Sunday, January 29, 2012

Forgotten Bookmarks

Used books and bookselling have been in Michael Popek's blood since he was a child. In Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller's Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages, he shares his unique collection of things discovered tucked inside the pages of books, "treasures within treasures . . . often untouched for decades."  The ephemera includes objects such as personal photographs, baseball and greeting cards, poems, shopping lists, recipes, invitations, report cards, burial vault information, razor blades, marijuana leaves and handwritten letters (received or unsent?). 

Each bookmark specimen has been reproduced, as found, and each is paired alongside a picture of the original book where the discovery was made. In an entertaining scrapbook-like presentation, Popek takes the liberty of transcribing some illegible handwriting.  However, he offers no commentary, preferring instead to let each relic and book exhibit speak for itself. This deepens reader fascination, as there is much intrigue in trying to decipher and decode whether the ephemera and book hold any combined significance.

Perigree Trade, $18.95, Hardcover, 9780399537011, 288 pp
Publication Date:  November 1, 2011
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Please note: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (12/6/11), click HERE.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Further Reading: "Sisters" in Fiction

Jane Austen launched the Bennet Sisters in Pride and Prejudice in 1813. Louisa May Alcott wrote the proverbial classic about the March sisters in Little Women in 1868.  Jane Smiley captured the love-hate  relationship of the Cook sisters in A Thousand Acres in 1991.  And Nettie and Celie, the sisters of The Color Purple by Alice Walker, released in 1982, will soon celebrate thirty years of literary significance.
Three debut novels, crafted with resonant prose, can now be added to the ever-growing canon of sororal literature:
In The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, the Andreas sisters reunite at the family home in Ohio while their mother battles breast cancer.  In this contemporary family saga, the trio of disparate thirtyish sisters--each named for a Shakespearean character due to their father's affinity for the bard--are forced to face each other, their sibling intimacy/rivalry and the limitations of their lives in trying to find their places in the world. The story also addresses romantic complications, issues of mortality and the reversal of parent-child roles.
Familial sacrifice and sudden loss define The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen.  In this Wisconsin-set novel, Milly and Twiss, two spinster sisters in the twilight of their lives, spend the majority of their days caring for wounded birds - and people.  The two look back on life-changing events from a summer in 1947 when they were teenagers.  The story weaves seamlessly between the present and the past, when small moments from that one summer, and subsequent decisions made, dramatically altered the course of the sisters' existence.
A single, tragic event comes to define and filter through three generations of one Kentucky-based family in The Sisters, a multi-generational saga by Nancy Jensen.  Secrets, lies, betrayal and miscommunication set off a chain of events that irreparably estranges the teenaged Fischer sisters. The frayed bonds of family, and how misunderstandings can rob us of time spent with those we love, is at the heart of this deeply compelling narrative that winds through almost eighty years, from the Depression to WWII to Vietnam to the present. 
Each of these gracefully written novels delves into the complexities of love and human nature.  And whether the reader is a sister or not, the multi-layered plotlines and deft characterizations found in each of these stories continue to shed light into the ties that bind and also tear apart. 

Please note: This article is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this piece (in a slightly different form) as published on Shelf Awareness for Readers (1/10/12), link HERE

Sunday, January 1, 2012

An O'Brien Family Christmas

Disillusioned accountant Laila Riley is stuck in a bad phase of her life, and it's all because of a philandering younger man, Matthew O'Brien, who stole her heart and created a rift with her family that cost her a job. When she finally breaks off her steamy affair, Laila finds that she's lost without Matthew and his large Irish-American clan of a family. It looks as though she might even be spending Christmas alone. That is until Matthew, devastated by their split, becomes determined to win Laila back. It is via the efforts of his meddling, dynamic and lovable family that Laila is convinced to join the O'Brien Christmas celebration in Dublin, Ireland under the condition that she and Matthew will keep "hands off" each other and start their courtship afresh.

This is the seventh installment in Sherryl Woods' "Chesapeake Shores" series. Each book profiles a different set of characters from the O'Brien family, and in this latest novel, Woods delivers another warm, touching saga about familial ties, romance and love. Matthew and Laila hold center stage, but as in previous books in the series, recurrent characters from the family, with stories of their own, enhance the plot--including a couple who are celebrating a honeymoon deferred by illness and the 80-year-old family matriarch who returns to Ireland for what might be the very last time, only to rekindle a relationship with an old flame. The young lovers courting in preparation for a possible future together nicely complement the story of two old friends who reunite and think only about "the now."

An O'Brien Family Christmas by Sherryl Woods
Mira, $16.95, Hardcover, 9780778312706, 288 pp
Publication Date:  September 27, 2011
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Please note: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review (in a slightly different form) on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (12/9/11), click HERE.