Thursday, February 28, 2013

Will one skein be enough?

Taking a break from my book award reading, I spent a good deal of time tonight looking and working my way through an absolutely delightful knitting book that will be available in September, just in time for holiday gift knitting.  Put it at the top of your "to-buy" list. 

Lace One-Skein Wonders: 101 Projects Celebrating the Possibilities of Lace by Judith Durant (Storey Publishing, Sept. 2013) offers a fabulous number of enticing lacy knitting projects for all levels of knitters using just one skein of yarn. The simple projects will appeal to advanced knitters and the advanced projects will entice beginners to challenge themselves to hone their lace and overall knitting skills. You'll want to cover your head, hands, feet, shoulders, and home with these knitted treasurers.  The projects are trendy yet timeless.

The book presents each project with a jazzy little introduction.  The basic information for each pattern is contained in an easy-to-read colored box.  The patterns are well-written and the accompanying charts are complete.  Since many items involve carefully structured decreases, the charts and written instructions go together very well.  Helpful hints are interspersed along the way.  The stitch glossary at the end of the book covers well a number of different techniques used. 

The patterns range in size from very small not-your-run-of-the-mill headbands to beautiful shawls that provide style for either accessorizing or chasing off a chilly breeze.  It's amazing that some of these projects can be knit from one skein, but the yardages listed for the suggested yarns seem adequate. 

This is a knitting book that will keep its value for a long time to come.  It's the best of the "One Skein Wonders" series so far.  If you are planning on knitting holiday gifts, you'll want to also make time for making several for yourself. Grab your needles, a bunch of skeins (one skein will not be enough!), a good audiobook, and enjoy.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Booking it.....

I've had the same 75 pages left to go in one of our award books all week.  It's such a good book that I hate to see it end.  I've knocked off about 30 pages today.  Right now I'm very close to tears. I've got to finish!

I've also started a galley of a book that's gaining a lot of momentum.  It's "The Dinner" by Herman Koch, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett.  This is a very suspenseful novel that revolves around a single dinner shared by brothers and their wives at a very chic restaurant.  Each couple has a 15-year old son, both of whom have committed some horrible crime.  I'm about a quarter of the way through it and I've already recommended it for our "best of" list for next year.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Maine Readers' Choice Award - 2012

We're off and running.  We've narrowed our initial list of 44 "best of 2012" books down to 10.  They now have to be read by May.  I haven't read any of them (just what exactly did I read last year, anyway???!!!), so this is a tall order for me, the world's slowest reader.  The titles are being kept under wrap until we have a website up and running.  I've started 3 of the books.  One I'm just about 3/4 of the way through.  Excellent.  The other two hold great promise, so it will be a difficult decision.  We have a fine committee put together so there should be some spirited debate as we work our way through the list and a fine list of 5 at the end for Maine readers to vote on.  Stay tuned ...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Best book of 2012.....

Last year when the Pulitzer Committee failed to name a fiction winner, a library consultant colleague, Valerie, took the bull by horns and formed a committee to read the finalists and determine a winner.  As you may expect and can see from a previous post, we had a great time with it.  My choice ("The Pale King") came in last.  (I couldn't get through the winner, "Swamplandia.")  It was fun and I loved the pressure to read more.

Well, now we're taking the project one step further.  Valerie has formed another committee to select the best book of 2012.  This time it won't be just the committee making the determination, but a cross-section of librarians, booksellers, reviewers, and literacy advocates.  We're still in the formation stages, but we're making great progress.  We have a name, "The Maine Readers' Choice Award."  And, we have a plan.  Right now we're narrowing a list of 44 "best of" books down to 10.  The committee will read the 10 semi-finalists.  A list of 5 finalists will then be determined by the committee.  The list will be given to libraries and booksellers to promote to all Maine readers.  They'll have the summer to read the books and select a winner which will be announced in September.  What will Maine readers say?

I am certainly up for the challenge.  I had read only one from the list of 44, as 2012 wasn't my best reading year.  The semi-finalists will all be new reads for me.  I'm a slow reader, but I will get through them.  I'm anxious to work with the committee members to hear what they say makes a great book.  The judging criteria simply says that the book must be fiction, well-written, and tell a compelling story. 

What makes a book great?  For me it's how all the elements of the story are woven together.  The characters have to have some substance.  They don't have to be likable people but they have to have a good story to tell.  The writing needs to flow well, not just clever or flowery language, but words strung together to convey emotion and sense of place. 

I look back at some recent reads and think about how well they stood up to my personal standards.  "Casual Vacancy" by J.K. Rowling didn't have a single likable character.  It was filled with sad, broken people - they dealt with OCD, passive/aggressive behavior, spousal/child abuse, addiction, and much more.  However, the way that Rowling tied their stories was outstanding.  "Margaret from Maine" by Joseph Monninger didn't do quite as good a job.  The story is beautifully written.  Monniger certainly writes beautiful sentences that created beautiful scenes that set the stage for the story.  However, the characters weren't quite up to snuff.  They never really dealt with the angst that their story presented to them.  I will definitely read more by the author because he writes so well - you just won't see that book on my "best of 2013" list.

So, off I go into my next reading adventure.  I probably won't be able to discuss the books themselves as we make our way to our five finalists, but there will be a lot to say about the process.  Stay tuned....