a collection of short stories, The Middle Stories, and writes for a variety of journals and anthologies. Her musical "All Our Happy Days Are Stupid", commissioned by Nightwood Theatre and featuring the music of Destroyer's Dan Bejar, was produced in 2006.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0374277540
ISBN13: 9780374277543

128 Pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: April 4, 2006


BOOK REVIEW: Knitting Beyond the Edge by Nicky Epstein

In the previous two volumes in this series, Nicky Epstein looked at decorative finishes “On” and “Over” the edge of garments. The new volume Knitting Beyond the Edge: the Essential Collection of Decorative Finishes looks at cuffs and collars, necklines, hems and closures, the perfect topic to complete a knitting reference collection.

Designed with her trademark style, the more than 150 designs for decorative finishes will help knitters move their sweaters to the next level. Knitters are no longer limited to using the cuff or collar design provided with a purchased pattern, for Epstein has provided enough variations to please even the most finicky knitter. In the final pages of the volume, Epstein includes information on adjusting patterns and necklines to utilize these finishes.

The main part of the volume is divided into four sections, one for each type of finish. The swatches are knit up as they would be used (cuffs, collars, etc.) and in many cases shown incorporated into a garment. Each section is assigned its own colour range and all swatches are shown in a yarn from that range: cuffs and collars in purple, necklines in pink, hems in green and closures in blue. The same colour is then used to mark the outer edge of the pages, enabling knitters to quickly find the appropriate section of the volume.

The finishes cover every level of knitting from novice to expert. The photos are a decent size and show details clearly. By having each section limited to a single colour range, the eye isn’t distracted by the yarn and is able to focus on the design. The only complaint this reviewer has is that patterns are provided only as text. While for most of the designs this isn’t an issue, it may limit knitters who prefer to work cable and lace from charts.

Nicky Epstein has also included five patterns for garments modeled in Knitting Beyond the Edge. The Belle Époque jacket shown on the front cover is a true masterpiece and something to which novice knitters can aspire.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1933027010
ISBN13: 9781933027012

192 Pages
Publisher: Sixth&Spring Books
Publication Date: November 28, 2006
Author's Website:


Friday, March 02, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Find Me by Carol O'Connell

Mallory, on “unofficial” leave from the NYPD, has disappeared from New York at the same time a dead woman is found in Mallory’s apartment. Several states away a dead body is found pointing the way down old Route 66, its hand removed and replaced with the bones from a child’s hand. For years a serial killer has been murdering little girls along this highway. Does the message carved into the face of this new body refer to these old cases?

Mallory is on a trip into the past, chasing her own demons on the legendary highway, when her path intersects with that of a caravan of parents seeking their missing children. The serial killer has begun targeting the parents, positioning them so that the bone hand points to a new grave along the highway. Now Mallory, along with her partner Riker and psychologist Charles Butler, must shepherd the caravan to safety and stop the serial killer before he takes the penultimate victim.

Fans of the Mallory novels know that the protagonist is not that different from the criminals she hunts. Adopted and raised by NYPD officer Lou Markowitz and his wife Helen, Mallory has learned society’s rules but chooses only to follow those she deems necessary. Cold and self-assured on the outside, inside Mallory remains a lost child and as Find Me begins, Mallory’s exterior is beginning to crack.

Mallory operates as a lone wolf, giving away very little information to those she works with or to readers. Her normal world is absolutely orderly and controlled; however, as the ninth novel in this series opens, that control has begun to slip. Mallory’s trip into her past is beginning to highlight the cracks in the veneer. Mallory’s car has is filthy, her nail polish is chipped and she has become forgetful. Most telling of all, she has left New York without a computer.

In Find Me, Carol O’Connell has not only provided a complex and intricately woven mystery but has also a window into Mallory’s history, motivations and character. By placing her personal story in counterpoint to the grief, loss and anguish of the haunted caravan parents, O’Connell shares a great deal about Mallory through inference. The expected meltdown never fully occurs, however, all the signs are there and, even though Mallory allows no human warmth to show, readers will care deeply for the sociopathic protagonist.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0399153950
ISBN13: 9780399153952

352 Pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam & Sons
Publication Date: January 2, 2007


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Next up...

(thanks to Amy telling me about the cool toy!)

BOOK REVIEW: Nicky Epstein's Knitted Flowers

“Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
A knitted flower
Can be any hue.”

Nicky Epstein is one of the luminaries of the knitting world. Known for her innovative use of embellishments, Nicky Epstein’s Knitted Flowers presents a bouquet of blossoms suitable for every occasion and outfit. This reference volume presents more than thirty-five different floral designs, as well as several patterns using the flowers.

Epstein divides the book into five sections based on the method of construction: stitch pattern flowers; petal constructed flowers; cord flowers; felted stitch pattern flowers; and felted cut flowers; with the majority of the designs using the first method. Knitted Flowers provide knitters a starting point to explore their flights of fancy. As Epstein suggests: “The flowers can be layered, and stems and leaves may be added. Bobbles, bangles, buttons and beads sewn to the centers bring the flowers an extra touch of beauty.”

Nicky Epstein’s Knitted Flowers
isn’t an essential addition to a knitter’s library; however knitters looking for unique accessories, and those who love flowers, are sure to find inspiration here for years to come. Clear instructions and large, colour photos are provided for each design. While not essential, this is sure to be a welcome addition to most knitters’ collections.

ISBN10: 1931543887
ISBN13: 9781931543880

128 Pages
Publisher: Sixth&Spring Books
Publication Date: April 28, 2006
Author's Website:


Happy 10th Anniversary World Book Day!

To all the Closet's friends from the UK and Ireland - Happy World Book Day!

For those wanting to celebrate along with them, Kimbofo has some great suggestions at Reading Matters. The #1 encouraged activity is: "To celebrate World Book Day's 10th Birthday we are looking for the Ten Books You Can't Live Without. Click here and list your essential ten books to help us compile the ultimate list for World Book Day."