Death and Other Holidays by Marci Vogel

Cover image for Death and other holidaysBook- This small book does not do much to answer the heavy handed “why’s” of death or delve into the existential. Death is not a tall, dark hooded figure carrying a sickle. There is not grand act of closure, nor will you be find a Steven Spielberg ending. And, those are all good things, as far as this novella is concerned.

Our protagonist of Death and Other Holidays is twenty-something April. She narrates her experiences, particularly two losses over the course of a year, month by month and splits her story into seasons. The chapters are tiny, nevertheless Vogel moves April’s story forward seamlessly, similarly in language that moves effortlessly. We experience those poignant moments in which she describes how her best friend Libby moves forward in her life, and despite her acute grief – the difference between what makes for passing the time and what may be a true encounter of love.

April’s story is not bogged down by the superfluous, but described in candid moments, such as the ones we miss. If you are a fast-paced reader, this is not be the book for you. This is one you take in to navigate the sad, the joy, and the hope.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

Book – I was excited for the recent release of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist & Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb and am happy to report that the book exceeded my expectations.

Lori explores her personal experiences from the point of view of as therapist and patient. The concept of therapists seeking therapy for themselves was one I had never before considered. This prompted me to question how we, as a society view therapists.  Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is insightful, deep, thought-provoking and shows therapists in a different light. At the base we are all human beings, but as a people who pay others to provide a service, she demonstrates a unique lens in which to view therapists. Lori also shares stories about the work she did with patients, which includes humorous narration when describing her true feelings of an especially difficult patient. I find the therapist-patient relationship particularly fascinating and enjoyed reading all of the experiences Lori had to share.

She begins the book leading up to a devastatingly unexpected breakup, which ultimately leads her to seek out a therapist when she hits the breaking point. The order of events are easy to follow, as she switched between the present and past narratives.  Learning about her career path and the events that ultimately led her to become a therapist, is a journey of seeking and discovery we may all relate to. Her story on this is enlightening. Lori is a relatable author and readers will find at least one aspect to connect with in Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.

 

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

BookWe all want what is best for our children. Often the center of our world, we want to believe that our children are perfect, little versions of ourselves. We see them as reflections of ourselves, and thus, their behavior reveals a great deal about us and our parenting. One of the many joys of parenthood is reliving some of the happiest moments of our own childhood, but this time through their eyes. What happens, however, when our seemingly innocent children resent and plot against us?!

Hanna adores her father, who only knows and sees her sweet and angelic side. While he is away at work, Hanna unleashes a strategic, vengeful side that is out to make her mother disappear, quite literally. Suzette loves her daughter, but after falling victim to a number of Hanna’s malicious tricks, suspects that there is something grievously wrong, questioning her daughter’s sanity and her own.

With alternating chapters from Hanna and Suzette’s perspectives, readers get a taste of what goes through the mind of each, as the actions that strain this unnerving mother-daughter relationship. Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage is a suspenseful, psychological thriller that make you question what people are truly capable of. Readers will find this gripping read difficult, wrangling with themes of child psychopathology, family dynamics, and unconditional love. 

The Bone Key by Sarah Monette

Book – Kyle Murchison Booth is an archivist at the Samuel Mathers Parrington Museum, and it causes him no end of trouble. He would very much like to be left alone with his books and his artifacts, but there are…things that won’t leave him alone. Things like an old school friend with a passion for necromancy, a necklace that carries more than memories of its old owner with it and a hidden tomb in his very own museum basement. Even a vacation won’t save him, if the hotel he winds up at is any indication.

Booth is the kind of character who really needs a hug, except if you did hug him he’d probably end up shaking from the trauma for days. He’s an immensely Lovecraftian character, more so than anyone else in these stories; in fact, I think he’s the only character who knows what kind of universe he’s in. Monette does a stellar job of building eerie tension without resorting to graphic violence or shock tactics — these are classy ghost stories.

As horror, the first few stories in this collection didn’t work so well for me, but the last two or three did. (Oooh, that hotel. *shudder*) As a modern take on Lovecraft, M.R. James and the early twentieth century ghost story, they’re all quite good. And as stories about Kyle Murchison Booth, they’re fantastic.

Killing Eve (2018)

Image result for killing eveTV Series – The show’s slow simmer doesn’t take long to come to a flambé. The BBC’s Killing Eve stars Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) as Eve, the MI-5 Security Officer who longs for the thrill of the spy life. Eve gets more than she bargained for when the charismatic, charming, psychotic/sociopath Villanelle, played by British actress Jodi Comer (Doctor Foster), goes about her merry way across Europe savoring the killings she is assigned to…and not. The two become obsessed in a catch-me-if-you-can game, admiring the other’s intellect, wit, life and identity.

The screenplay is written by Fleabag‘s clever Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose compelling characters we can’t turn away from. She does not rush to get through the story, which is well-paced, but I dare you not to binge this series. To boot, the action rounds out the show, so there is no lull or dull moment to be had. Top all of that with fantastic acting from both female leads and you will wish there were more shows like this.

Season 2, commissioned before the first season ended is due out later this year. Check out Season 1 located in our New Adult TV Series on DVD!

Exploring Anxiety Through Memoirs

Book List – There is a variety of self-help books concerning mental health. Memoirs are my favorite genre, featuring real stories from real people who share their raw experiences with mental illness. The following books explore anxiety through memoirs.

Okay Fine Whatever: The Year I Went From Being Afraid of Everything to Only Being Afraid of Most Things by Courtenay Hameister

In her memoir of goals, the author challenges herself to attack her fears face to face – an admirable task to take on, in a year. I was particularly interested in the chapter on using a Sensory Deprivation “Float” Tank – an adventurous activity, especially for the claustrophobic.  Hameister’s writing can come across as crude, due to her bluntness of storytelling, but I enjoyed how she narrated her inner monologue with each new experience. The book concentrates on fear, which I feel is strongly related to anxiety and the fear that prevents us from venturing into new and terrifying futures and endeavors.

Little Panic : Dispatches From an Anxious Life by Amanda Stern

The author’s memoir details her childhood growing up with anxiety and worry. I enjoyed reading of Amanda’s experiences, but also found them stress-inducing. Plagued by daily panic that her mother will suddenly die, or forget her own daughter exists, Stern lives in constant fear that everyone she loves might suddenly leave her. As a child of divorce, she is also caught between two conflicting worlds: that of the bohemian, free-spirited life with her mother and the strict, cold sterile environment with her father. I appreciate her honest and detailed narration, growing up a child fearing that her whole world could fall apart in an instant.

Other related books include: On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety by Andrea Petersen, and Hi Anxiety: Life With a Bad Case of Nerves by Kat Kinsman.

 

 

WPLD’s 40th Anniversary: Open House, Trivia Contest and More

It’s not every day a community gathering place turns 40. We want to show off a bit and take you for a walk down memory lane with photos, trivia and activities. On Sunday, April 7 we’ll be hosting an open house. Take a tour to see how far we’ve come in 40 years. Staff members will show off our spaces, features and amenities in our public areas and behind the scenes. Our tech gadgets and science kits will be on display. And we’ll have cake, too!

All week long, from April 7 through the 13th (that’s National Library Week!) we’ll run a trivia contest in the Library and on social media. Think you know literary events and pop culture through the past four decades? Give the correct answer to our daily trivia question and be entered to win a fun t-shirt and other prizes.

 

Sweet Home Cafe Cookbook by Albert G. Lukas and Jessica B. Harris

Cover image for Sweet Home Cafe cookbook : a celebration of African American cookingBook – Not all cookbooks are created equal. The Sweet Home Cafe Cookbook is published by the Smithsonian Institution, so you will be educated as you cook. Cooking and becoming smarter go hand-in-hand! Most of the recipes are accompanied by a beautiful color photo and are elegant enough for the seasoned chef, but are also reader-friendly: easy to follow, concise, and do not scare off cooking newbies.

Recipes from the cafe fall under three categories: classic, regional, and modern. And in each corner of the page, we are unobtrusively informed of what area or region, such as the Agricultural South, the food originated from. Black and white photographic images of subjects ranging from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at a restaurant in Georgia, to a full-service vendor standing in front of his sign serving Po-Boy fruit and the ‘Best’ shoe shine in New Orleans, or an owner and a patron in his barbecue joint in Harlem, enriches readers and/or would-be cooks of the Black Diaspora.

One of my favorite characteristics of this cookbook is how recipes call for a “pinch” of this or that. My favorite recipes? Fried Green Tomatoes, Grilled Snapper with Creole sauce, and Son-of-A-Gun Stew. For the health-conscious, try recipes for: Baby Kale Salad; Collard, Tomato & Cashew Stew; or Pan-Roasted Rainbow Trout. Bakers can’t go wrong with Bourbon Pecan Pie or Fried Apple Hand Pies. What long days (or weeks) or hot summer afternoons (or nights), couldn’t be cured by a Hibiscus & Ginger Sweet Tea, or a Sparkling Watermelon & Lemon Verbena drink?

Searching (2018)

DVD – How well does a parent really know their child? And to what lengths will a parent go to protect their child? These questions are answered in the thriller Searching.

David Kim is a widowed dad who thinks he has a very close relationship with his16-year-old daughter, Margot. She is in advanced classes in her high school and takes piano lessons. She takes her studies very seriously, frequently staying out late at a friend’s house for group study. David wakes one morning and finds that he had three missed calls from Margot. At first, he assumes that she got home late from her study group and left in the morning for school before he woke up. David keeps texting, leaving messages, calls the school, and Margot’s piano teacher. He realizes something is terribly wrong. Margot left the study group early, never went to school, and finds out she quit her piano lessons six months ago, apparently stashing away the money from the lessons. David calls the police only to realize that he doesn’t actually know who Margot’s friends are. Detective Rosemary Vick takes the case and encourages David to follow Margot’s digital footprints to get information about the people she knows and her interests. He manages to log into Margot’s laptop, which she left behind and learns some surprising things from her social media accounts and digital history.

Did she run away? Was she abducted? Is she still alive or dead? Searching is smart and suspenseful, with unexpected plot twists as dad and detective race to find the missing Margot.

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Book – Sylvie and her family are taking a holiday to live as ancient Britons. Her father is obsessed with ancient ways of life, from traditional knowledge like hunting and foraging to ancient religion and the bodies found in the bogs. (Sylvie is named after an ancient goddess.) They’re joining a class of experimental archaeologists, students who are much less committed to the reenactment than Sylvie’s father. The longer the trip goes on, the further the students are drawn in to the environment of the Iron Age – just as Sylvie, inspired by the students’ stories, begins to dream of a different future for herself. And then the professor suggests that they build a ghost wall – a barricade topped with skulls the Iron Age Britons used to use in war – and things begin to get very serious very quickly.

Ghost Wall packs a hefty punch in less than 150 pages. Sylvie isn’t exactly an unreliable narrator (she knows perfectly well that her father is obsessive and abusive) but the things she accepts without question make for a very particular point of view. Her father’s obsession with a “pure” British history raises questions of immigration and identity, and the directions he takes his obsession raise even more questions about what virtues there are in knowing your own history.