The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Until I picked up The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce, I had been spending a lot of my reading time with suspenseful, gripping psychological thrillers -you know, all the “girl,” “wife,” or “woman” books-The Girl on The Train, The Wife Between Us, The Woman in Cabin Ten.  But this charming novel set in 1980s suburban London was a welcome change of pace-like a cool breeze after an intense thunderstorm.

The character-driven story kept me interested and intrigued, yet at the same time, soothed my soul. In addition to the music shop and its quirky inhabitants, there are the other shops on the street and their quirky owners.  At the center of the story is the music shop’s owner, Frank, a lonely middle-aged man who only wants to sell vinyl,despite the growing pressure to sell CDs. Frank has a gift for “hearing” what ails his customers and knowing what records they need to heal them, often prescribing them specific tracks and artists. There is also Father Anthony, a former priest who sells religious trinkets, Maud the tattooist who is in love with Frank, and the mildly peculiar twin brothers who run the local funeral parlor. And there is a pub of course, where they all gather.

Joyce fleshes out her characters fully enough that I really cared for each of them and their rag-tag community that fights the good fight against 1980s commercialism and gentrification.

Reading this hopeful and human story made me feel as though Joyce invited me in to her parlor for a cup of tea while she told me love stories: stories of new love, of long-lost love; stories of unrequited, unpursued, and unspoken love.

The Music Shop is not only a love story about two lonely musicphiles, it is also a love story about music. Throughout the tales of her likeable and misfit characters, Joyce weaves tidbits about musicians: their loves, their lives; their triumphs and their tragedies.  I learned a lot about music- from Beethoven and Berlioz, to the early days of punk rock and the Sex Pistols. For me, this was the icing on an already yummy cake.

If you are in need of a light but engaging escape filled with hope and humanity, The Music Shop may be just what the doctor ordered.

Staff Recommendation: The Terror

With the upcoming series The Terror scheduled to air on AMC this March, I decided to take a look at the Dan Simmons novel which inspired it. This thriller about sailors stranded in the Arctic ice is based on the true story of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition in the mid-19th century. During an attempt to find and plot the so-called Northwest Passage, a treacherous venture through frozen territory, over one hundred crewmen and two British warships — one of which was HMS Terror — vanished in the ice.

Book cover for Dan Simmons's The Terror

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200 Years of Frankenstein: This Monstrous Thing

Way back on the first of January, 1818, a slim, but riveting novel about a mad scientist and his monstrous creation was released to the public. It was called Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, and is thought by many to be the first true science fiction novel. By 1823, Mary Wolstencraft Shelley was finally credited as the author, earning her lasting fame and an endless stream of imitators.

Victor Frankenstein and his monster have been adapted into film and television almost as many times as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, iconic cinematic characters that keep Halloween stores stocked and profitable, and Gothic horror fans like me always hunting for more. In honor of Shelley’s contribution to Gothic literature, which turns 200 this year, I decided to look at a remarkable reinvention of the same story: This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee.

Book Cover: This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

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Staff Recommendation: The Language of Thorns

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic, an imaginative addition to Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha novels, was originally intended to be a prequel. What it became instead was a collection of fairy tales filtered through the lens of Bardugo’s fictional world, the stories that its children may have been told at bedtime.

Book cover for Leigh Bardugo's "The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic"

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Staff Recommendation: Leia, Princess of Alderaan

I’m back with another Star Wars review! As we seem to be ending every year on a new Star Wars movie–a trend I’m very much in favor of, by the way–we are also getting new accompanying novels to lead up to the latest film. This year’s crop of stories is subtitled “Journey to The Last Jedi,” in anticipation of Episode VIII coming out this December.

The first I read is Claudia Gray’s Leia, Princess of Alderaan. Gray is the same author who wrote Lost Stars, which may be my favorite Star Wars book to date. I’m happy to say she has more than fulfilled the high expectations I have for her work.

Book cover for "Star Wars: Leia, Princess of Alderaan" by Claudia Gray

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