Category Archives: reviews


for sound track click at the end of the post
Thank you to Interesting Literature, for bringing this across my desk.

“If he had not been consumed by ambition and convinced that one day some newly-discovered rubbish heap would reward him, the disappointments he had suffered, let alone the fatigue and derision, would have made him give up the pursuit.”

Virginia Woolf’s “Solid Objects”

As a former literary scholar, as a person who questions the worth and meaning of the responsibilities of every day life, and as a person who collects and struggles with a clutter of odd things I find valuable,  I am grateful to think about this story.  My solid objects are china, truly interesting (to me) rocks, and art supplies or now-useless items with ‘potential’ for found art. Without that collecting and cluttering, might I give up the pursuit, not just of my collecting but of bothering with life at all?

It’s a somewhat middle class / first world problem, though. To a hammer everything looks like a nail, so I assume Virginia Woolf must have struggled in a similar, though probably harsher, ‘trap.’ She seems to have been too sheltered and just barely financially secure enough that she had no need to fight for life, but too smothered by gender and class norms and too unskilled to really break out into an independent life.

Writing and mental illness were the arenas where she fought her good fight. There was no resolution. There was only cessation.
I certainly question the worth of my aesthetic, my beliefs, my collections, my efforts, efforts I make and efforts I shirk. I wonder if she did as well. The lion’s share of my sense of meaning in my life comes from creative work- but the lion’s share and more of my time and energy are spent in the repetitive acts of living.  I am sifting my solid objects and my life every day, trying to discern whether and in which areas to bother. How very 2019. 
Some early Trap Music and a reference


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Filed under African, American, art, British, Music, quotable, reviews, social currents, Southern, trap, United Kingdom, virginia woolf, women

Summer Reading


Wine Country Books in the House! We have been back East.

Much like the cobbler’s children have no shoes, the Wine Country Books family rarely gets to read for pleasure much less purchase an actual book new in the shop.  However, in the airport on our way to catch our flight, these tireless advocates for public libraries and reduced clutter were suckered into two delicious looking paperbacks to read on the plane. Sigh.

I made it about 100 pages into Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and then moved on to Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern.

I loved Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day. Then there’s that Pulitzer seal on the front. This one has to be good, right? But anyone who has read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, watched The Expanse on Amazon / SYFY, or knows about Soylent Green (thinks they) can see where this is going. I am just not up for another round. I know I will have to skim or skip to the end, or read some reviews, to try and figure out whether to finish it up or just pass it on.

So I moved on to Summer Hours at the Robbers Library. This book requires slight suspension of disbelief- what are the chances this configuration of this type of outsider and loser will not just share space but actually get to know and come to care about each other? The first few pages were a slight slog, but keep going til you get to the library. The book is so far very satisfying in its plot and characters, with perfect levels of emotion and rate of reveal about each character’s past and problems.

Just my two cents. Either way, $30+ this reader will never get back. At least I have paperbacks to share with any reading friend who would like a copy.

Email me at winecountrybooksnapa at gmail and I will send you the Ishiguro free.

Click Below to get your copy of Summer Hours at the Robbers Library on Amazon.

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Filed under American, books and movies, British, contemporary fiction, England, free, reviews, Summer Reading, the public library, travel, United Kingdom, what I'm reading, Women writers

We still need Aesop

birds of a feather

photo from amazon

I did love Aesop as a kid, but there are droll modern Aesops redux that entertain and still do the job.

These Aesops are better attuned to today’s tastes. Birds of a Feather is a delight. The illustrations by Robert Rayevsky are a visual feast, witty and beautifully matched with the brief rhymed fables by Tom Paxton. We need this wisdom more than ever. If you’re sharing with a little one, they get a laugh and a lesson before they even know it.

“All vultures’ hope of dinner ends When enemies become great friends.” – Peace Breaks Out

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Filed under children's poetry, illustrated, quotable, reviews, social currents

I just finished The Bone Clocks

I loved The Bone Clocks. That’s the short answer.

The long answer:

I have done a lot of travelling lately, which means not a lot of booksellng, but a lot of reading. To my shame, it also means not a lot of use of one of my other Great Passions, the Public Library. I’ve been reading everything on the Kindle app on my Great Big Phone. Which means that, to my shame:

1. I paid for books when the public library has them available to all, for free. I feel so dirty.

2. I can’t lend my copy to a friend.

But needs must, or whatever.

[Actually I am a huge fan of Amazon, for many very real reasons, many to do with the future of commerce or their ruthlessly customer-centric business model, and of course not least of those reasons is that without Amazon I would not be a bookseller. I love you, Amazon. I have to put it out there. But that’s a tale for another day.]

When drifting here and there across the American Southeast for 3 of the last 7 months and re entering Wine Country exhausted and completely disorganized but, one hopes, for a few solid travel free months, one needs something to read, and can’t carry heavy books, and can’t just stop at every public library along the way.

Inability to use every public library in every state in the nation is a shame of national proportions. Maybe that’s something I need to work on in my spare time- reciprocal lending in all 50 states and the territories. H’m. Can’t go there now though.

Something else I probably need to learn is how to use the free e book downloads my public library provides. I have always been proud of myself for being one of those early adapters. How can I have missed out on this? It’s something I advocated for in my previous life as a librarian. I am not getting old. I am not, I am not, I am not.  I have to make this right.

Anyway, The Bone Clocks.

This was my first David Mitchell, and I don’t think I could possibly love any of his other books as much as I did this one, so I don’t think I will read any more.

People complained of how it wandered between narrators, that the characters weren’t compelling enough and it was too much to keep up with and – whatever. It looks to me like much of what irritated people is just Mitchell’s current mode of storytelling. That’s what he does. You like it or you don’t.  That’s why it’s smart to get your contemporary fiction book free at the public library or borrow a paper copy from a friend, people. Then you’re not out any money. [But see above- I love Amazon. I do. Just saying…] I happened to love it, and hated to put it down until I finished it.

You can read all sorts of reviews on Amazon. I am not going to retell the story here or hit any highlights. I did find it a teeny tiny bit of a slog, for about sixty seconds here and a couple of minutes there, wading through subsequent narratives by different characters, but it was all worth it in the end, and if it didn’t hang together I didn’t notice. Your mileage may vary.

What I loved about it was that Mitchell invented a whole new (to me) narrative of the epic struggle between good and evil. That is just beyond difficult. He also explores why people might make the ‘wrong’ choice with a light touch. I appreciated that. And the reader sees that ‘doing the right thing’ is sometimes just putting one foot after the other, even when it doesn’t look good, when one is hurting and afraid, but that love- for comrades, for family, even for that old flame that died before it had a chance to burn- is a powerful, powerful motivator. I loved Holly Sykes, but I loved several of the other characters who made up this very satisfying tapestry as well.

Favorite quote? It’s 2039 or so in a teeny tiny village in Ireland and the mad consumerism of today has led to the savage dystopia of the near future. Oh, come on, you can’t possibly call that a spoiler. We all know it’s coming. Stop it. So there’s no fuel or electricity, there’s little food or medical care and even less internet connectivity with loved ones or the outside world, and there are so many bigger fish to fry when it comes along. I can’t go and look it up, but the essence is that there’s a proven link between bigotry and poor spelling. HAH!

If only giggling at poor spelling were enough to right the injustices of this world. And of course spelling snobbery helps no victim of bigotry and is in fact be its own species of bigotry. But still, thanks for that, Mitchell.

So. Bone Clocks. I loved it. If you try it, I hope you do too.

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Filed under contemporary fiction, reviews, what I'm reading