Thursday, April 24, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Miss Bea's Seaside by Louisa Harding

Miss Bea and her friends visit the seaside to play in the sand and waves in the sixth book in the delightful Miss Bea series. The simple storyline, large photos and colourful illustrations will engage children aged 1-4 in exploring the beach or enjoying an ice-cream along with Miss Bea.

Adults will enjoy knitting the 10 projects worn by the children in Miss Bea's Seaside. Each of these garments is designed for Rowan Denim yarn and most are unisex. The designs come in three sizes for 1 to 4 year olds, include charts and written instructions, and learn to knit instructions are included at the beginning of the pattern section. The written instructions are colour-coded to correspond to specific size information (instructions for size 1-2 years are green, 2-3 years are red, and 3-4 years are blue).

The simple garments include three cardigans, five pullovers, one vest and one sundress. One pullover includes a basic cable, one cardigan has some lace and several garments have stripes or other colourwork, making these great patterns for the beginning knitter looking for timeless designs that will wear well for active toddlers. The denim cotton yarn will age and soften like a pair of favourite blue jeans. Any worsted weight cotton yarn can be substituted for the recommended yarn, useful for those who may wish to knit in colours other than indigo blue or cream.

ISBN10: 1904485138
ISBN13: 9781904485131

48 Pages
Trade Paperback
Publisher: C & T Publishing
Publication Date: July 1, 2004
Author Website:


Saturday, April 19, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: The Girls by Lori Lansens

Rose and Ruby Darlen, like any sisters, can be each other’s best friend or worst enemy. Born during a tornado, “The Girls”, as they’ve been dubbed by the residents of their small Southern Ontario town, share a different life than most sisters. Craniopagus twins (joined at the head - they share a skull bone and blood supply), they were abandoned at birth by a desperate teenage mother and raised by Aunt Lovey (the nurse who helped bring them into the world) and Uncle Stash.

Rose has independent motion but her face is pulled to one side and her limbs are no longer perfectly proportioned due to carrying Ruby on her hip since she was a toddler. Ruby, while dependent on her sister for mobility, has the perfect face and beauty both would have shared if not born conjoined. Determined to beat the odds and provide her girls with a life of value, Aunt Lovey pushes them from infancy toward independence. Now 29 years old, The Girls have lived much longer than the doctors predicted and, with their 30th birthday approaching, Rose decides to write the story of her life, convincing the reluctant Ruby to do the same.

Told in the alternating voices of Rose and Ruby, Lori Lansens’ The Girls is a haunting novel. The voices of The Girls are unique and their viewpoints on events fascinating. Rose, as the aspiring writer, initially composes the majority of the chapters but as the novel progresses, Ruby relates more of her own thoughts and memories.

The sisters can’t see each other without the aid of a mirror and so each writes their chapters in isolation, with the intention of reading the other’s work after it is finished. The most fascinating aspect of The Girls is the assumptions each makes about what the other related and how that dictates what each in turn shares with the reader. What is most illuminating is what each chooses not to share. Rose portrays herself as the more reliable narrator, speaking to her readers in a serious, methodical tone while Ruby’s contributions are breezy. Their accounts of the same events often contradict and the reader is left to ferret out the truth.

In the end, it is the reader’s own assumptions and reflexive reaction of pity for The Girls which is destroyed. Rose and Ruby are so much more than objects of pity, but to discuss much more of this special novel would be to give away too many of its secrets - ones readers should discover for themselves.

ISBN10: 0316066346
ISBN13: 9780316066341

Trade Paperback
368 Pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Publication Date: April 10, 2007

(Mass Market edition available in Canada from Seal Books)


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: The Color of a Dog Running Away by Richard Gwyn

One afternoon Lucas arrives at his apartment in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter to find a mysterious invitation slipped under his door. Written in green ink on a Joan Miró postcard, the note simply states "20-May-11:00". Guessing that the message is intended to draw him to the Miró Foundation, Lucas arrives at the appointed time and meets Nuria with whom he begins a passionate love affair.

Consumed by the new relationship, Lucas discounts his feeling of being watched until the night he meets "the roof people," who have been instructed to make contact with him. A short while later, Lucas and Nuria are kidnapped by a religious cult who believe they are reincarnated Cathars from the thirteenth century. While Lucas resists the efforts of the group’s leader Pontneuf, Nuria appears open to the idea. Suddenly Lucas begins to doubt Nuria’s affection and wonder if she is complicit in the scheme.

As the narrator states in the prologue, "the color of a dog running away" is "an idiom referring to something of an indeterminate or vague and shadowy appearance, perhaps suggesting a fugitive reality." In The Color of a Dog Running Away, Richard Gwyn’s first novel, the narrator relates a surreal tale that is at times chaotic, confusing and beguiling.

Lucas views his relationship with Nuria as a new beginning, "a path free of the dead-ends and fruitless affairs to date" yet the hints in the prologue suggest that readers should view everything in The Color of a Dog Running Away as transitory, including this powerful new relationship. In a novel full of symbolic dead ends, dangers, catastrophes and stagnation, the reader is left to wonder whether the tale is one that haunts the narrator or if this is an allegorical novel constructed to lead to spiritual awakening and rebirth for both Lucas and the reader. Either way, this is a story that will remain with you long after the final world is read, leaving you "touched by a sense of grief and loss for a life not lived, a path not chosen."

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0307276872
ISBN13: 9780307276872

Trade Paperback
320 Pages
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publication Date: March 11, 2008


Sunday, April 06, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

"All my life since Aeneas’ death might seem a weaving torn out of the loom unfinished, a shapeless tangle of threads making nothing, but it is not so; for my mind returns as the shuttle returns always to the starting place, finding the pattern, going on with it."

Lavinia, the daughter of King Latinus and Queen Amata, enjoyed a typical girlhood as the daughter of a nobleman in the time before the founding of Rome. A life of peace and freedom that is, until the day she saw a line of great, black ships coming up the Tiber from the sea. Her mother has determined that she marry her kinsman Turnus, but the omen Lavinia received at the sacred springs tells that she is destined to marry a foreigner and start a bitter war. These ships presage the epic war for a kingdom and the founding of a great new empire, with Lavinia herself as the prize.

The arrival of the ships marks the meeting of Lavinia’s story with Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid. While Virgil’s poem tells Aeneas’ story, Lavinia herself is mentioned only once – on the day before his landing in Latinum when her hair is veiled by a ghost fire, an omen for the coming war. In Lavinia, Ursula K. Le Guin gives voice to an invisible heroine, brings to life an ancient world and creates a powerful companion to one of western literature’s greatest works.

Lavinia is a book of love and war, ritual and duty. Le Guin has crafted a fascinating story of Lavinia’s life in the Regia (the women’s quarters in a great house), filled with her duties as the only daughter of a noble house: keeping the storerooms; joining in the rituals of worship in the atrium; and keeping the peace between a mother driven mad with grief and a father quick to punishment. Well-researched with epic battles and many interwoven threads, Le Guin has captured the spirit of Virgil’s work and presented it faithfully in her own measured, lyric prose. Le Guin’s Lavinia is a strong, fascinating woman, with a tale to rival any hero of old.

ISBN10: 0151014248
ISBN13: 9780151014248

288 pages
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
Publication Date: April 21, 2008
Author Website:


Saturday, April 05, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: New Ideas for Today's Knitting by Jean Leinhauser & Rita Weiss

Every now and then, a pattern is published that falls under the heading of "what happens when knits go bad." When the majority of a knitting book fits into this category, knitters are left wondering what strange confluence of astral events or editorial confusion led to its publication. Unfortunately New Ideas for Today’s Knitting is such a book; a decent concept - "edgy designs [using] the same knit and purl stitches we’ve always used" – that went sadly awry.

My initial impression was that this is a book published five to seven years too late, after the love affair with novelty yarns ended. Of the twenty-three designs, over half are made in part or completely with novelty yarns including a memorable three-quarter length coat in yellow faux fur and a barely-there, backless mini-dress constructed with a ribbon ladder yarn and an eyelash/chenille blend, finished with a 10" fringe around the bottom. But perhaps the most impressive "knits gone bad" example is the red, fun fur ensemble comprised of jacket, beret and boot toppers.

There are a few halter and tank designs which may appeal to the younger knitting crowd, made from cotton and bamboo yarns, so popular this spring. Empress Halter showcases Schaefer Yarn Company Laurel’s beautiful hand dyed colourways in cotton and Sophisticated Tank makes use of bamboo yarn’s drape.

Tops in New Ideas for Today’s Knitting range in finished bust sizes of 28.5" to 64", with the average range being 32" to 38".

Free pattern - Cabled Tube Top

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1402723075
ISBN13: 9781402723070

128 pages
Publisher: Sterling
Publication Date: February 5, 2008