Book Review

Veteran bookseller Sarah Bagby shares her experience and insight into the literary world. You also listen to Sarah's book reviews through iTunes. Listen or subscribe here

Book Review: Y

Jan 14, 2013

In the preface of her novel Y, Marjorie Celona writes about that perfect letter. "The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over... Coupled with an L, let's make an adverb... a Greek letter (that) joined the Latin alphabet after the Romans conquered Greece in the first century--a double agent: consonant and vowel. No one used adverbs before then, and no one was happy." Celona also tells us in the first sentence of the novel that it's the place where our...

L ouisa Clark lives in a small English town with her parents, grandfather, sister and nephew. She has no secondary education, the cafe where she waits on tables closes, and when her father loses his job, it's up to Lou to become the family provider. She takes a job as a caregiver for Will, a formerly larger-than-life man in his 30s who is now confined to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic.

A friend saw me reading Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and asked what I thought about the magical realism in the novel. I don't read dust jackets before beginning books, so I have to admit that I was a little disappointed to learn I had selected a title with any enchantment attached.

Book Review: Life Among Giants

Dec 3, 2012

In terms of setting and mood, Bill Roorbach’s novel Life Among Giants contains no shortage of creative derring-do. It largely takes place in the 1970s, when the Miami Dolphins ruled the National Football League. In fact, the narrator of the novel, David “Lizard” Hochmeyer, spends time in a Dolphins uniform as a backup quarterback to Bob Griese.

I chose this book for its cover. Gelatinous cranberry sauce, still holding its can-shaped form on a white plate. It screamed Thanksgiving.

On March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves disguised as police officers stole 13 works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Mass. Among the stolen were works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas and Manet. Unsolved to this day, the heist provides the perfect backdrop for The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. Claire Roth is a talented artist shunned by the art world because of a past transgression. She now makes a living copying masterpieces-- which may not be respectable, but is...

While you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, the illustration on the cover of the The News from Spain by Joan Wickersham is somewhat telling of what's inside. A single red ribbon on a black background ties each of the stories together through theme and repeated phrases. The ribbon flows with no bows or knots, bleeding off the page. Similar in design, these stories are not wrapped in tidy packages. Sometimes they begin with no introduction and end abruptly, leaving the reader to...

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon is set in Northern California, where Berkeley and Oakland meet. It’s 2004, and business partners Archy and Nat have just learned that a former NFL quarterback plans to open a music superstore in their shared hometown, placing their used record store in jeopardy. Midwife-partner wives,...

Set in France beginning in 1918, Léon and Louise is the love story of two teenagers who meet as World War I is drawing to a close. Separated during a German artillery attack, each is severely wounded and believes the other to be dead. 10 years later, both are living and working in Paris. They catch a glimpse of each other on...

Book Review: Lionel Asbo: State of England

Sep 10, 2012

Although Martin Amis’s new novel, Lionel Asbo: State of England, has received mixed reviews, it would be hard to argue that it lacks vividly drawn characters, a compelling storyline, or distinctive prose. Perhaps the legitimate complaint is that the title character, Lionel Asbo, falls a bit short on charm. In fact, Asbo is willfully anti-intellectual, with the bonus that his personality deteriorates from there, stopping off at cruel for his baseline mode—though it can’t be denied that...

Pages