The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

 Summary ~ The Bird Sisters~ Love is timeless. So too is heartbreak.

Whenever a bird flies into a window in Spring Green, Wisconsin, sisters Milly and Twiss get a visit. Twiss listens to the birds’ heartbeats, assessing what she can fix and what she can’t, while Milly listens to the heartaches of the people who’ve brought them. The two sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health. 

But back in the summer of 1947, Milly was known as a great beauty with emerald eyes and Twiss was a brazen wild child who never wore a dress or did what she was told. That was the summer their golf pro father got into an accident that cost him both his swing and his charm, and their mother, the daughter of a wealthy jeweler, finally admitted their hardscrabble lives wouldn’t change. It was the summer their priest, Father Rice, announced that God didn’t exist and ran off to Mexico, and a boy named Asa finally caught Milly’s eye. And most unforgettably, it was the summer their cousin Bett came down from a town called Deadwater and changed the course of their lives forever.
Character analysis, atmosphere and subtlety are the name of the game in Rebecca Rasmussen’s lovely debut novel The Bird Sisters.  Twiss & Milly are sisters in every sense of the word.  Blood sisters, best friends, supporters, criticizers and playmates.  Life in rural Wisconsin is slow, quiet and calm for the most part.  That is until the church pastor walks away from his faith and his church community, the sisters father suffers unknowing damage from a freak accident and their cousin Bett arrives for the summer.  The Bird Sisters was a slow start for me but once I found my rhythm and became familiar with the characters and their lives I became wrapped up in their stories. 
 
I was disappointed to find myself unwillingly figuring out the secrets way too early that showed themselves later in the book.  I don’t try to do that but my brain just sees things between the lines.  The Bird Sisters surprised me when I found myself welling up due to the heartbreaking sadness that plagued the sisters and their family.  It takes a lot for me to cry when reading and I didn’t realize how invested I was in this book until the first tear fell.  Like the subtle story telling that Rebecca writes so beautifully the emotions crept up on me and took me over like the scent of flowers in a field as you drive by.  Taboo topics are hinted at and then quietly brought to the forefront by Rebecca’s gentle hand. 
 
 
Like The Bird Sisters, its author is sweet, lovely and full of layers.  I had the sincere pleasure of not only meeting Rebecca Rasmussen last night at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA but because of the strange turn of events I had the opportunity to really talk with Rebecca and get to know her quickly but truthfully.  This crazy weather we’ve been having here on the east coast played its tricks about fifteen minutes before Rebecca’s book event was to begin.  Lightning and thunder struck just above the building that One More Page Books is in and that tripped the circuits.  The fire alarms in the building block went off and weren’t reset for two hours.  We all had to stand outside for forty minutes where I proceeded to melt and wither a bit.  Eileen, the store owner and host took matters into her own hands and went across the street to La Cote D’Or Cafe, a quaint restaurant that graciously allowed One More Page Books to hold the book event in their dining room. 
 
 
Once settled the evening proceeded smoothly and quite nicely.  Instead of reading from The Bird Sisters Rebecca took questions from the audience.  I really loved the way she could elaborate on a question and in a way tell a story to get her answer across.  She made me feel better when she discussed the fact that some readers were finding it difficult to get settled into the book.  I had felt the same way and though I love literary fiction and prefer it to “commercial fiction” I still found it challenging at first to find my groove with The Bird Sisters.  Rebecca also answered questions about her publishing experience and sang her editor’s praises.  All in all Rebecca Rasmussen was a joy to meet, talk with and listen to.  If you get the chance to attend one of her upcoming events I highly recommend it.  She will be on the east coast for a little while and you can check out her website for tour dates and locations HERE.
 
If you are looking for a beautifully written book to add to your TBR list pick up The Bird Sisters.  The beautiful cover is just the icing on the cake with this book!
 
Rebecca Rasmussen & Me with The Bird Sisters
 {Rating ~ 4 out of 5}
Advertisements

What A Fabulous Day For A Book Festival!

Saturday I attended the 2nd Annual Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, MD.  The weather was picture perfect and excitement was in the air.  Stories were everywhere you looked but the stories I was there to hear were being told by Paula McLain, Rachel Machacek, Meg Waite Clayton, Caroline Leavitt, Eleanor Brown (for the second time in three days!) and Katharine Weber.  What a well run, smooth and seamless event!

I had a whole personal schedule put together of authors I wanted to see and you know what?  I listened to all of them speak and read plus one that was unplanned and received their signatures while enjoying short conversations with each lovely lady in the signature tents!  This was truly and bookish event. 

I started the morning with the long drive from my home in Northern Virginia to Gaithersburg, MD.  Actually it didn’t take that long because of the light, swiftly moving traffic (47 miles in 50 minutes) but my excitement for what the day had in store for me kept me anxious the whole way.  I drove past the pink Marriott Hotel where Hubby and I got married and felt a sense of happiness and excitement.  I didn’t know what to expect since this was only the second book festival the city of Gaithersburg had held but I did have faith because the organizers had been communicating so well on the social networks and in the local news media as well as through their website http://www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org/.  The date was May 21st, the supposed end of the world and Rapture.  So, I took it as a good sign that things weren’t as serious as some were trying to lead others to believe when I parked at a church a block from the event and asked a priest who was passing by if I could park there for the book festival.  He said, “Sure!” and continued leisurely on his way.  LOL!
 
I was meeting a couple of friends, Diane & Beastmomma, but as usual was the first to arrive.  Nothing on my friends!  I’m just always early or on time and can count on one hand when I have been late.  I made my way onto the festival grounds and looked around.  I checked out the tent where most of the authors I wanted to see were going to present later that day.  After getting a water and scone from a vendor I ran into Eleanor Brown, the author of The Weird Sisters.  We had met two days prior at her event at One More Page Books and had hit it off.  We caught up, compared schedules and began walking.  Eleanor was looking for the VIP tent since she was one of the featured authors of the festival.  We parted ways but continued to bump into each other throughout the day.  What a lovely and fun woman she is!  I found the signing tents and the B&N book sales tent which I entered to check things out.  I was pleased with how nicely all the books by the featured authors were displayed.  Tables and tables of books, some familiar and most not.   I had already brought some books I bought especially to be signed at the event but I discovered some by authors I was seeing that I ended up buying.  Let’s just say my bag was very heavy.  I know you know what I’m talking about!
  
Time was moving so I made my way towards the F. Scott Fiztgerald tent for the first event I was attending.  Paula McLain would be discussing her debut novel The Paris Wife.  Ms. McLain was just darling!  She was passionate in discussing the background of her main character Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife.  She told us how Hadley and Hemingway had met and then a bit of their lives together, their adventures and misadventures in Paris and she set the scene for her book.  Then she read, really I should say recited passages, from her book.  During the reading my friends arrived.  After her presentation we met Paula McLain in the signing tents where I chatted quickly with her while she graciously signed my copy of The Paris Wife.  One down, five books to go!
 
 
The day continued without a hitch under picturesque blue skies and light breezes.  I had to make a choice about which author to see in one time slot so I missed listening to Katharine Weber, author of The Music Lesson, True Confections, Triangle, The Little Women and Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear but I did get to meet her in the signing tents where she signed my copy of The Music Lesson
 
Next was my unexpected addition to my schedule.  Per Eleanor Brown’s recommendation my friends and I went to the H.L. Mencken Pavillion to listen to Rachel Machecek talk about her book The Science of Single: One Woman’s Grand Experiment in Modern Dating, Creating Chemistry, and Finding Love.  What a good idea that turned out to be seeing her!  Rachel was HILARIOUS and gave a great talk!  She was self-depreciating enough and very likeable.  Funny and thoughtful and critical but not mean.  My friends and I were cracking up and as soon as the event was over we bought her book and met her over at the signing tents.  Rachel asked me if I was single and I told her that I had been out of the dating scene for a decade now.  I shared with her my story of meeting Hubby in D.C. and I told her that I was proof that dating in D.C. isn’t hopeless by any means.  She was very interested in the details and was kind and signed my book. 
 
After grabbing a quick bite one of my friends and I headed back to the F. Scott Fitzgerald tent and listened to Caroline Leavitt and Meg Waite Clayton.  Caroline’s book Pictures of You has been heating up the book blogs this year so I was very curious about her.  Also Meg Waite Clayton has some very popular books under her belt.  The Wednesday Sisters, The Language Of Light and her newest novel, The Four Ms. Bradwells.  I felt that pairing the two authors together on stage was a bit awkward but the let us know that they were happiest not being alone on stage.  Authors aren’t performers.  They’re creativity flows from solitude and quietness so sometimes the stage is not the most comfortable place authors.  Caroline talked about her book Pictures of You and gave us some background on where she was coming from when writing it.  Having not read it yet I had to go on the things bloggers have been saying about the book to follow but she made me even more excited to read it.  Meg Waite Clayton was a force to be reckoned with in her presentation.  She used to be a lawyer and it showed!  She talked about living in Maryland’s horse country and the time there raising her young children and really starting to write.  After their event my friend and I met them in the signing tents.  I enjoyed the conversations I had with both and even got a hug from Meg because I had bought two of her books.  She was very grateful and it was very sweet.
 
 
The last event on my list was Eleanor Brown being interviewed by The Washington Post’s Ron Charles.  What an energy filled, funny and enjoyable event that was!  Eleanor was star struck by the famed Post fiction critic and he was in awe of Eleanor and her creation, The Weird Sisters.  Eleanor had told me earlier that she was going to have the same stories and jokes as the other day but this event was made even better because of Ron Charles’ questions and interest in getting to the heart of Eleanor’s writing. 
 
What an inspirational and wonderful day!  I think what made it even better was the fact that it wasn’t over attended.  The Annual National Book Festival that is held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is so massive, crowded and manic at times that in comparison the Gaithersburg Book Festival was a joy in every moment.  I know that will change as the festival grows in popularity over the coming years but I’m glad to have attended this year when calm and order was the name of the game.  I was happy to learn that for the first time this year the National Book Festival will be expanded to two days from the one day it’s been for the last decade.  Hopefully that will alleviate some of the crowd problems it faces. 
 
I hope that if your local area hosts a book festival in the future that you will take advantage and attend.  The authors I saw were so happy to talk about their pride and joys.  They lit up when fans presented them with blank title pages of their books to be signed.  Happy reading!

Bookish Fun In Arlington

Earlier this year I received a phone call from my mother-in-law telling me about this book she was reading on her Kindle.  It was called The Weird Sisters and she thought I might like to read it too.  She gave me a little summary about the book and explained that though the father was a professor of Shakespeare and not a physicist like mine and though there were three sisters instead of the two in my family, there were some similarities between the fictional family and mine.  So I put it on my ever-growing TBR list over on Goodreads.com. 

In April I discovered that the author, Eleanor Brown, would be doing a reading/signing event with one of my favs Sarah Pekkanen here in Northern Virginia at One More Page Books in May.  I ordered the book immediately, started reading it a few days before the event and just in time (four hours shy of the start of the event) I finished reading it.  When I walked into the wonderfully cozy and friendly independant bookstore One More Page Books in Arlington,VA I went over to say hi to Sarah who then introduced me to Eleanor Brown.  Damn do I love that woman!  She is AWESOME!  We hit it off immediately.  I told her that I had finished the book in time (I had typed on her Facebook wall earlier that day that I had twenty pages left to read before that night) and she recognized me from Facebook.  I then shared with Eleanor and Sarah the similarities between my family and the fictional Andreas family.  My mother is a breast cancer survivor, I have a father who is obsessed with physics and grew up surrounded by books and creative thinking and I have a strained relationship with my sister.  Eleanor’s response was, “Well that’s because I was following your family around as I wrote this book!”

Sarah Pekkanen & Eleanor Brown @ One More Page Books in Arlington, VA

 

The discussion was great and the chemistry between Sarah and Eleanor was sensational.  The space is small but adaquate and it was great to see so many people who turned out for these hometown girls.  As you can see it was a very animated and funny event.  Afterwords each author was set up on opposite sides of the store.  I finally got a signature from Sarah for her latest novel Skipping A Beat.  I had read it on my Kindle the week it came out but wanted to get the physical book version for my collection.  With that done I popped over to the other end of the store and hat a nice chat with Eleanor.  I told her how funny I thought she was and that I was looking forward to seeing her again in two days at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Maryland.  A fellow fan took our picture too which turned out nicely.  

Eleanor Brown & me, Karen @ Planet Books

 

I was so glad to have this opportunity to meat Eleanor and see Sarah again!  Also, for maybe the first time I had the books read before the event.  That made a world of difference because then the conversation is about the book.  It seemed like most of the attendees had read The Weird Sisters too which made for a great Q&A.  I hope that they also take the time to read Sarah Pekkanen’s wonderful second novel Skipping A Beat.  If you can I highly recommend visiting One More Page Books!  It’s the newest indepenant book shop in the DC Metro area but what makes it even better is they sell wine and chocolate and serve both as well as pastries for their events.

A Bookish Double Date (triple if you count Garth Stein!)

I have to tell you all about my AWESOME Saturday night!  It was date night with hubby and it was especially wonderful because Hubby agreed to join me at a book reading/signing event after dinner.  One of my favorite authors, Garth Stein had an event at the Bethesda Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD tonight.  He was there to discuss and read from his New York Times best seller The Art of Racing in the Rain and he was fabulous.  This was the first bookish event that Hubby has attended with me since I became “bookish” myself.  It was fun and we started our evening with a nice dinner at Tower Oakes Lodge and then made our way to Bethesda.  We walked around Bethesda Row, checked out Barnes & Noble, the Apple Store (all the iPads were busy with other customers/gawkers so we played with the iPhones) and even had a local celebrity sighting.  Every evening I watch the ABC local evening news with Gordon Peterson.  I grew up watching him when he was a news anchor on CBS but since moving out of the area and then coming back seven years later Gordon and his team moved to ABC, so I followed. 

Anyway, I digress.  After our nice walk we headed over to The Bethesda Writer’s Center and took our seats with LibraryLove and one of her girlfriends.  I was very excited to be attending this event with Garth Stein because The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of my all time favorite books.  I had the great privilege of corresponding with Garth Stein a couple of years ago when his touching, enjoyable, heart wrenching and funny book told from the point of view of a dog named Enzo first came out.  You can check out my review HERE.  Garth wrote a great guest post for me HERE on Planet Books back in 2008.  Hubby, Rocky and I were living in Okinawa, Japan at the time and to have this opportunity to meet him in my hometown area, now that we are living back in the area was fantastic and very special.  Garth is from my parents hometown area of Seattle and his books take place there, which makes it nice for me to read them because I recognize landmarks and locations that make it into his stories. 

I have to say that the whole event; the reading, the story telling, the history lesson, the Q&A and the signing, was perfect!  Garth Stein is a great public speaker and to hear him read from his book was great.  The audience was responsive to his jokes and sentimental references.  The event lasted ninety minutes and most of that time was spent listening to Garth talk, read aloud and answer questions from his fans.  I was thrilled that he answered one of my questions!  I asked Garth if he hugged his real life dog Comet throughout the writing experience because I hugged my dog Rocky while I read his book and what he thought Comet might say (if she could) about him and their family when it was her time to pass.  Garth responded with a chuckle and then said that Comet is a great dog but no Enzo.  That actually he dedicated the book to his childhood dog, Muggs, who he found inspiration from when writing Enzo.  He was particularly interested in the relationship Muggs had with Garth’s father. 

When the time came for Garth to sign books I got in line with all three of his books, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Raven Stole the Moon and How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets.  While waiting in line I brought up a picture of Rocky on my BlackBerry to show Garth.  When it was my turn to approach the signing table I said hi and showed Garth the picture of Rocky and said he wanted to say hi too.  (I know I’m a total dork but oh well.)  I then proceeded in introducing myself and telling Garth that I was “Planet Books” and was the blogger who had lived in Okinawa.  Garth remembered me and generously signed all three of my books.  He even honored my request of signing my copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain to me AND Rocky. 

I just have to say that if you have not read any of Garth Stein’s novels then you don’t know what you are missing and believe me, you’re missing something.  You don’t have to be a dog owner to enjoy and even love The Art of Racing in the Rain.  You just have to love wonderful writing, great storytelling, rich characters and books with heart.

{The picture you see here of the cover of The Art of Racing in the Rain is not the original cover.  I was so obsessed with this book when I read it that I posed Rocky on the guest bed in our house in Okinawa and posted it on Planet Books next to an image of the books cover art.  My sister was then inspired to work some PhotoShop magic and insert Rocky’s profile into the cover art.  So this is my own personal cover art picture of one of my favorite books with my favorite canine in the whole universe.}

Author’s Can Be SOOOO Cool (and sometimes they don’t even know it)!

So, last night my friends Hillary and Amy joined me in Bethesda for a book signing.  Now this wasn’t just any book signing.  It was the publishing day for my new/old friend Sarah Pekkanen and her novel, The Opposite of Me.  Sarah reminded me that it was twenty-one months ago when she first contacted me via e-mail, while Hubby and I were still in Okinawa.  She asked me to please check out her new website for her upcoming book and tell her what I thought and if it needed any changes.  Me!?!  Who was I to tell and author what to do with her website?!  Well, I did and I learned that Sarah lived in Chevy Chase, MD and she was writing a work of women’s fiction.  Her website was really cool with chocolate and cotton candy pink hues and witty writing that made me laugh.  I signed up for her monthly newsletter that provided updates on her writing and her life.    

We kept in touch throughout the months so when I decided to fly to DC for one of my best friend’s wedding in November of 2008 I asked her if we could get together for coffee while I was in town.  Sarah agreed to the get together but her baby had other plans.  He decided he wanted to join the world at the beginning of that week so we didn’t get that original opportunity.  Let me tell you folks something.  Better late than never!  Last night we finally had the wonderful pleasure of meeting each other for the first time at Sarah’s book signing/reading/Q&A event at her neighborhood Barnes & Noble Bookstore.  

Amy, Hillary, Sarah & Me!

After the event she invited everyone to join her at a local watering hole across the street for chocolate-tinis (not my drink so I had a chocolate milkshake).  I am so glad we did!  Hillary, Amy and I got to hang out and talk with Sarah and her charming husband Glenn for over an hour total.  We talked about why Sarah’s book, being a brand new first release, wasn’t in hardcover (her publisher proposed that with the recession in place it would be better to make the price of the book cheaper), how she felt nervous but welcomed by her family and friends at her first event, how grateful both Sarah and Glenn are to famed author Jennifer Weiner for her support throughout the publishing process (they have the same editor) and numerous other things that helped us all get to know each other. 

The evening was a special and memorable one that I will never forget.  I am so grateful to be a book blogger/reviewer because of moments like these when the huge gap the reader sometimes feels between themself and the author dissolves and a friendship is born.  I am one lucky lady and wouldn’t change a thing about any of it. 

{Thanks to Hillary aka Library Love for granting me permission to post her beautiful pics!}