Hop Picks for January 2019: Memoirs

Happy January Friends! I hope everyone is staying warm
and enjoying the beginning of 2019!!

If you are like me, you may be looking for a little guidance in this shiny new year. One of the ways that I am reflecting and gearing up for 2019 is by reading some incredible memoirs. Whenever I am looking for a little push to keep moving forward I will pick up a memoir. I really does help to take my problems and put them into perspective.

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Just Kids by Patti Smith, Copyright 2010

I have to admit that I am not really a fan of Patti Smith’s music although I recognize the road she paved for female performers. She is a force that I didn’t really appreciate until I read her first memoir Just Kids. I love this book. It chronicles Smith’s early years in New York City’s art scene. She is a struggling poet/visual artist and her life is dramatically altered when she meets Robert Mapplethorpe. If you are not familiar with Mapplethrope’s photographs Google him. He was a phenomenal human whose questions on sexuality and identity have influenced generations.

This book is a love letter to a very
complicated time in New York City.

In 1969, Mapplethorpe and Smith move into the Chelsea Hotel and become a part of the sensational history there. NYC was exploding with rock and roll, art, politics and sexuality. It is beautiful (if not heartbreaking) to read the pure devotion Smith had for the time, the place and for Mapplethorpe. This book will tear you a part and inspire you to have the deepest relationships. The type of friendships that will break you but ultimately, make you feel as human as possible.

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Stitches: a memoir… by David Small, Copyright 2009

David Small is quite the illustrator. His children’s book Imogene’s Antlers was one of my favorites growing up. His picture books are so delightful that it is difficult to imagine the horrible childhood he survived. Now that I am a parent, I cannot fathom the abuse his parents put him through.

The unbelievable sadness of David Small’s childhood is brought to a dismal reality in this stark graphic novel.

I read this book in 45 minutes and was shaking like a leaf. Small shows incredible forgiveness for his unloving parents and by the end you realize just how far a person can be lead into pure darkness.

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 Calypso by David Sedaris, Copyright 2018

I am a huge fan of David Sedaris and have read all of his books. I have gone to his shows, book signings and have even youtubed his late night interviews…he’s just so funny! Imagine my surprise when I finished his most recent book and realized it was his best work yet! Sedaris has always had the ability to witness humankind with wonder but Calypso is also, (somehow) so much more. Maybe it is because Sedaris is getting a little older? Maybe it is because I am getting a little older? Whatever the reason, Calypso is tender in a way that he has always touched on but never fully explored.

While reading Calypso there were moments when I was weeping and laughing simultaneously!

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Brain on Fire: My Month of Maddness by Susannah Cahalan, Copyright 2012

When I started reading this memoir, I was amazed at Cahalan’s success. At the beginning she is a young reporter making a career at The New York Post. She has a nice apartment, good friends…the first couple of pages describe what hundreds of 20 somethings wish for. Of course, her story takes a horrible turn when she starts getting headaches, then mood swings, her body hurts and then goes numb. Her detailed account of her month of hospitalization is a terrifying glimpse into the severity of misdiagnosis. Every word is written as if Cahalan is sitting next to the reader recounting the terror and confusion and we are forced to sit frozen, mouths open… waiting for a happy ending.

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What I Talk about When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, Copyright 2008

I know, I know, I have mentioned Murakami about a BILLION times but if you are unfamiliar with his writing this memoir is a quick and beautiful read.

One can rightly assume that this book is about his experiences with long distance running but it is so much more than that. His reflections touch on everything from the choices he’s made, his routines and his philosophy on how to live a modest yet successful life. Every page holds a passage that gives me goosebumps.

“Naturally, there are people in the world (only a handful, for sure) blessed with enormous talent that, from beginning to end, doesn’t fade, and whose works are always of the highest quality. These fortunate few have a water vein that never dries up, no matter how much they tap into it. For literature, this is something to be thankful for. It is hard to imagine the history of literature without Shakespeare, Balzac and Dickens. But the giants are, in the end, giants-exceptional legendary figures. The remaining majority of writers who can’t reach such heights (including me, of course) have to supplement what is missing from their store of talent through whatever means they can. Otherwise it’s impossible for them to keep on writing novels of any value. The methods and directions a writer takes in order to supplement himself becomes part of that writers individuality, what makes him special.” Page 81, First United States Edition.

I could go on and on! There are so many beautiful memoirs out there! Are there any you would add to this list? Thanks for checking in! Happy New Year!

Let’s Loiter and Learn Something.

Westbrook Public Library

The Westbrook Public Library sits nestled against a small forest and away from the hustle of Route 1 in Essex, CT. The first thing I noticed when heading towards the building was the beautiful landscaping. The garden club is taking very good care of the trees, shrubs and potted plants. The flowers were so colorful and drew my eye up towards the crisp building.

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It is apparent that the Westbrook Public Library is proud of it’s building and yet, the tropical turquoise accent was a fun and unexpected detail.

In the lobby I was excited to see a box to recycle cell phones and a place to drop off canned goods. From my first steps I could tell that this library was invested in its community which became more apparent as I walked past the front desk and was greeted with an enormous community bulletin board.

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Westbrook Library has incredibly high ceilings that have been accentuated by huge white beams. As I explored the library, I imagined I was walking through the belly of a massive ship. A ship that was not made of wood but of a dreamy cumulus cloud. Maybe my imagination was running or maybe I was just feeling sleepy because it was kinda dark in there.

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It appears that Westbrook Library prefers  to rely on natural light and that makes sense considering it’s spanning windows and luscious forest backdrop.

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This public library has incomparable views of the woods. It was truly magical but if I were doing research I think I would have to bring a flashlight.

The day I visited Westbrook Public Library was overcast and pretty dark. I found myself gravitating towards the windows (not the shelves) to give my eyes a good scratch and a refocus.

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On the other hand, the children’s room had all their lights on and more people were in this room using the computers, reading the paper and hanging out.

It was during school so no kids were in the children’s room, but I smiled at all the adults that were using the light.

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Westbrook Children’s room is so sweet. There are several places for caregivers and children to sit. Many chairs, couches and crannies for reading and exploring.

My absolute favorite part was the beach pebbles that decorated the book shelves. Very unique and very appropriate for tiny hands cultivating their sensory skills.

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After visiting the Children’s Department, I noticed a room for magazines and planted in the middle was AN ACTUAL CARD CATALOG!!!! I swooned, I sighed, and I took way, way, wayyyy too many pictures of this treasure. Turns out, the librarians at Westbrook Public Library still regularly use the card catalog!

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Like many libraries, Westbrook Public Library is more than just a place for books. The natural surroundings provided a calm while the busy bulletin board begs you to get involved. This is not the busiest library but I felt welcomed by the friendly staff and was truly grateful for a quiet moment.

Hop Picks For October 2018

October! YAY! YAY!!!! YAY!!!!!! and also BOO!

This is such a magical month. The colors, the cool nights, the way your imagination can run wild with ghost stories… I LOVE this time of year. If you need me I will be curled up in the autumnal sunshine or next to a roaring fire reading (obviously) every scary, spooky and eerie book that the library has to offer.

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For me, the season officially starts when I have spent some time with Shirley Jackson.

Friends, if we ever meet please ask me about Shirley Jackson. I have so much to say about her, so many thoughts, so much awe. She was a fascinating person (Ruth Franklin wrote an INCREDIBLE biography about her) and I have such admiration for her ability to write such chilling fiction AND lovely memoirs about being a mother. She was a very creative person and it shows in her writing. My favorite opening paragraph from a novel (EVER) is from We Have Always Lived in the Castle:

“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.”

Shirley Jackson is best known for her spooky story The Lottery but I would argue that We Have Always Lived in the Castle is true genius. Every time I read this novel, I can’t believe how sorry I feel for Mary Kat. She and her sister are horribly ostracized by the people in her town and the isolation they face is heartbreaking. Yet, Mary Kat is also a terrifying person… I mean, did she kill her whole family? maybe?

The prose in this novel is wonderful and the dedication between the sisters is fascinating... I am getting goosebumps just thinking about it!

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The Witches by Roald Dahl is technically a children’s book. Although, I suggest that you don’t read this book until you’re at least thirty. I’m kidding but seriously, this book is creeeeeeeepy.

I love this book because it was one of the first that truly scared me but here’s the thing, I STILL think it’s scary.

I mean, the idea that witches look like regular women however they are actually out to “get rid” of children? EEK. Witches could be your neighbors, your parent’s friends, teachers, who knows! and they are all secretly plotting to make children disappear. This book is a serious twist on the usual witch story and perfect for a nine to twelve year old that wants a good Halloween spook.

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Recently, I watched the film A Quiet Place and was immediately reminded of Bird Box.

This is the story of a monster/spooky something that will destroy you if you look at it. If anyone wants to survive they must learn to navigate the world blindfolded. What sets this novel a part from other post apocalyptic stories? The main character is a mother. A mother who is trying to teach her young children how to navigate the world without sight. Scary right? Spoiler: There is a scene when the mother and her children are all blindfolded and trying to navigate a river. IN A CANOE!!!

Read this book before the Netflix film comes out. So Fun!

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Marisha Pessl’s Night Film is more of a thriller then horror but it was such a heart racing, page turner that I must include it on this list. The story of Scott Mcgrath, (a washed up journalist) is extremely captivating as he becomes obsessed with a reclusive film maker named Cordova. When Cordova’s young and brilliant daughter commits suicide, Mcgrath is determined to find out if it was murrrrrderrr. This book is a twisty path of bizarre characters and strange places as McGrath tries to find Cordova who is never interviewed, never seen and his staff all swear to secrecy.

If you like a mystery that has you guessing over and over again, check out Night Film.

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Look at that cover!! So good. Grady Hendrix is a maniac and all his books are so, so, soooo unique. My Best Friend’s Exorcism is fantastic because it is both super spooky and also fills me with a nostalgia for the cheesy fiction I read in high school.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism is about a group of high school girls in the 80’s and reads like a John Hughes film (Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles).

At one point one of girls, Abby, takes a quiz from a magazine to find out if she is driving her best friend (Gretchen) away. Turns out, it’s not Abby’s fault that Gretchen is acting so strangely. Turns out, Gretchen is possessed by the devil.

If you were ever a fan of the Sweet Valley High series I suggest you pick this book up. Your mind will explode because the writing style seems so familiar but the story is bananas.

Wow! This list is very entertaining! Not trying to brag but seriously these titles are all excellent! What is surprising about this list is that none of the books are overly gory.

There are so many books in the horror genre that are centered around men’s violence towards women and I am surprised that this list does not have a single torture book on it.

I’ve realized that for me, reading is my time to forget the news, forget the world’s problems and lose myself in a good story. These books are entertaining and fun and an effectual place to be when you are losing sleep over the real world.

What are you reading to celebrate (or forget) this haunting time of year?