Friday, February 27, 2009

Snow in August

Fiction this month for the Student Services blog...

Snow in August by Pete Hamill

Set in post-WWII Brooklyn, Pete Hamill's Snow in August is the story of an Irish-Catholic boy and his unlikely friendship with an elderly rabbi.

11-year-old protagonist Michael Devlin life revolves around comic books, baseball, and his duties as an alter boy at the local church. His worldview begins to change, however, when he witnesses an attack on a local merchant and inadvertently becomes the Shabbos goy* for the local synagogue.

While Snow in August is a bit sentimental and melodramatic, it has heart. Its ending, which is a drastic deviation from the novel's gritty realism, will charm some readers and annoy others. I'd love to write more about it, but it is simply too hard to discuss the ending without spoiling it for those who haven't yet read the book.

* a non-Jew who does work on Sabbath that a Jew cannot do

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Catching Up on Booking Through Thursday

From 12 Feb, Authors Talking:
Do you read any author’s blogs? If so, are you looking for information on their next project? On the author personally? Something else?

The only author's blog that I read regularly is Susan Helene Gottfried's West of Mars: The Meet and Greet. If I happen across an author's blog, I'll read a bit of it, but I don't usually go searching for them.

From 19 Feb, Storage:
How do you arrange your books on your shelves? Is it by author, by genre, or you just put it where it falls on?

Our books are arranged on the shelves to maximize the space (because we have so many books that there are piles all around the apartment). That being said, we have a book case specifically for BookCrossing books and have started segregating our books in the book cases in the bedroom just to make it easier to find what we are looking for.

Today's, Collectibles:
* Hardcover? Or paperback?
* Illustrations? Or just text?
* First editions? Or you don’t care?
* Signed by the author? Or not?

I'm pretty flexible. If I really like a book and think that I'll be reading it again, I'll keep it (I prefer trade paperbacks and hardcover copies and will avoid mass markets whenever possible). I keep my college books that are all marked up with my notes. I buy pristine hardcover copies of books that I love. I don't need first editions or volumes signed by the author, but they are nice to have.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee

Disgrace is a difficult book to describe. It was a much quicker read that I expected. It's well-written, spare and taut. Set in contemporary South African, the novel is about disgrace on a number of different levels. The subjects it addresses (including prejudice, rape, the harsh reality of rural life in South Africa) are not easy, but it seems impossible to tear oneself away from the story. Above all, Coetzee is honest and the novel offers no real solutions.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Too Much Information

Have you ever been put off an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse - a biography has made you love an author more?

While I have read books/articles about the lives of certain authors, generally I try to avoid doing so. The question gets to the root of my reasoning - I don't want what I know about an author to influence my feelings about his/her books.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Tenderness of Wolves

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

I read this book over the summer, but it seems to me much more of a winter book. Thinking back to an old Booking-through-Thursday questionThe Tenderness of Wolves is a book that almost embodies winter for me.

Set in the winter of 1867, it is the story of an isolated community in the Northern Territory (Canada). The Tenderness of Wolves is a murder mystery tempered scope and attention to historical detail. Atmospheric and evocative, The Tenderness of Wolves is also a meditation on "the sickness of long thinking" (154).

A fantastic debut novel, The Tenderness of Wolves won the 2006 Costa First Novel Award. This is such a promising start that I can't wait to see what Penney writes in future.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Conqueror

Another Scandinavian lit review for Library Journal this month...

The Conqueror by Jan Kjaerstad

In The Conqueror, the second novel in the Jonas Wegeland trilogy (after The Seducer), celebrated Norwegian author Jan Kjaerstad offers a dark narrative exploring both the "Norwegian national character" and the human condition.
A scholar has been contracted to write the definitive biography of Wegeland, one of Norway's most famous personages, now infamous after murdering his wife. After two years of research, the scholar is mired in contradictory details and suffering from acute writer's block. That is until a mysterious stranger arrives at his doorstep. What follows is a set of eccentric but intimate stories, ostensibly recalled by the stranger, that woven together -- "the sequence is crucial; only by following it can you hope to understand anything at all [...] just one story out of place and it all falls apart" (64) -- may yield a coherent picture of Wegeland.

Read the full review at Library Journal.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

New Pathways for Sock Knitters

New Pathways for Sock Knitters by Cat Bordhi

I love knitting socks, but find it difficult to knit ones for myself that fit just right (most sock patterns are written for a much smaller foot than I happen to have). A friend recommended New Pathways for Sock Knitters because of Bordhi's innovative construction ideas and because she offers master patterns that you can customize to fit your foot perfectly.

In addition to the master patterns, Bordhi provides a number of different variations, both practical and whimsical. There's enough in this book to keep any sock knitter busy for quite some time.

I recently knit "Bartholomew's Tantalizing Socks" in Handmaiden Casbah (Ravelry project page).* The pattern follows Bordhi's "Sky Sock Architecture" and is knit from the top down with increases over the arch (along the edge of the decorative stitch pattern). It uses a linen-stitch to play up the color changes in hand-painted yarn and has a sexy slit cuff.

The socks were a gift. I trusted the pattern and they ended up fitting perfectly (photo).
A few notes:
-I knit the socks separately but at the same time one section at a time.
- I did one less repeat on the leg, but it still seems very very long (though I guess I’m used to relatively short cuffs).
- I also did the standard toe (pg 129) instead of the star toe (pg 128). I did the star toe on sock #1, but was unhappy with how it looked so I ripped it out.
- Step 4 of the heel turn was unnecessary and unnecessarily confusing.

I'm definitely going to knit myself a pair of these socks in Casbah. I loved everything about the project. I'm really interested in the Coriolis architecture (it has a wonderful spiral feature) so I'll probably attempt one of those patterns on my next foray into sock innovation.

* On US 2.5 / 3.0 mm double-pointed needles in the Autumn colorway