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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.

Daughter of the Revolution by Carolyn Cooke

This book surprised me by its wit and full-fledged characters. The time is 1968 in a small New England town that is slow to pick up on feminism and civil rights. Carolyn Cooke's book opens with a crisis that sets the whole town into a forward moving tailspin. We watch a widow, her young daughter, and a teen age girl (who happens to be the only co-ed in an all boys school) circle the edges of independence and liberation in a town that isn't quite ready to meet them. With quirky characters and plenty of wit, this was a satisfying and smart read.
Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Daughters of the Revolution (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9780307741462
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Vintage - June 5th, 2012

The Watery Part of the World by Michael Parker

A child lost at sea, a shipwreck, a siege, a remote island, and a hard-earned chance for survival—all of these things are the premise for the beginning of Michael Parker’s new novel, The Watery Part of The World. Taking a true fact from history about a young woman lost at sea in 1813 off the North Carolina coast, Parkers weaves a tale that is lyrical and haunting. Spanning 150 years with two interwoven stories, this novel speaks to love and sacrifice--Parker has beautifully written a literary adventure story about the power of endurance and the bonds that form in make-shift places. A perfect read for fans of Toni Morrison or Ian McEwan.
Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
The Watery Part of the World Cover Image
$13.95
ISBN: 9781616201432
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Algonquin Books - June 5th, 2012

The Healer of Fox Hollow by Joann Rose Leonard

I picked up this book and was immediately swept up in its story. In the small town of Fox Hollow (in the Smokey Mountains) a child wakes from a nightmare in confusion, gravely hurt, and suddenly mute. Her family must struggle to figure out if what the child manages to tell about what happened that night is truth, or a hallucination brought on by the child’s fear and injury. Doubt, miracles, loss and survival, hurt and forgiveness collide in this wonderful novel. Not wanting to give too much away, this is a story that warms—where the characters are lovable and we find ourselves rooting for this small town community, holding heart and hope—and ultimately the power of healing found in hard to reach places.
Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
The Healer of Fox Hollow Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9781936467358
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Vantage Point - July 1st, 2012

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

I read this book in one sitting, having picked it up rather carelessly and then found myself quickly immersed in a voice I didn’t expect and a story I didn’t want to leave. Set in a small town that suddenly becomes a hot spot after a woodpecker that was thought to be extinct is spotted, 17-year-old Cullen is both impressed and mortified to watch his town transform. Suddenly his peers are sporting woodpecker-inspired haircuts and bird-watching becomes an ideal date. Cullen is startled at how suddenly change comes without warning, but when his 15-year-old brother goes missing amidst the chaos, his surprise turns to something more vigilant and shadowed. This YA novel (which won the coveted Michael Printz Award) is layered with regret, surprise, and humor, and it calls to mind how ordinary and extraordinary are only a coin’s throw apart—how the intersection between grief and hope are so related, and how believing in second chances is ultimately an act of bravery like no other.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Where Things Come Back Cover Image
$12.99
ISBN: 9781442413344
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers - July 24th, 2012

The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke

While there have been many memoirs written about grieving (from Isabel Allende’s Paula, about the loss of her daughter, to Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking, detailing her story of widowhood), Meghan O’Rourke’s book is notable in that it tells the story of an adult child losing a parent. O’Rourke was in her late 20s when her mother died of cancer. The Long Goodbye is her story of grief and longing. It details the complexity and sharp edges that exist between mothers and daughters, but it also speaks of an American family and the joys and thrills that exist in everyday life. I loved this memoir for its layered simplicity—the ways that loss, love, pretense, and discovery weave together. O’Rourke offers us a real look at the complicated, and in this case, everlasting, mother–daughter bond.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
The Long Goodbye: A Memoir Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781594485664
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - April 3rd, 2012

When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams

Terry Tempest Williams has an uncanny way of reaching toward something by way of language—whether it be nature or writing or feeling. In When Women Were Birds, what Williams reaches toward is greater understanding. Shortly before dying, Williams’ mother tells Terry that she is leaving Terry her journals, but that she must not open them until she is gone. Terry pays heed and opens the diaries after her mother’s death, only to find that they are blank—all of them. The finding, Williams says, sent her into a “double grief.” This book is about the journey Terry goes through to fill in those journals. It is a meditation on voice and understanding, a tribute to flight and identity, to seeking and exploring, to family reconciliation, and to letting go. This is a stunning read.
Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780374288976
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Sarah Crichton Books - April 10th, 2012

Maphead by Ken Jennings

I have a new favorite word: wonk. Not to be confused with wonky (although this book is also a little bit of that). Wonk—defined as a studious person—is the self-adopted moniker for “mapheads”—those who are interested in everything map, and Ken Jennings is leader of the map pack. In a charming and witty tone, Jennings blends memoir, humor, anecdote, and serious research to talk about his devotion to the world of maps. From map making to map collecting, to Google maps, to the ways pop icons plan their tour stops (there is in fact an order to the chaos), Jennings wrote this book with one aim in mind: to “rescue geography from irreverence.” Delightful, funny, and perfect for Bill Bryson fans.
Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781439167182
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Scribner - April 17th, 2012

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

When God Was a Rabbit is a unique and wonderful coming-of-age story that begins in Cornwall, England, in the late 1960s and ends around the time of the terrorist attacks in New York. Told mostly through the view of Elly (who we first meet at 5), the years traversed in this novel are simple and fantastical at the same time. We watch two siblings recreate magic through a rabbit they name God, we watch a best friend promise to witness unspeakable acts, we watch the world stretch and break as war and terror become common day. A beautiful, magical story that poses questions about saying yes and staying open to life when loss and longing are enough to make anyone say no.
Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
When God Was a Rabbit Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781608195374
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC - April 24th, 2012

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is one of those authors you want to read for the first time again and again; you can’t help but be swept up with that wonderful feeling of seeing life from a new perspective. State of Wonder is an adventure story whose beauty lies in the description and, well, oddity of its setting, with deadly snakes, harrowing river rides, and malaria-induced nightmares, where breathtaking beauty stands side by side with wrenching loss. Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist at a pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down another elusive doctor who is working with a tribe in the Amazon to create a valuable new drug. There are images in this book that you will never be able to forget; there is a moral tug-of-war that will make your heart pound, and there is that incredible beauty that Patchett embeds in her writing.
Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
State of Wonder: A Novel Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062049810
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - May 8th, 2012

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman is known for her lyrical style and novels that are dosed with magic and surrealism. But in The Dovekeepers, she breaks away from the world of fantasy and retells the story of the Romans’ siege of Masada in 70 CE, during which all but a handful of the 900 Jewish defenders were slaughtered. Using the voices of four separate women, who intersect in surprising ways, the story unfolds into one of determined strength, unity, and faith. With an almost biblical feel, Hoffman’s novel has a cadence and depth that makes it feel timeless—she has truly brought history to life—so perhaps there is a bit of magic in her telling after all.
Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
The Dovekeepers: A Novel Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781451617481
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Scribner - April 3rd, 2012

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