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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.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Oh, but for the wonder of dysfunctional families. When a family crisis calls these three sisters to return home, we are suddenly thrown in to the delightful, chaotic, and endearing Andreas family. Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia (three points if you can name the plays) are daughters to a Shakespearean scholar father who breaks into pentameter and a mother who is rightfully determined to live her life independently regardless of her failing health. With leaning towers of books and their own secrets and baggage to back them, we watch as this family yields, rallies, and surrenders to the bonds that tie them together and to the poignant realities that will pull them apart. As the Bard says, all the world’s a stage—and this one is well well worth the read.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Staff Pick Badge
The Weird Sisters Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9780399157226
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam - January 20th, 2011

Touch & Go by Thad Nodine

Local author Thad Nodine has done the impossible and written a novel that is funny, telling, original, and heartfelt. I know on their own perhaps those adjectives might not stand out, but together they make a whirlwind of a read. Narrated by Kevin, a blind and recently unemployed journalist, we are introduced to a make-shift family that has as many unlikable traits as they do likeable. As the family sets out on a road trip, we find ourselves rooting for them, wanting them to figure it out, to grow up and listen to one another. This is that book that has you shaking your head in exasperation, laughing, and tearing up all at the same time. What a read!

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Touch and Go Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781609530617
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Unbridled Books - September 27th, 2011

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

This was by far one of my favorite novels of the year—and it turns out—one of the New York Times too. Landing itself on the coveted NYT’s best ten books of the year list, this novel is an incredible debut. Telling the tale of 13-year old Ava who has grown up on an island in her family’s alligator-wrestling theme park (I know, I know, but it works) Russell introduces us to by far one of the most valiant and true heroine’s I have read in a long time. The bravery and pluckiness Ava has in her determination to hold her family together when circumstances threaten to tear them apart is beautiful and stoic. This is an original, incredible, and touching novel—a great read for fans of The Secret Life of Bees.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Swamplandia! (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780307276681
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Vintage - July 26th, 2011

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

A wonderful woven tapestry that centers around one small town in America with a legendary garden Hoffman takes us through three hundred years of history. Starting with the town’s founder, a brave young woman from England who has no fears of bears and ending in modern day with a desperate young man who craves solace after being an EMT in New York City , Hoffman has crafted an exquisitely magical book whose characters are vivid and unexpected. For fans of Isabel Allende, this is one of those magical books that tells a true tale of humanity with a bit of magic thrown in.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
The Red Garden: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780307405975
Availability: Backordered
Published: Broadway Books - August 2nd, 2011

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

This is a unique and wonderful coming of age story. How do I describe the characters of this book? We watch two siblings recreate magic with a Rabbit they name God, we watch a best friend promise to witness unspeakable acts, and we watch the world stretch and break as war and terror become common day. This is a beautiful, magical story, well worth the read.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
When God Was a Rabbit: A Novel Cover Image
Email or call for price
ISBN: 9781608195343
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Bloomsbury USA - May 17th, 2011

Beginner’s Grace by Kate Braestrup

I became a fan of Kate Braestrup when I read Here If You Need Me, her memoir about following her husband’s footsteps to become a public chaplain after he died. Braestrup was not particularly religious, nor could she imagine herself as one of the only women in a world that was dominated by men, but because of these obstacles, her journey is singular and true. In Beginner’s Grace, Braestrup discusses the concept of prayer and how it is both profound and simple. She offers the idea that prayer is about connection, and that it is universal and a way into mindfulness, slowing down, and reaching out. She draws on views about prayer from many faiths and from her own experience of having to reach a multitude of people with different backgrounds at her job. I loved this book for everything it wasn’t—and instead, for all that it offered.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Beginner's Grace: Bringing Prayer Into Your Life Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781439184271
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Atria Books - August 9th, 2011

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

In Blue Nights, Didion again writes about loss and grief, this time focusing on the death of her daughter, Quintana Roo. There is an unflinching honesty to Didion’s voice and she holds nothing back. Her writing is also layered and rhythmic, so we are handed sentences and words that repeat and spiral so that the narrative is circular and reaching, as this is what grief is—an overlapping thread of memories and moments that cannot be separated from the life and love of the person who is so suddenly absent. Blue Nights is haunting—a complex filter of a life sifted through loss. Together with The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion has handed us a compilation of grief—an assembly that is determined and striking, and that will ring familiar to anyone who has had to form their own narrative around the dichotomy of holding on and letting go.

Blue Nights Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9780307267672
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Knopf - November 1st, 2011

The Turquoise Ledge by Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silko (author of best-selling Ceremony) has written a book that is part memoir and part nature-writing. Using the backdrop of Arizona’s nature trails, Silko weaves tales from her family’s past into her observations of the landscape around her. In the tradition of Native American storytelling, The Turquoise Ledge is an intimate memoir of memory, nature, observation and the spiritual veins that connects us all. A must-have for both Silko fans and anyone who loves Terry Tempest Williams.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
The Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780143120100
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Penguin Books - September 27th, 2011

Touch and Go by Thad Nodine

Local author Thad Nodine has done the impossible and written a novel that is funny, telling, original, and heartfelt. I know on their own perhaps those adjectives might not stand out, but together they make a whirlwind of a read. Narrated by Kevin, a blind and recently unemployed journalist, we are introduced to a make-shift family that has as many unlikable traits as they do likeable. As the family sets out on a road trip, we find ourselves rooting for them, wanting them to figure it out, to grow up and listen to one another. This is that book that has you shaking your head in exasperation, laughing, and tearing up all at the same time. What a read!

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Touch and Go Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781609530617
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Unbridled Books - September 27th, 2011

Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks

In Russell Banks’ brilliant and difficult new novel, Lost Memory of Skin, we are introduced to “the Kid,” a young man who is trying to create a life for himself after having been incarcerated his liaison with an underage girl. On probation now, he is shackled to a GPS and forbidden to live within 2,500 feet of anywhere children might gather. With nowhere else to go, he joins a makeshift encampment with other convicted sex offenders. Banks’ narrative eases us in slowly and deftly, and the characters become human and real. Banks shows again that he is one of the most gifted writers of our times.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Lost Memory of Skin: A Novel Cover Image
Email or call for price
ISBN: 9780061857638
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Ecco - September 27th, 2011

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