Tears, branches, and egos fall in this month’s roundup.
Crying Time: Linda (Wisconsin Chair Company, CryingTime.band)
Jill Rogers delivers convincing, full-throated, but not faux-hillbilly, lead vocals; Myles Boisen takes care of the twang with sculpted licks (on electric and lap steel guitars and banjo), and bassist Peter Garellick and drummer Tim Rowe keep the rhythmic mix shifting from honky-tonk to swing. Add guest virtuoso Bobby Black on pedal steel and you have another great spin on the no-nonsense country of Bakersfield and pre-pop Nashville—in a tradition that includes Jimmie Rivers, Asleep at the Wheel, and others. Alt enough to cover the Bee Gees, traditionalist enough to do right by “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” and creative enough for such literate originals as “Beginning of the End of Forever” and “Forgot to Forget” to hold their own, Oakland’s Crying Time begs for a dance floor to accommodate your happy feet and a beer to catch your tears. —Derk Richardson
Cutting Back: My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto by Leslie Buck (Timber Press, April 2017, 280 pp., $24.95)
Berkeley’s Leslie Buck has written a memoir about self-awareness that even a nongardener can get into. At 35, she shucks Bay Area life and a successful landscaping and pruning business for a challenging three-season internship at a renowned Kyoto gardening company, apparently the first American woman to learn pruning this way. She learns to be silent, expand her comfort zone, and work wonders with karikomi, the long-handled Japanese pruning shears, on her journey to master an intricate craft. There’s a nice rhythm to the book that coincides with the reassuring and constant pruning, clipping, and raking she does chapter by chapter in the gardens she inhabits. —Judith M. Gallman
This Is Not Over: A Novel by Holly Brown (William Morrow, 2017, 370 pp., $15.99)
An online vacation rental in a Santa Monica beach houses goes awry over soiled sheets and deposit money, a dispute that leads to escalating emailed and online unpleasantries and then some between renter Dawn and hostess Miranda. Dawn lives in Oakland and is a petulant college undergrad in a “dream marriage” who loves trying on wealthy lifestyles. Miranda is married to an LA doctor, and they’re the parents of a meth head son that Dr. Dad is ready to ditch, though Miranda can’t bear the thought and uses the income from her inherited property to rescue her son. The sticky, ugly back and forth between the women—who only think they know the other—commands attention. Brown is an Alameda marriage and family therapist. —JMG
Published online on March 3, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.