Eclectic Closet Litblog, Book Reviews & Knitting Designs

A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

BOOK REVIEW: Kitty Takes a Holiday by Carrie Vaughn


Exhausted from the media frenzy that has surrounded her since she turned into a wolf on national television, Kitty has retreated to a cabin in an isolated section of San Isabel National Forest in Colorado. Her plan is to have some peace and write her memoirs. Kitty doesn’t expect a warm welcome from the local residents but at least they are tolerant of her presence. So when animal sacrifices begin arriving on her front porch as part of curse rituals and the police won’t do anything about it, she’s surprised and hurt.

Kitty figures life can’t get anymore complicated but fate has other plans. Sexy werewolf hunter Cormac Bennett shows up with her lawyer Ben O’Farrell who’s been infected by a werewolf. Ben wants Cormac to shoot him; however, Kitty hopes she can convince him that he can still have a great life. As if curses and the situation with Ben isn’t enough, a creature of pure evil is lurking in the woods and appears to be hunting Kitty.

Kitty Takes a Holiday is the third in the Kitty Norville series (at one point it was tentatively called Kitty and the Wolf Moon’s Curse). A lovably flawed heroine, Kitty is prey to all the common worries of the modern twenty-something. A new radio host has taken to the nighttime airwaves stealing Kitty’s format of a talk show about the supernatural. “Ariel, Priestess of the Night” gets under Kitty’s skin with each show, driving her to making taunting phone calls to her competition. Even though she is facing the serious fallout of her “outing” on national television, she still spends more time worrying about Ariel. Vaughn perfectly captures the small details to which every reader can relate.

Carrie Vaughn continues to exhibit strong writing in the Kitty Norville series. She has created a solid alternate reality to modern-day America with each novel adding depth to her world. Old religions and traditional beliefs are handled with dignity and while the beliefs may conflict with Kitty’s or be viewed as “backward” by officials, Vaughn doesn’t belittle them. This compassionate treatment of those with outsider status is only one thing which places Vaughn’s work firmly “above the bar.”

Although Kitty doesn’t do one of “The Midnight Hour” shows in Kitty Takes a Holiday, Vaughn continues the tradition of including a playlist. Once again she has plundered the vinyl archives to pull together an outstanding collection of lesser-known gems such as “Animal Farm” by Madness and “Surfin’ Cow” by The Dead Milkmen.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0446618748
ISBN13: 9780446618748

Mass Market Paperback
336 Pages
Publisher: Warner Books
Publication Date: April 1, 2007
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Un Lun Dun by China Miéville


Zanna and her friend Deeba have been noticing a lot of strange events lately. There was the fox that intently watched them on the playground and then bowed to Zanna. Certainly the oddest was the umbrella that dragged itself from a rubbish heap to hang from Zanna’s bedroom windowsill. The girls give chase to the umbrella and find themselves in a strange place called Un Lun Dun, a funhouse version of their own city. This new place is filled with animated milk cartons, unbrellas, talking books and flying double-decker buses, as well as with an odd collection of people.

Shortly after their arrival in Un Lun Dun they meet Obaday Fing, a tailor whose head is a massive pin-cushion, and Brokkenbroll, king of broken unbrellas. Zanna is disturbed to find out she’s the Shwazzy – the Chosen One – prophesied to save Un Lun Dun from a great evil, the Smog.

All goes terribly wrong when Zanna is injured soon after their arrival. She’s returned safely home but Un Lun Dun seems doomed. Deeba may be the only hope for this fantastical city, but will Un Lun Dun accept the help or the unchosen one, or lie down and accept its fate?

Award-winning author China Miéville’s fifth novel, Un Lun Dun, is his first written for the young adult market and is filled with his illustrations of the mysterious creatures met by Zanna and Deeba. While this book is being marketed to middle and high school students, there is much here to recommend this book to adult readers. Fans of the films of Jan Švankmajer, specifically his 1988 film Alice, will find familiar elements in the world of Un Lun Dun.

Miéville, as well-known for his politics as for his writing, is a member of the Socialist Workers Party. His writing has indications of his political leanings; however, he has stated that: “…when I write my novels, I’m not writing them to make political points.…but because I come at this with a political perspective, the world that I’m creating is embedded with many of the concerns that I have…”

Un Lun Dun is sure to win Miéville many new fans and delight current ones.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0345495160
ISBN13: 9780345495167

448 Pages
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Publication Date: February 17, 2007


BOOK REVIEW: Warrior and Witch by Marie Brennan


When a witch is born, a doppelganger is also created. In order for a witch to gain control of those powers, her doppelganger must be destroyed according to traditions passed down for generations. Mirei, a blending of Miryo (witch) and Mirage (warrior), is the most powerful witch alive. Instead of killing Mirage, Miryo merged with her doppelganger, and her acceptance within the hallowed halls of Starfall has wrecked havoc within the political and religious structure of this closed society.

Viewed by many as an abomination, Mirei’s very existence has created a schism and war has been declared between the rival factions. Now, Mirei is in a race to reach the hidden doppelgangers and ensure they have a chance to merge with their other halves; while trying to discover the extent of her new powers and discover the fate of Eclipse, Mirage’s hunting partner and her true love.

Warrior and Witch commences shortly after the closing pages of Doppelganger, Marie Brennan’s first novel. While readers can enjoy Warrior and Witch without having read its predecessor, the experience will not be as immersive. Brennan’s interest in cultural anthropology is evident in the depth and complexity of the world she created. The history behind the traditions and social structures are explained in the first novel, although keen readers will quickly understand that the warrior traditions owe a nod to martial arts training.

Brennan states on her website that she has no further plans for novels within this world; however, the culture she has described is so vibrant that many windows are still open – if she chooses to return.

Marie Brennan (the pen name of Bryn Neuenschwander) is a graduate student in cultural anthropology and folklore at Indiana University at Bloomington, studying fantasy and science fiction. Her studies focus both on the media manifestations of fantasy and science fiction, as well as on the communities which spring up around them.

Read an excerpt here.

ISBN10: 0446616974
ISBN13: 9780446616973

Mass Market
464 Pages
Publisher: Warner
Publication Date: October 1, 2006
Author Website:


posted under fantasy | 2 Comments »

BOOK REVIEW: Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S Wilce


Flora Segunda (or Flora the Second) has become the caretaker of her family’s home, Crackpot Hall, and her father ever since her mother banished the magickal butler. Whether Poppy or Crackpot Hall is more of chore is open to debate but at least Poppy is somewhat predictable. Crackpot Hall has eleven thousand rooms and they are prone to move around at random. Flora knows better than to step of the proven paths through her house but one morning she is really late for school so she chances a ride in the elevator and ends up lost in her on house.

Is it really fate that she stumbles upon the long-banished butler or is this the break she needs to have a normal life? With her best friend Udo, Flora is in a race to finish her Catorcena speech, look after Poppy, and find a way to break it to her mother that she isn’t going to follow the family tradition of entering the barracks. Could it really hurt to ask Valefor the butler for some help?

Following in the tradition of Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After: Being the Private Correspondence Between Two Prominent Families Regarding a Scandal Touching the Highest Level), Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog is a coming of age story wrapped within a traditional adventure story. Feeling both old-fashioned and post-modern, Ysabeau S. Wilce has combined elements of Eastern life (names which sound decidedly Eastern – such as Califa and Huitzil – and butlers who owe much to genies), as well as Asian traditions of warcraft and meditation. Interlacing these are elements of the western traditions of courtly love and elements of common to fantasy novels. Much here will provoke vague feelings of familiarity and in the early pages this becomes very distracting, as the reader keeps trying to find connections. The novel quickly grabs all the reader’s attention and the earlier distractions dissipate.

Wilce has a strong voice and distinctive style, which she exhibits with much aplomb in Flora Segunda. The titular heroine is delightful and readers will identify with her challenges and desire to carve her own path in life. Udo, the glass-gazing sidekick, provides the necessary balance to Flora Segunda and provides the right amount of frisson to add spice to the tale, but not distract from the main adventure.

Deliberate or not, Wilce has left herself room to develop Flora Segunda into a young adult series and this reviewer hopes that a follow-up novel will soon be available. Many interesting details of life within Califa have been introduced but not explored, such as the politics behind the current wars, why the Rangers were disbanded and what caused some of the great houses (families) to decline. Revelations made in the final pages also create many new avenues to explore within this captivating world.

Read an excerpt here.

ISBN10: 0152054332
ISBN13: 9780152054335

448 Pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Publication Date: January 2007


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


BOOK REVIEW: Angelos by Robina Williams


The friary is in an uproar. Father Fidelis has left for a new position, replaced by the Guardian, Father Aidan. Brother Jerome, deceased but still around, wanders the grounds of the friary, visiting his old friends and the world he has left behind. Brother Peter finds the friary cat Leo rather unnerving, most likely it’s the green eyes (which occasionally turn a glorious gold) and the cat’s habit of disappearing into thin air.

On the fateful night in question, a falling rock sets off a quantum leap, sending the Minotaur to the friary in the twenty-first century and Brother Jerome to the labyrinth in Knossos. Leo, or Quantum as most people know him (Quant for short), must step in to put things right, ensuring that Father Aidan’s crisis of faith plays out as it must. Only through Brother Valentine’s copies of Old Masters does he begin to see light in the darkness.

Readers who have not read Robina Williams’ first book, Jerome and the Seraph, may find Angelos slow at the beginning, as the story begins with the assumption that readers are familiar with both characters and setting. Within a few pages; however, the action takes off and Angelos becomes a book that is difficult to put down.

Paintings are tied into the plot of Angelos, and serve to guide Father Aidan on his quest. Not being familiar with the paintings in question, this reviewer found the art gallery featured on Williams’ website a helpful tool. The key paintings – The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt (1854) and The Blind Girl by Sir John Everett Millais (1856) – are shown, along with commentary and links to the galleries where the paintings reside.

Williams has set a difficult challenge for herself, to meld quantum physics, philosophy, Christianity and classical mythology into an engaging fantasy novel. Surprisingly she succeeds with Angelos, creating an intelligent novel where the discussion of quantum physics, time, religion and philosophy do not feel out of place or preachy.

ISBN10: 1933353600

Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Publication Date: May 2006
Binding: Trade Paperback
Author Website:

Related Titles:
* Jerome and the Seraph by Roberta Williams
* In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat by John Gribbin
* Schrodinger’s Kittens and the Search for Reality: Solving the Quantum Mysteries by John Gribbin
* Who’s Afraid of Schrodinger’s Cat?: An A-To-Z Guide to All the New Science Ideas You Need to Keep Up with the New Thinking by Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall
* Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy: The Universe Next Door, The Trick Top Hat, & The Homing Pigeons by Robert Anton Wilson


posted under fantasy | 3 Comments »

BOOK REVIEW: The Unwritten Girl by James Bow


Rosemary Watson tries to slip through life unnoticed, although the other students at her junior high tend to make her the butt of all their jokes. She tries to be normal, to keep life as quiet and nondescript as possible so people won’t think she’s like her older brother Theo, who suffered from a nervous breakdown years earlier. She manages to have a fairly normal life, that is, until the day in the school library when she sees a girl fold herself up until she disappears. Which just happens to be the day she meets Peter McAllister.

The Unwritten Girl is the story of Rosemary’s quest to rescue her brother Theo who has been trapped in The Land of Fiction by a book he is unable to stop reading. Assisted by her new friend Peter and the mischievous Puck, most recently read in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rosemary must overcome her fear and desire to be invisible if she has any hope of success.

First and foremost, The Unwritten Girl is a story about books. James Bow says in his blog that “The Land of Fiction is a compilation of a number of stories I read when I was younger (or had read to me) that had a lasting effect on me.” He goes on to state that he loves children’s literature for “the clarity of the storytelling, the innocence, the wonder and the sense of transformation.”

Bow has taken the standard quest formula and turned it on its head or as he describes it: “The Unwritten Girl is a sorta fairytale. We take very unfairytale characters through a fairytale setting, taking the mickey out of a number of cliches, while at the same time celebrating the genre.” His love of this literature is evident in the style and content of his writing as he riffs a bit on the standard characters of fairy tale fare: the damsel in distress complete with attitude; the Fearmonger – specific to no book but present in all; and the Mystery Man whose Magical Mystery Train holds many familiar tales, including a nod to Murder on the Orient Express.

For adult readers, Bow takes us on a delightful, nostalgic trip with The Unwritten Girl; however, what is more important is how young adults will respond to this book. Despite its fantasy/fairy tale setting, The Unwritten Girl addresses some fairly serious issues; mental illness, being an outsider, the death of parents and bullying. In many ways, this is a fairly dark book and Bow deftly handles these significant topics without resorting to clichés or becoming preachy.

Given that Bow has short excerpts of what appear to be “future” adventures of Rosemary and Peter on his blog, I am hopefully that we’ll soon see more books featuring these engaging characters. I read this through in one sitting and my autographed copy is going into my permanent collection.

ISBN10: 1550026046
ISBN13: 9781550026947
Publisher: Boardwalk Young Adult Fiction, A Member of the Dundurn Group
Publication Date: April 1, 2006
Binding: Paperback
Book Website:

Related Books of Interest (…or, if you loved The Unwritten Girl, you’ll probably like these):
* The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
* Green Angel by Alice Hoffman
* Varjak Paw by SF Said
* Airborn by Kenneth Oppel


BOOK REVIEW: Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn


Barely escaping Denver, Colorado with her life on the closing pages of Kitty and the Midnight Hour, Kitty Norville takes to the road. As Kitty Goes to Washington opens, Kitty is drifting aimlessly around the United States broadcasting her newly syndicated, late-night radio show from a different city each week. When she receives an unexpected call informing her she’s been subpoenaed by a Senate hearing into the Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology chaired by her Bible-thumping nemesis Senator Duke, Kitty heads for the murky political waters of Washington, DC.

Plunging into a city full of international paranaturals, Kitty finds herself surrounded by unfamiliar — and scary — politics and games that seem to be governed by bizarre rules. As she enters the city she is stopped and “offered” the hospitality of the city’s vampire mistress. Not sure why she needs a vampire’s protection, she is further puzzled by the actions of Dr. Paul Flemming. Just a few weeks ago he was eager to share information with her, now he keeps her at a disconcerting distance just when she needs the information he is hiding. And meeting a were-jaguar in a club for were-creatures only proves that Kitty must figure out the undercurrents in both the paranatural and political worlds if she wishes to escape with her freedom — and her life.

Carrie Vaughn has maintained her delightful tone in this second Kitty novel. Not quite a paranormal romance nor truly just a fantasy novel, Vaughn’s novels sit somewhere in between. Her writing strength is in creating an alternate reality that looks and sounds like modern day America, the only difference being Vampires, Were-Creatures and other creatures “of the night” actually do exist. Kitty deals with issues of identity, loneliness, and career ambitions as any other young professional woman does with the added difficulty of being without a pack and surviving as a lone werewolf.

Old friends reappear in this second adventure helping to quickly move the action into comfortable territory – Cormac the hit man, Ben the lawyer and Matt, Kitty’s faithful sound-man. Once again Carrie Vaughn has included a “playlist” in the acknowledgements and she has picked the perfect tunes to accompany Kitty’s new adventure; songs like Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them,” Shriekback’s “Nemesis” and Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontier.” I was inspired to go hunting through my CD’s to put together the mix to listen to while sharing Kitty’s adventure.

Packaged with this second Kitty Norville adventure is the short story “Kitty meets the Band.” Carrie Vaughn has already signed a contract for books three and four; Kitty and the Wolf Moon’s Curse (Spring 2007) and Kitty and the Silver Bullet (Fall 2007) and this reader for one is eagerly awaiting both.

Publication Date: July 1, 2006
Publisher: Warner Books
ISBN10: 0446616427

Read an interview with Carrie Vaughn at The Motivated Writer.

Read this review as posted at Curled Up with a Good Book.
Read my review of Kitty and the Midnight Hour.


BOOK REVIEW: The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue


“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand”
The Stolen Child by W.B. Yeats

Children often express their displeasure by running away from home, wandering a short distance before returning once they feel their parents have been sufficiently punished. The parents, awash with joy at once more having their child, brush off any minor personality differences as residual shock from a traumatic experience. But what if the child brought home isn’t their child at all, but a changeling?

This is the premise behind Keith Donohue’s haunting debut novel, The Stolen Child. Drawing its plot and title from the W.B. Yeat’s poem of the same title, Donohue has crafted the modern fairy tale of Henry Day and the changeling (or hobgoblin) who replaces him. One summer night Henry runs into the forest and hides in a tree. It is there that he is taken by the changelings, who have been covertly watching him. If changelings wish to reenter the world, they must find a child to replace who is exactly the same age as the changeling was when he/she left. Henry becomes the magical Aniday and the changeling who replaces him becomes the new Henry Day, suddenly a musical prodigy. The Stolen Child is the story of the two young boys searching for identity in a world turned upside down.

The new Henry slowly adjusts to the life of a twentieth-century family. Having spent more than one hundred years in the forest, he spends his time in intense concentration, “I set my mind to forgetting the past and becoming a real boy again.” Aniday spends learning a way of live beyond civilization and it is only by a similar amount of effort that he maintains the ability to read and write.

Yeat’s poem shows life in the woods as one full of innocence; however, many experts suggest that the forest of fairytales is really about the journey of sexual awakening as the child moves through puberty into adulthood. Unknown creatures, dangers and pain lurk in the dark forest, a journey of pitfalls every child must travel on the road to maturity.

In Donohue’s forest, the tribe of hobgoblins exists in a life free from memories, familial ties and responsibility. Their life a perpetual existence given to the baser instincts of the body, one in which all sense of self disappears along the way.

As decades pass, Aniday lives as a permanent child in the wilderness, making friends and enemies among the hobgoblin band, struggling for survival, and trying to remember his past. The other changelings tell Aniday to “stay away from people and be content with who you are.” By settling for the life in the forest however, Aniday would lose the innocence of his dreams of a future. Both Aniday and Henry are tormented by the fleeting memories of half-remembered paths and it is these memories that keep them tied to a search for identity – destined to lose their innocence.

Donohue has created a mesmerizing world that seems to exist shifted slightly outside of our time. The Stolen Child quickly engages the reader in the familiar rhythm of childhood fairytales, allowing the magic to infuse the carefully crafted words. It is only upon stepping outside, back to reality, that questions slowly seep into the reader’s mind.

Has Henry really lived as a changeling or could he be suffering from split personality, everything being a fantasy his illness has created? Donohue says in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review: “The subconscious world, the world underneath, is a real world, and it’s just as valid, our imaginative reality, as our everyday reality.” Whether readers choose to approach Donohue’s offering as it is written or choose to engage the novel on an existential level, The Stolen Child is a timeless, magical novel that will linger with readers long after they read the last page.

See the review posted at ReadySteadyBook.


BOOK REVIEW: Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn


What do you get when you take a frustrated late-night DJ who’s also a closet werewolf? An engaging new heroine ironically named Kitty!

Carrie Vaughn has entered an already crowded market with the first of a new fantasy series based around her character Kitty Norville, a young urbanite who is also a werewolf. Vaughn’s novel competes winningly with the likes of Katie MacAllister and Kim Harrison.

Kitty and the Midnight Hour falls out on the excellent side of the “pack.” The plot premise intrigues: Kitty has barely settled into her role as the host of the hottest new call-in advice show for the “supernaturally disadvantaged,” when suddenly the Powers That Be (of the supernatural world) order a hit on her–while she’s on the air!

While people try to figure out if she really is “supernatural,” Kitty wants to figure out who wants her dead, avoid being taken out by the assassin–and get her show syndicated. Add a full exploration of the social dynamics of the werewolf pack, and you have a delightfully well-written novel.

One of the Vaughn’s key strengths is how very real her novel is. Some of the better-known paranormal novels are so far divorced from reality that it definitely is a work of fantasy. Having been a midnight-shift DJ, I can certainly recognize many of the characters who call in.

Kitty could easily be your friend or the late night DJ you listen to on the radio. Her struggles ring true, as does her quest to figure out her place in the world and sort out the tangled mess of personal relationships and power dynamics around her. It all adds up to a character readers can connect to.

The added bonus is the “soundtrack” Vaughn includes in her acknowledgements. A great collection of classic Goth with a twist. A superb addition to the genre, I eagerly await Kitty’s future adventures–as well as more of the eclectic soundtracks.

A delightful story of self-realization as Kitty learns to accept her inner wolf, while discovering the true strength of the inner Kitty.

See the review at Armchair Interviews – Kitty and the Midnight Hour.


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Email Preference *
Email Format

Visit my Ravelry Shop

My Knitting Patterns

Audrey II

Angular Path Scarf

Cartouche Stole

Fossetta Cowl

Fossetta Hat

Sargaço Shawl

Whitman Hat

Every Which Way Cowl

Every Which Way Hat

Every Which Way Fingerless Mitts

Gothic Forest Scarf

Valencia Scarf

Branching Path Cowl

Flower Bell Stole

Whitman Cowl

New Tech Cowl

Vieux Carré Stole

Stacks Socks

Anna Perenna Shawlette

Taming of the Fox

Don't Ask Y

Cantilevering Leaves

Amplification Stole

Combs Cowl

Mindfulness Cowl

Tipsy Scarf

Gridwork Scarf
Ravelry Free Download