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S.M.C.'s Reviews

Susan McCloskey has worked at Bookshop Santa Cruz since graduating from UCSC in 2000. She is the former Event Coordinator at Bookshop and continues to consult for the store. In her other life, she is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She believes in story, and loves the meld of working with books, narrative, and people.

Center Center by James Whiteside

American Ballet Theater principal dancer James Whiteside details his rise to fame and his life beyond ballet in this energetic and humorous memoir. Knowing he was gay at an early age, Whiteside thought that ballet “was doing something super gay” only to be disappointed by the heteronormative roles that male dancers were cast in. While keeping up with the demands of ballet, he also ventured out into becoming a New York drag queen and breaking into the pop-music scene in order to stay connected to his true self. While Center Center doesn’t delve into the details of dance technique or the wonders of performances, it’s a fun read detailing the flair and determination it takes to reach the top.—S.M.C.

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Center Center: A Funny, Sexy, Sad Almost-Memoir of a Boy in Ballet Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593297834
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Viking - August 17th, 2021

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

Pulitzer Prize winner Louise Erdrich’s new novel is narrated by Tookie, an Ojibwe bookseller with a harried past. Tookie’s determination to live a peaceful life following her complicated youth is upended when a past customer returns to the bookstore as a ghost with a particular quest for Tookie. The novel deepens as our own lived current events merge into Erdrich’s fictional world. With the start of the pandemic, and then George Floyd’s murder, we watch Tookie navigate not just the ghost, but also the haunting of racism so deeply rooted in America’s history. With Erdrich’s uncanny ability to include humor with depth, Tookie’s story unfolds in a way that is both desperate and uplifting. —S.M.C.

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The Sentence Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062671127
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper - November 9th, 2021

There I Am by Ruthie Lindsey

If Glennon Doyle, Anne Lamott, and Brené Brown were somehow to produce a love child, Ruthie Lindsey would be it. At 17 in her small Louisiana hometown, she was in a car accident that left her with a 5 percent chance of survival and a 1 percent chance of walking again. Yet, miraculously, after only two months and a spinal fusion surgery, she walked out of the hospital, went to college, and put the incident mostly behind her. But years later, she was struck by debilitating pain. One of the wires used for her original surgery had broken free and was now penetrating the base of her brain stem. Without another emergency surgery, any move could be her last. With honesty, buoyancy, self-deprecation, Southern wit and intelligence, Lindsey examines not “just…the magic of optimism, but the work of it.” — S.M.C.

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There I Am: The Journey from Hopelessness to Healing—A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982107925
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Gallery Books - April 20th, 2021

When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

This is a wonderful can’t-put-it-down literary mystery for fans of Tana French or Rene Denfeld. Set in Mendocino County, the story focuses on Anna Hart, a San Francisco detective who has fled to her hometown after a family tragedy. When a local teenager goes missing, Anna finds herself instinctively drawn to the crime, and  the reader bears witness to the ways that Anna’s past and present start to merge in startling ways. This is a smart, captivating read, blending trauma theory, atmospheric writing, and an intimate character study of one woman’s quest to learn how to find trust in herself again. — S.M.C.

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When the Stars Go Dark: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593237892
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Ballantine Books - April 13th, 2021

What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins

At a time when our world can seem rooted in pitting ourselves against one another, this book is a beacon of hope. The brutal trauma of a murder/suicide of two teen boys who were lifelong friends leaves a small Washington town, and particularly the boys’ families, reeling. When 16- year-old Evangeline shows up alone and pregnant weeks after the tragedy, she holds a mysterious link to both boys’ past. We watch how three people start to form a bond that speaks to the depths and courage of our capacity to heal and to what it means to forge ahead when all seems lost. These characters are so real and true and complex. I recommend this book to anyone who is needing that reminder of just how redemptive the power of hope can be. — S.M.C.

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What Comes After: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593085998
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - April 13th, 2021

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis Edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Katharine K. Wilkinson

Mixing poetry, art, science, and opinion from women across all ages, races, and classes, All We Can Save looks at climate change from a feminist perspective, where the idea of problem and solution is rooted in the idea of no hierarchy and that we are all “inextricably linked” (Jo Harjo).  Whether it is poet Ellen Bass, author Alice Walker, or Indigenous activist Xiye Bastida reaching across the page, this collection emphasizes that we need not choose science over art , or new ideas versus old, or even hope over despair—it is in the unity of all ideas that solution and transformation can be found. For all who are struggling with current times, this is your read. — S.M.C.

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All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593237069
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: One World - September 22nd, 2020

Whale Day: And Other Poems by Billy Collins

Former US poet laureate Billy Collins’s newest collection (his first in 4 years) is a wonderful gathering of poems that shines with its combination of mirth and depth. While the subject of these poems varies, there is an undercurrent of looking at life from the eyes of someone who is aging and holding mortality in view. I was delighted by the humor and wit that Collins juxtaposes with the tender and profound. This is a wonderful, readable book. Collins has once again proven himself, with poems that delight as much as they touch the heart. — S.M.C.

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Whale Day: And Other Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399589751
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - September 29th, 2020

Stakes Is High by Mychal Denzel Smith

The honest and intelligent exploration of American identity in Stakes Is High couldn’t be more timely. Mychal Denzel Smith shines light on the American Dream and the idea that working hard and holding purpose can lead to success and stability. He shows the schisms in that dream, focusing on Black lives in history and the institutional oppression and racism that are such a part of America’s mythical promises and of Trump and the current political climate. Smith helps us see where change is possible in this important read. — S.M.C.

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Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream Cover Image
ISBN: 9781568588735
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Bold Type Books - September 15th, 2020

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

What if Jesus of Nazareth had a wife? In best-selling author (The Secret Life of Bees) Sue Monk Kidd’s new novel, she imagines just that. With painstaking detail about the historical time, Kidd introduces us to Ana, a young woman born with a gift for words who lives in a time when silence and obedience defined a woman’s place and belonging. Ana’s finding of her voice is intertwined with Jesus’s pursuit for kindness and humanity. What is imagined here is not a tale of one person saving another, but an unfolding love story in which mirroring and respect lead to both risk and reward. Kidd’s ability to hold reverence while infusing new life and perspective to a story that is so known is extraordinary. I cannot explain the beauty and depth of this book, its language, its heart, its anger, its grief, and ultimately its triumph; this is one novel you don’t want to miss.

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The Book of Longings: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525429760
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Viking - April 21st, 2020

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

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The Night Watchman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062671189
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Harper - March 3rd, 2020

Louise Erdrich has done it again—she has written yet another novel that weaves together that magical mix of character, heart, wit, and masterful prose. Like Erdrich’s award-winning The Round House, this new novel speaks to the politics and life of the Chippewa living on a North Dakota Reservation. In fact, Erdrich bases The Night Watchman on her own grandfather and his fight to save Native American land and identity from betrayal by the United States Congress in the 1950s. The explicit political undertones in this novel serve only to deepen the virtuosity and depth of its characters. Intertwining several different storylines and characters, their collective plights for understanding, rescue, love, and triumph, created such a crescendo by the novel’s end that once again, I was in awe of Erdrich’s brilliance. It is hard to capture the totality that The Night Watchman: a love story, a haunting, a mystery, cityscape, country, horror, and humor—it’s all here. All I can say is read it, and you will ever be so glad you did.  —S.M.C.


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