Saturday, March 29, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: The View from the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier

The new short story collection from Kevin Brockmeier, The View from the Seventh Layer, is difficult to pigeon-hole for these stories defy ready classification. Not strictly genre fiction nor completely science fiction, the author describes the collection thus: “The View from the Seventh Layer is not strictly or even primarily a work of science fiction; in a collection of thirteen stories, I would say that four of them fall squarely within the science fiction and fantasy tradition, four of them squarely outside, and the other five straddle the border, some leaning most of their weight toward realism, some toward fantasy or science fiction.”

It’s difficult to fully explore a collection of stories in a limited review; therefore, I’ve chosen to focus on two that stood out on initial reading. “A Fable Ending in the Sound of a Thousand Parakeets” is barely eight pages long and yet it hits with enough force to bring the reader to a full stop. The first story in The View from the Seventh Layer shares a mute man’s experience of living in a town where everyone communicates through song. He is “…the only person who was unable to lend his voice to the great chorus of song that filled the air.” Is this deceptively simple tale of the ultimate outsider placed here to invite readers to slow down and savour Brockmeier’s tales or, by beginning his collection with a story of a man who can’t speak, is he raising flags to remind readers they need to look beyond the basic meaning of his words?

“The Air is Full of Little Holes” explores the life of a woman pictured in a “magazine with a yellow border around the cover.” The gentle story of a family is at odds with the ugliness which appears when western expectations meet a traditional ways of life.

The thirteen stories in The View from the Seventh Layer reflect a writer comfortable in his skin, unafraid to take risks with his characters and plots. These aren’t simple stories yet readers who invest their time will be richly rewarded.

Kevin Brockmeier’s possible playlist to accompany The View from the Seventh Layer (from Large Hearted Boy) can be found here.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0375425306
ISBN13: 9780375425301

288 Pages
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Publication Date: March 18, 2008


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: The Best of Interweave Knits edited by Ann Budd

Interweave Knits is the knitting magazine I eagerly await each season for, without fail, I find a “must-knit” in its pages. Over the years, many well-known designers have had patterns featured in this popular magazine, although many young designers have found a place here as well. Interweave Knits is known for its innovative and appealing designs, offering challenging and wearable garments for advanced and beginning knitters alike.

As Pam Allen, past editor-in-chief, explains in her introduction: “The best moments [in putting together the magazine], however, come when the contents of a submission envelope spill out and elicit a collective “Ahhh!” from the staff…For The Best of Interweave Knits: Our Favorite Designs from the First Ten Years, we’ve culled as many “Ahhh” projects from past issues as would fit into these pages.”

Over the years, many Interweave Knits designs have become as well-known as their creators and this collection of 30 designs contain many of these: the Lotus Blossom Tank (Sharon Shoji); the Forest Path Stole (Faina Letoutchaia); and the Icarus Shawl (Miriam Felton). This leads to the obvious question; how many of the patterns featured here are your favourites? This collection includes four of mine, two already listed (Icarus Shawl and Forest Path Stole) and two others - Striped Fringe (Amanda Blair Brown), an ingeniously designed wrap of 7 different coloured stripes, and Cambridge Jacket (Ann Budd), the perfect zip-up weekend sweater.

Sweaters in The Best of Interweave Knits range in finished bust sizes of 32.5" to 57.5", with the average range being 36" to 48". Scattered throughout the volume are “beyond the basics” sections which cover topics from cast-ons to blocking, pulling together great resources into one volume.

Look inside The Best of Interweave Knits.

ISBN10: 1596680334
ISBN13: 9781596680333

Trade Paperback
172 Pages
Publisher: Interweave Knits
Publication Date: October 28, 2007


Monday, March 17, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson

On an isolated cliff the body of a quadriplegic woman is found sitting in a wheelchair with her throat slit. Miles away in Eastvale, 19-year-old Hayley Daniels is found raped and murdered in a medieval warren of alleys called the Maze. Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot, on secondment to the Eastern Area force, tries to determine while anyone would want to murder a quadriplegic woman who hasn’t spoken in years. In Eastvale, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks is faced with his own puzzling mystery. The closed-circuit cameras which focus on the entrances to the Maze show that no one followed Hayley into its shadowy recesses. When Cabbot uncovers the true identity of her murder victim, she’s suddenly pointed back to Eastvale and an old case involving her ex-lover Banks. Are they chasing the same killer or merely shadows?

Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks novels are multi-layered masterpieces and he doesn’t disappoint in Friend of the Devil, Banks' 17th outing. As always, the action builds at a slow yet steady pace, captivating readers from the first page.

What elevates Robinson’s books beyond the standard police procedural is how he develops his characters and, that the development isn’t limited to his hero. Banks and his team have grown over the years and readers have enjoyed that development. Readers have connected with the humanity of this team. Cabbot and Bank’s interaction feels real, fraught with real awkwardness and unspoken, complicated emotion. Detective Constable Winsome’s struggles as a woman on the force, politically incorrect colleagues and as a junior member within Banks’ team will strike a cord with many working women. In many ways Winsome represents the reader in within the team, providing an idealistic view of how police and justice should operate.

Fans of Robinson’s mysteries will find their clue to Banks’ old case in the title Friend of the Devil. For those new to his work, this latest offering is the perfect place to start - it is never too late to discover Banks’ world of horror, obsession and human emotion.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0060544376
ISBN13: 9780060544379

384 Pages
Publisher: William Morrow
US Publication Date: February 26, 2008
Canadian Publication Date: September 11, 2007
UK Publication Date: August 9, 2007