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.

The 2006 Book Sense Halloween Top Ten


Book Sense has announced their Halloween Top Ten (part of the “Get Caught Reading” campaign)and two books I’ve reviewed this year made the cut.

#2 – The Mercy of Thin Air: a Novel by Ronlyn Domingue

#8 – The Inhabited World: a Novel by David Long

If you haven’t read these titles yet, may I suggest you take the earliest opportunity to pick these up? Oh, and what books would be on your top ten for Halloween?

What is Get Caught Reading?
Get Caught Reading is a nationwide book and magazine industry-supported literacy campaign to remind people of all ages how much fun it is to read.


A mini-vacation – back on September 12.


I’m taking a mini-vacation this week to catch up on reading and writing reviews. So in the meantime, feel free to peruse the archived book reviews and I’ll be back with fresh reviews on September 12.

In the news – I’m highlighted in this month’s Armchair Interviews ezine. This is a bit blush-inducing, but publicity is a good thing. Andrea and Connie do a great ezine so I would recommend signing up on their site.

Happy reading everyone – and don’t forget to enter my first book giveaway, the deadline is September 15!

Where did the summer go?

Plymouth-Banjul Challenge: Team IronMighty


To date I haven’t put any fundraising appeals on my blog but this one definitely deserves a mention! My friend Linda is participating in Plymouth-Banjul Challenge. Anyone who has to dodge minefields and hire armed escorts in order to support charities has my support! And to top it off, she’s getting married at the end.

Anyway the end result of this has been that both Dave and I adopted a “life’s too short” philosophy and decided to get married. We didn’t want to do anything conventional (one of my long-time friends said “Linda, when you get married there’s no way it will ever be a normal ceremony”). So this is what we’re planning:

We have been accepted to take part in the Plymouth-Banjul Challenge. This is a charity car race of more than 4000 miles, travelling from Plymouth, England to Banjul, The Gambia. On the way we have to navigate a large stretch of the Western Sahara, pass through a minefield in Mauritania and hire armed escorts in Senegal. It is a totally unsupported race – no break-down trucks, no back-up vehicles, no medical staff standing by.

Oh, and by the way, vehicles are not allowed to cost more than £100, with no more than £15 spent on preparing it. Anything else has to be begged, scrounged or borrowed.

On arrival in the Gambia, all vehicles and equipment are auctioned, with the proceeds going to various Gambian charities.

So we figured since we were going to be in the Gambia, we might as well get married there. My dress and Dave’s suit will be made by a local tailor when we arrive. The eco-lodge we are staying in are baking us a local style cake. And the ceremony will be simple and short – down on the beach with whoever wants to watch as witnesses.

Linda has a goal to raise £2000 so please visit the website to follow along on their process, and if you are so inspired, make a donation in support of the charities.

The Challenge of Reviewing


Anne at Fernham has written a brilliant article on the challenges of reviewing books and literary criticism. A highly recommended commentary – and food for thought as I continue to develop my skills as a reviewer.

So, I think about Keats and try not to write a thumbs-down review that would kill a young genius. And, I think about Lockhart and try to remember not to judge literature by my own prejudices but, instead, to judge it on its own terms. For me, that means following the lesson of Woolf, who always tried to discern a book’s own goals for itself. What is it trying to do? Does it do it?


A trip to Book Depot, otherwise known as a book spree


On Saturday I made my first “pilgrimage” to Book Depot in St. Catharines. This is the physical store associated with BookCloseouts, an addictive source for books online. I went with a group of friends and we made a day of it, spending several hours browsing in the cavernous warehouse, followed by a great dinner at Spice of Life in Port Dalhousie (although we may have been a bit raucous for those diners trying for a bit of romance).

Needless to say, I bought books. Wise? Perhaps not, but who can resist the lure of fabulous books at closeout pricing – especially if said books have been on your wishlist for ages.

Here’s the list of what I bought (for under $50):
1. We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
2. Population 485: Meeting your Neighbors One Siren at a Time by Michael Perry
3. The Sixth Lamentation by William Brodrick
4. Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired by Benson Bobrick
5. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco
6. The Secret River by Kate Grenville
7. I & Claudius: Travels With My Cat by Clare de Vries
8. Codex by Lev Grossman
9. The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne
10. The Pack: Serenity Falls Book II by James A. Moore
11. Krazy Kat by Jay Cantor
12. The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break: A Novel by Steve Sherrill
13. The Mineral Palace by Heidi Julavits
14. Forever: a Novel by Pete Hamill
15. The Afterword: a Novel by Mike Bryan
16. The Magic Shop by Denise Little
17. Piratica: Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl’s Adventure upon the High Seas by Tanith Lee

Debate on Günter Grass


The world reacts to The Tin Drum author Günter Grass’ revelation that he was drafted at 17 to serve in the Waffen SS during the last months of World War II. Questions are being raised if he should give up his citizenship of Poland or his Nobel Prize for Literature. Grass is well-known for his demands that Germans be open about their pasts, while being economical about his own.

The Independent quotes Wolfgang Boernsen, a “cultural spokesman” for Germany’s Christian Democratic Union party, as saying: “Günter Grass has spent his whole life setting high moral standards for politicians. It’s about time he applied those standards to himself and renounced all his awards – including the Nobel Prize.”

What does everyone think?

(thanks to Bookslut for pointing this out and the links)

One Book Meme


Oops! I missed being tagged by Victoria for the meme that’s been cycling through the blogs. So, please accept my apologies and here is my response.

1. One book that changed your life:
Only one? Like Victoria, I had books at every major turning point in my life which seemed to speak exactly to the issue of the moment. Picking only one – it would have to be Snowshoe Paws by Margaret Johnson. It filled a lot of age 6 since it was the first book to make me cry and yet fall in love with a particular book.

2. One book you have read more than once?
There are a few that I read regularly but picking one, that would probably be Persuasion by Jane Austen.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
The full edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (yes the one with 13 volumes)

4. One book that made you cry?
Charlotte’s Web. How could it not?

5. One book that made you laugh?
Good Omens: Being The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. When the Father of Evil starts speaking in the voice of Freddy Mercury, I just started howling with laughter.

6. One book you wish had been written?
Lady Jane Grey’s diary – what did she really think about being a Queen for nine days.

7. One book you wish had never had been written?
Hmm…well rather than mention a specific book, I’m just going to give a category: books that inspire hatred of others.

8. One book you are currently reading?
I’m reading so many right now! The main one I’m working on is The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
My list of books I want to read is over 2,000 now (and that’s only those I’ve written down). There are so many on the list that are “should have read by now” books, so picking one is tough. I’m going to go with A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth since it’s sitting on the shelf staring at me right now.

10. Now tag five people
Lotus Reads, Kimbofo, Morsie, Nimrodiel and Danielle.

Tealish and Trinity-Bellwoods Park


Readers of Eclectic Closet may soon lose patience with me for continually mentioning Type Books; however my friend Jennifer pointed out that I forgot to mention an integral part of visiting the bookstore. After picking out your selections, wander around the corner to Tealish (198 Walnut Street, Toronto, 416-203-3301), pick up a fantastic cup of iced tea or a tea smoothie and then go find a bench in Trinity-Bellwoods Park where you can read and sip while enjoying this fabulous weather. Tealish has only been open a few weeks but has an extensive selection of loose leaf teas and a great atmosphere.

After cottage report


I had such grandious reading plans for the long weekend and did read quite a lot; however, not nearly as much as hoped. The weather was so fabulous and the lake so inviting for swimming.

I did manage to read The Dead Fish Museum by Charles D’Ambrosio, Sins and Needles by Monica Ferris, and 1/3 of Douglas Brinkley’s massive tome, The Great Deluge. Reviews of the first two will be posted here in the next few days.

Dearth of posts this week


As CAP’s horoscope for Scorpios implies (see below), I’m rather tired right now. Alright, I’ll be honest – I’m burned out. I had too many late nights in a row finishing a giant grant application and I’m now so burned out I haven’t been reading at all! The horror…

I’m cottage bound tomorrow am, to take part in the annual Canadian tradition of retreating to a cottage when temperatures soar, tempers fray and peace and loon calls become a necessity. (For those not in possession of a family cottage, we cling to friends who have the coveted trophy, hoping and begging for an invitation.)

Since I am going to a cottage with other people, I will have to limit the number of books I bring since some social interaction is required. I’m hopeful that the chance to catch up on some sleep, and read while looking at the lake, will lead to lots of reading. This requires careful consideration and planning. I have a lot of reading that “has to get done” for reviews but a cottage implies fun reading.

After much pondering, here’s what I’ve packed:
1. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
2. The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley
3. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist
4. A Peach of a Murder: A Fresh-Baked Mystery by Livia Washburn
5. The Ravaging Tide: Strange Weather, Future Katrinas, and the Coming Death of America’s Coastal Cities by Mike Tidwell
6. The Dead Fish Museum: Stories by Charles D’Ambrosio
7. Sins and Needles by Monica Ferris

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