User menu

Shopping cart

0 Items $0.00

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 Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman is known for her 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 C.E., 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 new novel has a cadence and depth that makes it feel timeless—so perhaps there is a bit of magic in her telling after all.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
The Dovekeepers: A Novel Cover Image
Email or call for price
ISBN: 9781451617474
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Scribner - October 4th, 2011

Nightwoods by Charles Frazier

Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons) has a written a novel that is a break from his usual style. Known for his literary epics that span decades, this new novel, set in North Carolina in the 1960s, is more taut and intimate, but still insightful and lyrical. We meet Luce, a solitary but strong young woman who has retreated to the mountains after life in her small town threatened to break her spirit. When she is handed the task of raising her sister’s orphaned (and near feral) children, Luce must crack open her solitary life, with startling and profound results. Part mystery, part love story, this novel is a page-turner that has surprising depth. The characters and setting of this book help make this a wonderful read.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Staff Pick Badge
Nightwoods: A Novel Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781400067091
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Random House - September 27th, 2011

Child in Time by Ian McEwan

Before Atonement, Ian McEwan had already made a name for himself with the publication of one of his earliest novels. Child in Time actually won the Whitbread Award after its release in the late 1980’s. I’m giving you the time frame about when McEwan wrote this book because I want to emphasize that he wrote it long was before the topic of missing children had become a trend. So it is with extraordinary tenderness and insight, that Ian McEwan takes us into the dark territory of a marriage devastated by the loss of a child. What makes this book stand out is the way that time is distilled and such a hard subject is somehow approached with eloquence and intention rather than thrill and shock value. Ultimately this is a love story built on hope and truth and surrender.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
The Child in Time Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9780385497527
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Anchor - November 2nd, 1999

Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

Man Booker Prize finalist Sebastian Barry has written a novel that lends itself to an open dialogue about memory and history. Set in County Sligo, Ireland, Barry tells the unforgettable story of Roseanne McNulty. Roseanne is nearing her 100th year and is living in a residential hospital. When one of the doctors begins to interview Rose, he finds himself immersed in the Irish conflict in its immediacy as Rose’s aging memory seems to bring the past to the present moment. The story that unfolds is mesmerizing and elegant and begs to question the vision that is it possible restore with language that which has been taken away by history? This is a wonderful read.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
The Secret Scripture: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780143115694
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Penguin Books - April 28th, 2009

The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville

For fans of Easter Island, this is your next read. Based on a true story, Kate Grenville tells the story of Daniel Rooke, an astronomer/navy lieutenant who is sent to the newly discovered New South Wales as part of the British colonial movement in1788. With the picturesque wilds of old Australia as its backdrop, Grenville brings to life the complications and excitement of what it must have been like to be living in unmapped territory. We watch as Rooke, always somewhat of a loner, finds himself surrounded in sudden intimacy when he is accepted and trusted by the local aborigines. In the same way he carefully notes and studies the constellations, Rooke begins to learn the culture and dialect of his new friends, taking time to record and set down his new linguistic findings. Using the original journal entries of Daniel Rooke, and the knowledge of what happens next in his life, Grenville depicts the startling decision that Rooke makes when he is asked to serve in a colonial duty that he can no longer agree with. This is one of the most beautifully written tales I have read that speaks to how language is not made up of words and letters but relationship and meaning, and it brings to light the beauty that can be shared if we hold one another as equals rather than foreigners in a great world.

The Lieutenant Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9780802145031
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Grove Press - September 14th, 2010

The Lovers by Vendela Vida

Vendela’ Vida’s The Lovers is one of those titles that lingers long after its read. The plot follows Yvonne, a middle-aged woman, suddenly widowed as she journeys to Turkey to revisit the place of her honeymoon—she is conflicted in her need to both escape but also dive into the grief around her husband’s death. In taut and seemingly spare language, Vida brings us hauntingly close to Yvonne’s world, where suddenly everything is no longer what it was. When Yvonne befriends a young boy on her travels, the loss of her husband breaks through, and what happens next left me with my heart pounding. This is a tale that beckons us to wonder if escape is possible in a world where human relationships rest in connection, love, and letting go.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
The Lovers: A Novel Cover Image
$13.99
ISBN: 9780060828400
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Ecco - June 28th, 2011

This Side of Brightness by Colum McCann

In This Side of Brightness we are introduced to the character of Walker, living in the early 1900’s. Hired as a sandhog to help build the train tunnel that now connects Manhattan to Brooklyn, his life takes a series of turns after accepting the job. Deep in the tunnel’s underworld, Walker experiences something so profound that there is an immediate luminance and transcendence that outdoes the darkness he is surrounded by. McCann then parallels Walker’s story with that of Treefrog, a contemporary homeless man that survives by navigating his way through New York’s forgotten tunnels. In seamless prose switching between the two characters, McCann tells a story that challenges our notion of time and friendship, so that we come to realize how one person can ultimately embody all the stories that came before.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
This Side of Brightness: A Novel Cover Image
$19.00
ISBN: 9780312421977
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Picador - January 1st, 2003

Pagan Times by Micah Perks

So truth be told, Micah Perks is one of my mentors and friends. I only say this in a confessional tone, because I’m about to sing praises about her memoir, and I wanted to be honest that there is a connection. But please know that I am persnickety and as picky about my mentors and friends as I am about the books that I praise, and Micah and her writing are worthy of both positions. In 1963, Micah’s parents set out to the Adirondacks to build a school/utopian community designed to help teens struggling with addiction and emotional problems. Micah is an infant, and her sister is not yet born and soon this complex dream of her parents, spanning from idealism to struggle, becomes Micah’s home. Told in a sparing and unflinching voice, Micah amplifies the joy and chaos of counterculture life. While she is revealing in her own personal history, she is deft and contained with a gathered subtlety, so that there is a way that her writing reaches forward, toward a broader opening, and we are left examining not only the beauty and heartbreak of Micah’s own story, but also a marked point in our own history; America in the 1960’s. This is a beautiful read.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Pagan Time: An American Childhood Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781582435398
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Counterpoint LLC - November 1st, 2009

Jellico Road by Melina Marchetta

This young adult novel won the coveted Michael Printz award in 2009 and it proves to be deserving. A mystery that is part love story, part family drama, and part coming-of-age story, Marchetta weaves a tale that is as heart-felt as it is intriguing. Abandoned by her mother at age eleven, Taylor has scattered memories about her early childhood and past. At night she dreams of a boy in a tree who keeps trying to tell her something, in the day she is managing the complexities of the boarding school that has taken her in. Set in the Australian outback, nothing in this novel is what it seems, except for the scope of its friendships, the reach of its imagination, and the depth of its character—those are all true. This is a beautiful novel for all ages, one you don’t want to miss.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Staff Pick Badge
Jellicoe Road Cover Image
$9.99
ISBN: 9780061431852
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: HarperTeen - March 9th, 2010

Anthropology of an American Girl by Hillary Hamann

When Hilary Hamann first published this novel in hardback, reviewers were comparing her to the likes of Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, and George Eliot, and I have to say, I was skeptical. Yet, here I am letting you know those comparisons because, it turns out that they’re apt. Anthropology of an American Girl is sharp and strong, edgy, and deep. Deep in the way where you have to come up for breath because you’re not sure if everyone is going to survive (they don’t) and deep in the way where even if you don’t usually mark your books, suddenly you are because there are paragraphs so true and hitting that your chest catches, and you need to underline words that Hamann offers about turning from girl to woman because they prove something, outline something, speak to something that you hadn’t even known you felt, but is at once recognizable. I have to say this isn’t usually the kind of novel I read with its contemporary references and interlope on popular culture; normally such books make me feel invisible, but this one made me realize how much we are all a part of something. This is Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom written from the female perspective. I guess those comparisons keep coming but read this book and you’ll realize that Hilary Hammann has earned every one.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Anthropology of an American Girl: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780385527156
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Random House - June 14th, 2011

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - S.M.C.'s Reviews