Monday, September 3, 2018

"The Music Shop"

The Music Shopmy take: On a run-down street in 1980's London, wander into a shop full of boxes of records and a guy who can intuit the need of a customer. Step into his listening booth - an old wardrobe fitted with a chair and headphones, reminiscent of stepping into the furniture that leads to Narnia - and hear the soul restoring sounds. Look around and see a cast of down-on-their-luck shop keepers trying to eek out a living. Catch a glimpse of the mystery lady in the green coat.

This music shop stocks only vinyl. It's an exploration of the staying power of some art forms and the push for technology to be smaller, faster, easier. It's an exploration in the staying power of community - if we stand together we make it; when we are divided we crumble.

I wish I'd seen during the reading experience the link for the Spotify playlist - find it whilst you read and enjoy the various prescribed songs. My favorite scene involves the "Hallelujah Chorus."

my source: Daughter Anne

my verdict: Good feel good read ... some might say a beach read AND the kind of thing you might need in a dreary season. Not as great as The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry or The Love Song of Queen Hennessy ...  AND still worth a read.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

"Anything is Possible"

my take: Much in the style of Olive Kitteridge, each chapter is an intimate look at a related character. And, oh! the things they reveal.

People are so interesting. This is a little like people watching on a park bench or in a coffee shop.

Each story has a little something to do with another character, many of them referencing Lucy Barton, the small town, poverty stricken girl who's made it big by publishing a book. Many of the stories tell of their perceived or actual treatment of inferiority or superiority over another.

The thread through many of the chapters that stands out are the corn and soybean fields. For several characters they are the home sight and sound, the grounding, the center, the returning to childhood. I wonder if it's how the smell, sight, sound of the wooded Lake Michigan shore are home and center for me. It makes me wonder if everybody has a heart place.

Elizabeth Strout is a favorite and she does not disappoint AGAIN. This isn't so much plot driven as inner reflections, memories, pivotal/seminal moments. This book MASTERFULLY dovetails/informs My Name is Lucy Barton. Please read both. I re-read Lucy after finishing Anything.

my source: Costco find in hardcover. Then left it at a cottage for a year ... happy to be re-united.

my verdict: Five stars. So is My Name is Lucy Barton and Olive Kitteridge. A three for one review. You're welcome. Actually, read anything and everything by Elizabeth Strout.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

"Every Last One"

my take: As I was readying my Kindle for a two week vacation (PACKING LIGHT BECAUSE BOOKS ARE BETTER), I spied this novel in an e-book email offering. Long ago reads from Ms. Quindlen were great ... could this cheap-o unknown be any good? For $1.99 could I go wrong?

Yes. No.

The characters and situation seem so plausible that when the unthinkable happened, it deeply affected me. I'd 100% bought into the life of the Latham family as told by Mary Beth, mother of three teenagers. The everyday minutia of managing a household, children with various issues, and a landscaping business made me think it could be my own life she was describing. So. Ordinary. I thought the story was about the kids' problems. Until the real story started.


Startling. Wrenching. A ripped-from-the-headlines kind of story that left its mark on me. Unsettling because tragedy is visited upon people not like ourselves, right?

my source: Anna Quindlen a Book Bub bargain? Yes, please.

my verdict: Four out of five stars

Friday, March 2, 2018

"What Happened"

my take: With humor and lots of articulate sentences, Hillary Clinton describes her experience of running in and losing the 2016 election. And does she have words! And is she meticulous! It's a big book.

The chapter on the fake news, trolling and bots is especially interesting. She tells of her relationship with Putin and how she was preparing to deal with the fallout of the meddling and future encounters. As a former Secretary of State she has a command of not only the facts, the players, and the magnitude of the problem, she has skills for leading the country through the mess. If only.

She takes responsibility for what mistakes she made and lays out a convincing argument for the part Russia, James Comey, the circus mentality of the media, and other factors played in the election outcome (including Bernie supporters) ... and THOSE DAMN EMAILS (chapter title).

As a society, we're much more comfortable with men talking of their prowess and conquests. If you are not used to a woman confidently sharing her strengths and accomplishments, this book will feel foreign, odd. Likely there are groups of people who crucified her for bragging.

The chapter on election night was poignant and hard to read because it brought back that night so clearly for me. I shall never forget where I was, with whom I shared the evening, even what I wore. Her final chapters called "Love and Kindness" and "Onward Together" are fantastic.

I give her credit for the optimism and kindness she shows throughout the book. A private person by nature, she opens a few windows to see into her world for the last few years. I, for one, wish things had happened differently, wish her well, and am eager to see how her Onward Together movement grows.

my source: Target shopping impulse buy

my verdict: I laughed, I cried, I came away a better person. 4.5 stars ... some parts were a little long (overly meticulous?!)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Young Jane Young"

my take: As with the best Fun Female Fiction, Young Jane Young serves up an easy to read tale with discussion worthy ideas: aging, mother daughter relationships, marriage, friendship, social acceptance.

A young female intern falls in love with her married, much older, state congressman boss and the repercussions of that affair for herself and the women in her life round out the basic plot.

The story is told from various generations of women - young, old, mothers, 'enemies' - and the reader has the distinct advantage of seeing the event from several sides, even as the reader discovers more 'truths' as each woman's voice is heard.

How does one make a life again when their name, face, and action have been national headlines? (Monika Lewinsky, for example) Is there empathy, grace, derision, or slut-shaming from society?

The role of female relationships in the lives of the characters and how they make their way through life with or without the help of the others was interesting to note and ponder. Very timely in the midst of the #MeToo movement, which seeks to give space for women speak their truth and to create an environment where women support each other.

my source: Daughter Anne. I love it when she makes a recommendation AND hands me the book.

my verdict: Great fast read - I also recommend Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Firky

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"The Husband's Secret"

my take: I like how Ms. Moriarty's characters seem a bit superficial at first, the novel a bit house-wifey ... and then she blows up their world (see cover pic of a pulverized flower) and their humanity breaks into their perfect facade, each character reckoning with their own folly.

What to do when you find a letter in the attic that's addressed to you ... only to be opened on the event of your husband's death? Cecelia finds such an envelope while her husband's on a business trip. Her story line and two others (Rachel and Tess) converge in the local school.

What's okay to keep secret and what do we need to tell are two questions that would be worth discussing after reading.

my source: My sister Jennifer handed this me this one.

my verdict: Good read, especially for vacation. I like the books of hers I've read - fairly easy to get into, though not particularly memorable enough to stand alone in my brain: they're jumbled. But it's a pleasant confusion.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"A Little Life"

my take: This is one of my top picks of 2017. And yet, I hesitate to recommend it.

It's brutal.

A kind of Brothers K ... four young men meet in college and form a diverse, close-knit group. At first it's hard to figure out who is who. With 800+ pages, you have time to get to know each one.

One of the four has had an extraordinarily harsh life. As his story is slowly (thankfully) revealed, layers of evil are unearthed.

Essentially a love story. How love can wound, maim, and nearly kill. And how love can redeem. How messy our earthly love is, even with the best intentions. Not to mention the worst intentions.

The writing is what kept me going. Wow. Beautiful writing of a brutal tale.

my source: top reading lists

my verdict: excellent but difficult read