The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

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My Review:

If you love the 80s, music, tradition, England and love, you will want to read The Music Shop right away!  Frank had an odd childhood; growing up he called his single mother by her first name and, the only thing his not so nurturing, nontraditional mom ever taught him about was music.  Now, a single man outside of London, Frank owns a small music shop on a run down street.  He only sells vinyl records; refuses to keep up with the times and offer cds or even cassette tapes.  He has given up on the possibility for love and seems content in his role in life as a music expert. Frank matches customers and friends to songs he thinks they need to know.  He is quirky and old fashioned, but likable and has a reputation for being a good man and helping lots of people.

One day a beautiful, mysterious woman shows up at his shop
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The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

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My Review:

The Best of Adam Sharp is like a fantasy that materializes; the story of wishful thinking from a middle aged man in a status quo relationship with an adequate job.  In the story, Adam’s lost love of his life, an Australian actress, gets back in touch with him after 20 years and he is faced with the decision to stay in his ho hum relationship with his ok wife or to pursue his old flame to see what would be.  Adam struggles with the decision but ultimately chooses this once in a lifetime second chance, to meet up with his love from the past.  What happens next is not what you would expect, and some crazy things ensue. This quirky love story is well paced and throughout the book, author Graeme Simsion travels down memory lane referencing songs of the past. Nostalgic, romantic and mildly humorous, the story did include some bigger issues related to parenting and relationships, but I didn’t feel much emotional connection to any particular character.  I was curious to know what would happen next, but for me, the best part of The Best of Adam Sharp was the music mentioned throughout the story, including The Beatles, Joe Cocker, Stevie Wonder and The Rolling Stones.  A cute story for 50 year old music lovers; the “playlist” is in the back of the book if you want to preview it!

As seen on Goodreads:

From the #1 bestselling author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect, an unforgettable new novel about lost love and second chances

On the cusp of turning fifty, Adam Sharp likes his life. He’s happy with his partner Claire, he excels in music trivia at quiz night at the local pub, he looks after his mother, and he does the occasional consulting job in IT.

But he can never quite shake off his nostalgia for what might have been: his blazing affair more than twenty years ago with an intelligent and strong-willed actress named Angelina Brown who taught him for the first time what it means to find—and then lose—love. How different might his life have been if he hadn’t let her walk away?

And then, out of nowhere, from the other side of the world, Angelina gets in touch. What does she want? Does Adam dare to live dangerously?

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About the Author:

Graeme Simsion is a former IT consultant and the author of two nonfiction books on database design who decided, at the age of fifty, to turn his hand to fiction. His first novel, The Rosie Project, was published in 2013 and translation rights have been sold in forty languages. The sequel, The Rosie Effect, is also an international bestseller.
Graeme’s third novel is The Best of Adam Sharp, a story of a love affair re-kindled – and its consequences.
Graeme lives in Australia with his wife, Anne Buist, also a published writer ( Medea’s Curse, Dangerous to Know).

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

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Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

Summary as seen on Goodreads:

One hot August day a family drives to a mountain clearing to collect birch wood. Jenny, the mother, is in charge of lopping any small limbs off the logs with a hatchet. Wade, the father, does the stacking. The two daughters, June and May, aged nine and six, drink lemonade, swat away horseflies, bicker, and sing snatches of songs as they while away the time.

But then something unimaginably shocking happens, an act so extreme it will scatter the family in every different direction.

In a story told from multiple perspectives and in razor-sharp prose, we gradually learn more about this act, and the way its violence, love and memory reverberate through the life of every character in Idaho.

 

My Comments:

Narration alternates throughout the novel, Idaho, as we travel back and forth in time to learn about main character, Wade, his father, first wife Jenny, and their daughters May and June, as well as Ann, his piano teacher and second wife.  We also get to know Eliot, a schoolmate of May and June’s and a student of Ann’s.  The storytelling is slow and deliberate, each chapter reveals information that connects the characters to each other and gives the reader a greater understanding of their emotions and actions.

Wade succumbs to memory failure as he battles early onset dementia like his father and grandfather.  Jenny gives up on life and self punishes, and Ann lives with secrets and guilt as she pieces together her ideas and thoughts to create what she believes is the truth of the past.  Fighting memories, real and imagined, and exercising forgiveness in the face of loss, I struggled along with each character as they tried to remember, tried to forget, and tried to make sense of it all.

Emily Ruskovich did an exceptional job with character development and I have to believe she put a lot of time and thought into who each character was, what they believed in and how they would think and act in any situation.  Through their relationships they are portrayed as real and whole and complex. The rural, solitary setting in Idaho made for a secluded and eerie feeling, perfect for the storyline (No spoilers!).  I Highly recommend this book if you want to read a slower paced, thoughtful novel that is more character focused and less action packed.