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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.

What Poets Are Like by Gary Soto

Gary Soto is the author of children’s books, young adult fiction, and numerous collections of poetry—and is often referred to as one of the nation's first Chicano poets. In What Poets are Like, Soto captures episodes of a writer’s inner and public life. From rejection letters, to craving only the dog’s company, to the acclaim (or lack-there-of) that comes with writing poetry, Soto’s deep wit and self-deprecating sense of story-telling opens up toward surprising reflection and appreciation of a writer’s life. I loved this book for its unapologetic honesty and insight; here’s to irreverence at its best.

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What Poets Are Like: Up and Down with the Writing Life Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781570618741
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Sasquatch Books - August 20th, 2013

Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere by Poe Ballantine

Cheryl Strayed (Wild) wrote the introduction to this book, and in it she captures (in only the way that Cheryl Strayed can) the brilliance and luminosity of Poe Ballantine’s writing. After being a wanderer for most of his life, at forty-six Ballantine settled down in small town Nebraska, got married, and had a son, who was later diagnosed with autism. In 2006, Poe’s neighbor, a math professor at the local college, is found brutally murdered, and the police and the rest of the town are baffled about the motive and circumstances. Poe, using his writer’s sense, is inclined to know the deeper story of what happened, and with his 5-year-old son in tow, sets out to understand more. What follows is Poe’s six-year exploration of the case, but also his examination of his small town, his own marriage, the complexities of fatherhood, and the depth and understanding that can be found in pursuit of upending stories. This is a true-crime memoir that doesn’t spare details, but it is also an exploration of intimacy. It is one astounding read.
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Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere Cover Image
By Poe Ballantine, Cheryl Strayed (Introduction by)
$16.95
ISBN: 9780983477549
Availability: Backordered
Published: Hawthorne Books - September 3rd, 2013

Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende

In Isabel Allende’s beguiling new novel,19-year-old Maya, who was raised by her eccentric grandparents, has been exiled to Chiloe, a remote island off Chile. Allende weaves Maya’s narrative back and forth between her daily life in the Chilean village and the catastrophic events that force her to her island exile. In true Allende fashion, secrets are revealed, magic is introduced, and the tapestry between Maya and her past soon fuses with that of Chile’s own turbulent history.
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Maya's Notebook: A Novel Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780062105622
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Harper - April 23rd, 2013

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld (American Wife & Prep) continues to write novels that range widely in scope and tone. In Sisterland, identical twin sisters Kate and Violet were born with “senses” that foretell specific events and/or intimate details about their loved ones. When a premonition about a devastating earthquake comes to both of them, each one must make a choice about loyalty and accountability, and understand the delicate balance between believing and surrendering, especially when it comes to family bonds.
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Sisterland Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781400068319
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Random House - June 25th, 2013

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

In her best-selling graphic novel Fun Home, Alison Bechdel explored her relationship with her father; in Are You My Mother?, she turns her focus to her mother. The psychological intent of this memoir is fascinating. In trying to understand the gulf between mothers and daughters, Bechdel visits with 20th-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, then with Virginia Woolf, then with her current partner, and finally, back to her mother. A wonderful, fun, and smart read.

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Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780544002234
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mariner Books - April 2nd, 2013

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Carol Rifka Brunt’s novel is one of those debuts that has a magical shine to it. The brilliant writing pulls you back into the throes of adolescence, when someone you love is dying and there is no order and no sense. But it is larger than a story of loss and tragedy; it is also about growing up and the sharp beauty that comes with the discovery of how to live truly and honestly.
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Tell the Wolves I'm Home: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780812982855
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dial Press Trade Paperback - June 4th, 2013

Gold by Chris Cleave

In Gold, Chris Cleave (Little Bee) introduces us to Zoe and Kate, Olympic-level cyclists who have been best friends and competitive rivals since their teenage years. As the 2012 Olympics draw near, the frailties of these friends are exposed. There is heartbreak in this story—a sick child, an aging coach, and goals and dreams and unfathomable decisions—but there is also an unspoken pull that makes the reader care deeply about everyone involved.
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Gold Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781451672732
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - April 30th, 2013

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

Growing up with her deeply religious widower father, Judith’s world is smaller and more isolated than most. An imaginative and tender-hearted child, Judith is suddenly at risk when an external event outside of her small domain takes place and she enters something much larger than herself. This is a novel about belief systems, about the growing shifts in a child’s awareness, and also about the deep and clumsy love between a child and a parent.
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The Land of Decoration: A Novel Cover Image
$23.00
ISBN: 9781250024077
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Picador - March 5th, 2013

This Is How by Augusten Burroughs

From the author of Running with Scissors comes this self-help book, complete with the frank honesty, wry sarcasm, and heart and depth that one might expect from Burroughs. Publishers Weekly called this book, “Hilarious and searingly straight forward… Burroughs turns the self-help genre upside-down.” Burroughs makes the reader wince with his insight, and he also offers hope. Think Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, but condensed into punches and arrows.
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This Is How: Surviving What You Think You Can't Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781250032102
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Picador - April 23rd, 2013

God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet

God’s Hotel is about the last standing almshouse in San Francisco, the Laguna Honda Hospital. Dr. Victoria Sweet—part Oliver Sacks, part Tracy Kidder—has written a lovely book about Laguna Honda at its heyday and the changes that occurred as modernization was forced upon it. Dr. Sweet practiced for 20 years at Laguna Honda, where patients too sick and too desolate for other facilities often ended up. Something special developed there, and it became a place of healing. A fascinating journey into the heart of medicine.
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God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781594486548
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - April 2nd, 2013

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