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.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Still Me by JoJo Moyes

In this third book of a series Louisa Clark travels to New York to work for a wealthy woman as her personal assistant. Though torn between her life and boyfriend (Ambulance Sam) in England she is fascinated with the city and new experiences. Living her life with this rich family she is thrust into the high society of the super rich and the turmoil of Agnes, the second wife of Leonard Gopnik. Agnes is scorned by the other women in this society but Louisa has a knack to solve some of the problems in her witty ways. Separation from her boyfriend and a new man in her life bring Louisa to examine her relationships and figure out who she really is. Louisa, still dealing with the death of her first love, is a loveable character who always seems to get into predicaments and come out strong. This is an enjoyable book to read or listen to and follows the books Me Before You and After You.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

I enjoyed reading The Cottingley Secret, which alternates between the owner of a fictional bookstore in present day Ireland and the true account of two girls who claimed that they saw fairies in the glen near their home in England during the Great War.  The young cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths of Yorkshire, England, convinced the world that they had photographed real fairies.  Both the girls and their parents were astonished when journalists, psychics, and even the great novelist of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, believed that the photos were authentic.  A century later, Olivia Kavanagh finds a mysterious manuscript in her late grandfather's bookstore, which shares more details about the girls' childhoods and their magical fairy story that enthralled a nation during what was a tumultuous time in the world.  In an interesting plot twist, Olivia also eventually discovers that the girls' story is directly connected to hers.

P.S. Included in The Cottingley Secret are copies of the famous "Cottingley Fairies" photos that were published in 1920 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Strand Magazine.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

I missed this book when it came out in 2008, and only read it recently.  What a delightful book!  The year is 1946, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject.  She receives a letter from a man who lives on Guernsey, who had discovered her name written inside a book.  As she and the man correspond, she finds out more about the residents of the island, and begins corresponding with them also.  As the letters stream back and forth, Juliet (and we) learn about the German occupation of the Channel Islands.

Part of the appeal of the book for me was that it is composed entirely of letters between characters.  It's a unique way to craft a story.  This has been turned into a movie, to stream on Netflix sometime in 2018, but I highly recommend that you read it first!