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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book Review: Knit the Season

I meant to have this book read and reviewed before last Tuesday to coincide with its availability in stores. I am a little late on that, but I wanted to give it a chance and an honest review. This may kill my chances of ever receiving another book or product to review on the blog, but I wanted to be honest.

In late September, I was contacted to see if I were interested in reading a knitlit book. Somehow, it escaped me that it was part of a series of which I didn't particularly love. So, I said yes. It arrived in October.

Once I realized my predicament, I wasn't sure what to do, but I really was determined to give this book a shot, as I think the first was the author's first published novel and I know that authors can improve as they practice and grow.

If you enjoyed the Friday Night Knitting Club, I expect you will enjoy this book. This story is a fun read. It goes quickly, it includes both cooking and knitting, which are both activities I love. I also love reading. It seems like it would be perfect for me. It wasn't. I'll start with my criticisms and then go on to the things I liked.

As an erstwhile author aspirant myself, I saw too many of my own writing flaws in the book. I am often annoyed at books (and songs and other things) that are MESSAGE stories. Stories in which the message matters more than the story. It is tempting to do this, and my attempts to write fiction have often been riddled with this problem. When Kate Jacobs gets beyond her socio-political message, the story is great. It is a little too self-conscious in places, but the characters are good, especially for this genre.

I knew from the first book the social and religious bias that would likely be present in this one, and even though both Channukah and Christmas are mentioned in the book, the religious significance of both is almost entirely missing. The eight day miracle gets a mention, but without the miracle, and nothing is said of the Nativity. That frustrates me, but I did not really expect anything else. This didn't bother me as much as the crassness that was found in some places regarding s*x. It is one thing to have vulgar language come out of a character's mouth who is known to be that way, but using crass language in descriptions becomes a part of the narrator's character and it was off putting to me. I don't know if authors do this to seem more frank or more modern, but I don't like reading vulgarity for no reason other than having it in the book. I am no prude when it comes to the passions or reading about them, but see no reason to be crass and common about them, especially when it is the author speaking rather than the characters themselves.

Some of the characters were somewhat neglected in this novel, but I don't know how that could have been avoided as the majority of it dealt with a few of the inner circle.

I'm assuming that the editorial errors in the manuscript version I received have been corrected in the edition available for sale now, so I will not delve into them, with one exception. One character's name was somehow changed on one page to be the last name of a character from another knitlit series that I read, this one a mystery series. I found that a little humorous and I'm sure it was entirely coincidental.

The best parts of the book? The relationships between the characters, the stories of Dakota's mother Georgia, Dakota's realization that her goals and accomplishments are not the only valuable things to work toward and that there is something to family cohesion and unity. Personally, reading this book spurred me to pick up my own knitting again, so there was that benefit to me.

These books are not literature. They are nice, quick reads. They are fun. I would not expect anything deeper from them. Kate Jacobs, however, does seem to be able to do that in the relationships she portrays and for that should be applauded. She handles people's reactions and feelings about death very well which is not standard in light fiction.

I like reading any fiction about cooking or knitting, so in this case, regardless of my opinions about some of the book, I would probably have read it anyway. I was nervous about giving a review that wasn't 100% in favor of the story, but again, I wanted to be truthful. It is an engaging story. The characters seem real, it is easy to relate to them, they have different enough personalities. In terms of subject, Jacobs' strength is weighted heavily to the knitting portion over the food portion of the book.

I think Knit the Season would be an enjoyable holiday read in front of a fire with a mug of cocoa or hot cider or hot toddy of some sort. Even though it may sound like I didn't enjoy the book, I actually did. Even with my objections, I liked reading it. It is somewhat predictable, but most books in this genre are. That isn't a real big criticism of it. I still enjoy all my happy little murder stories, for example, even though I usually figure them out fairly early on in the book.

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