Friday, August 17, 2018

The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow

Gertie is a strong, self-reliant wife and mother living comfortably in Kentucky at the start of World War II.  When her husband moves the family to Detroit seeking higher wages, Gertie is thrust into an unfamiliar and difficult new reality. How she copes and holds her family together is a beautiful, though heart-breaking, story.  This is one of my favorite books of all time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky

Judith Schalansky has turned her lifelong interest in maps, atlases, and geography into a quick-read book about fifty of the remotest (and often most useless) islands on Earth.  Dancing just this side of tongue-in-cheek, the author describes islands whose descendants can trace directly back to the HMS Bounty mutineers, islands whose only purpose is for radio communications, islands so impossible to land on that they were discovered but not occupied until the late 20th century, and islands with deep and complex mysteries that have yet to be solved.  Don’t let the text fool you however, as all of it is impeccably researched. The story is accompanied by beautiful, full-color maps of each island, and statistical data about each island such as the land area and population.  For the armchair traveler in all of us, this one goes quickly but is an excellent read.  Recommendation: A great non-fiction read.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

The Ensemble centers around four friends forming the Van Ness Quartet.  The leader is first violinist Jana, Brit is the second violinist, Daniel plays the cello and Henry is the violinist prodigy.  Each chapter alternates from the individual perspectives of the members of the string quartet.  Through the years as each member grows and changes from success and disappointment, their friendship remains bonded by their love of music and commitment to the quartet.  It is a good summer read!

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman

    My book pick this time reads like someone's personal nature journal. It is filled with hand drawings and handwritten notes about everything in the natural world. From moon phases to the layers of the earth, plants and animals, trees and mushrooms, leaves and insects, to mountains and rivers and sea sides. Just a lovely book of all things earth.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

DiCamillo crafts a heart-warming tale of Flora, a skeptical young girl who rescues a hapless squirrel after he is accidentally sucked up by a runaway vacuum cleaner, aptly named Ulysses 2000X.  Flora resuscitates the squirrel only to discover he has acquired special powers! Intrigued, she names him Ulysses and takes him home with her, carefully sneaking by her mother who is busy working on her latest romance novel.  During the night, Ulysses sneaks downstairs for a snack (because squirrels are ALWAYS hungry) and discovers a typewriter on the kitchen table.  Slowly he taps on the letters and discovers he has yet another special power!  To find out more, check out this fast-paced Newberry Medal winner, full of quirky characters you won’t soon forget.  You won’t be disappointed!











Friday, July 20, 2018

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

I found I enjoyed Rachel Joyce's The Music Shop because I felt sympathy for the main character of Frank. Frank is the owner of a record shop that has refused to progress into the age of the compact disc. He will only sell vinyl LPs from his shop. Back in the day, I refused to buy compact discs because I enjoyed vinyl so much more, but was eventually forced to make the switch by the record industry (sorry, my tale, not Frank's).
Frank's shop is in a failing retail area of London and he is fighting to hang on, as are the other shop owners in this section of the city. These shop owners are his friends, but at times they tend to be a bit grating, and a tad nosy; still the story is as much about them as it is him. The Music Shop is a redemption tale, as its participants are trying to come out on top in the end, no matter what course they take to get there.
In addition to his technology issues, Frank is also having mother issues, and is falling in love with Ilse, a frequent visitor to his shop. Ilse is not without her own issues, and they become inter-twined with Frank's and the other members of his group. She too is looking for a final solution for happiness.
I found myself pulling for Frank, and for Ilse, even throughout their missteps and wrong turns. A creative solution finds it way to the top in the closing pages and I think most readers will find they like how Joyce wraps up the story. If you like eccentric characters, be sure to visit The Music Shop. There is also an entertaining playlist that you can find on Spotify and listen along with the story as it unfolds.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

This is a futuristic story that takes place after something has happened to the United States as we know it. It is the diary of a young woman who lived in a strict society that lasted only a short duration of time in history. The society was based on pro-creating, as the Caucasian birth rate had been drastically declining in the time period directly before this.
     The woman, known as Offred, is eventually arrested to be trained as a handmaid, because she was in a second marriage and was known to have recently had a child. Her child was taken from her and given to a family in the upper echelons of this society. She was then selected to perform the duties of handmaid for a particular family, just as in biblical times.
     In her diary she tells of her daily experience and emotions, which were stifling and scary. At the end she is taken away... hopefully to safety. We will never know because this is one of those open ended stories that leaves you no answers. It is up to you to imagine what might have happened as the author never tells you where Offred went or what happened to her.
     This title is also on the list of 100 Great American Reads.