About Alexa

I am an Adult Services Associate at the Warrenville Public Library. Plot-driven fiction rendering my various interests of health and psychology are my favorites. In my spare time I enjoy running, yoga, hiking, and being outside.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Book– New York Times’ Bestselling author Jodi Picoult does it again with another one of her remarkable novels tackling prominent, arbitrary controversies of today’s times. This novel was so captivating, that I ended up not only borrowing the printed copy from the library, but listened to eAudiobook on the Libby app at every opportunity:  in the car, making dinner, cleaning the house, etc.

Ruth is a single mother of a high school honors student and a Labor and Delivery Nurse of Mercy-West Haven Hospital of 20 years. She is a person of color.

Turk dons a Swastika tattoo, a Confederate flag arm sleeve, oversees a white power website, and is a distinguished leader in the movement. He and his wife Brittany, are white supremacists. She just gave birth to their son, Davis.

After a brief encounter checking Davis’ vitals, Turk and Brittany make a point to remove Ruth from their service. They write, “NO AFRICAN AMERICAN PERSONNEL TO CARE FOR THIS PATIENT,” on a post-it note and affix it to their child’s file. When the unit is short staffed however, Ruth has no choice but to watch over baby Davis while the other nurses handle a medical emergency. But then, baby Davis goes into cardiac distress. Unforeseeable circumstances leave Ruth with two choices: intervene and go against the charge nurse’s orders and the wishes of the parents, or do nothing and break the nurse’s oath.

Readers are challenged to question whether Ruth should disobey the orders she’s been given by the hospital, or care for the baby to try to save him. This riveting story underpins racial discrimination and freedom of choice and expression. It confronts issues of power, privilege, and race in the United State’s justice system and brings to light the realities that African-Americans face every day, which white people often take for granted.

Above all, Small Great Things invites conversation about the implicit biases we hold and how our actions or inactions can ultimately be a disservice to others. Racism is very much alive in the U.S. and this story illustrates the societal ramifications microaggressions play in the lives of underrepresented groups in our country.

This title is available in print book format, Large Print, and as an eAudiobook in Overdrive.

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. 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Book– Do not let the book’s thickness fool you. Knowing that I gravitate towards historical fiction novels, a dear friend of mine recommended All the Light We Cannot See and I could not put it down!

Doerr uses succinct, alternating chapters narrated by a blind French girl and a German boy, illustrating different perspectives of World War II from a child’s point of view. Although the Holocaust, Russian sieges, invasion of Paris, and the Allied Invasion of France are acknowledged, it is worth noting that the author assumes readers have some background on World War II, as the novel’s focus is on how the character’s development is shaped by war conflict.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris with her father, who works at the Museum of Natural History. The museum is rumored to hold The Sea of Flames, a jewel whose beholder becomes immortal at the expense of all their loved ones fatal suffering. At six years old, Marie-Laure’s vision deteriorates and she eventually loses her eyesight completely. Despite Marie-Laure’s visual impairment, her father makes it his mission that she learn to navigate on her own. He builds a miniature model of the town so she can tactilely memorize her way about the neighborhood. Fast-forward six years to Nazi-occupied Paris. Seeking refuge, Marie-Laure and her father flee to Saint-Malo and stay with her agoraphobic great-uncle, and with them, they carry the most valuable and dangerous stone, The Sea of Flames.

Werner is an orphan boy who lives in a mining town in Germany. Fond of applied mathematics and science, he is fully enticed with the processes behind operating and maintaining devices, so much so that he becomes the town’s go-to person for fixing various radios. After another successful repair, Werner is recruited to an academy for Hitler’s Youth, where his talents will be put to use. Werner is kept in the dark regarding the implications of his special assignments to track the resistance. At first, he creates triangles and finds points on a map, and only later comes to realize the destruction caused by his seemingly innocuous actions. Torn between doing what is expected and understanding what is moral, Werner questions his loyalties when he and Marie-Laure’s paths converge in their attempts to survive Saint-Malo’s bombings.

All the Light We Cannot See poses compelling questions about fate, free will, and making the right choice in a time when the pressures of political forces meet moral ambiguities. It is available in book, audiobook on CD, and e-audiobook via OverDrive formats.

NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman

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Book – Odd and unusual behaviors do not in and of themselves constitute a disorder unless they are related to a manifestation or, to a series of dysfunctions within an individual.  Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs one’s ability to communicate and interact with others.  This is often characterized by restricted interests, repetitive behaviors, intellectual deficits, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. Those with Autism can vary highly in their symptoms.  Current diagnostic material now includes Asperger’s, PDD-NOS, and Childhood Disintegration Disorder, which were at one time utilized apart from one another.

NeuroTribes is a must-read for anyone in the field of education neuropsychology. The book dives into the developmental history of our understanding of Autism and its implications for those living with the condition, their families, researchers, and the media.  Growing up alongside a family member on the spectrum of Autism and working with children who have special needs, NeuroTribes gave me significant insight into the drastic changes differential diagnoses and treatment of those with disabilities, has made over the decades.

Few would argue that a parent’s sole responsibility is to care for one’s child. Desperate to affect the course of a child’s plight, we need not wonder why parents of children with Autism unceasingly seek out answers to the behaviors associated with Autism & are willing to try new therapies, diets, and approaches — all in the hope of finding a cure.

Attempting various alternatives to give children with Autism the best possible interventions available, parents and aides alike will find comfort in knowing that efforts in helping loved one manage daily hardships, is an undertaking which numerous people share. Neurodiversity is not wrong, simply – different. Although countless difficulties abound in the lives of those with Autism, we can and should, embrace the way in which persons with Autism think and perceive the world.

NeuroTribes is also available on Hoopla and Overdrive.

A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman (2015)

Book & Movie- Ove is an elderly man who just wants to be reunited with his deceased wife. In the past, his rigidity and ill-temperament has kept most social interactions to a minimum, until now, when a friendly family moves in next door and tests his inflexible ways, starting with a slight U-Haul truck mishap. Between Ove’s cynical outlook on life and the humorous exchanges between him and his neighbors, A Man Called Ove can crack a smile of even the callous of people.

I was absolutely thrilled when I found out that this novel was adapted into a movie. Although dark, suicidal ideology is persistent throughout the film, it is more of a dreary storm cloud that never precipitates. Much of the film is spent recollecting Ove’s past, from growing up in his father’s shoes to life with his former wife Sonja, each memory allowing the audience to commiserate with Ove’s irritable self. I have always been one who has appreciated the book more than the movie adaptation in just about all titles, and this is no different, however I praise the director for keeping to the storyline rather than taking it in a different direction. One last note worth mentioning is that the movie is in Swedish but has English subtitles! I for one keep the subtitles on regardless of the language but personally found it taxing attempting to keep up with the dialogue when I would much rather enjoy the movie as a whole.

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

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Book – The Holocaust was one of the most repugnantly dehumanizing historical happenings of the twentieth century. Nazi Germany’s ethnic cleansing systematically killed an estimated six million Jews, as well as persecuted the physically and mentally handicapped, homosexuals, people of color, Slavs and Poles, numerous religious sects, and anyone else not of Aryan descent or who strayed from the political ideologies of the Nazi regime. Germany’s crime was not only on the scale of history, but on the scale of evolution.

The Zookeeper’s Wife recounts how dangerously humans bridle unruly instincts, not always playing by nature’s rules. Author Diane Ackerman uses the diary of the zookeeper’s wife, Antonina, as well as other historical artifacts to transport readers back to a time of Polish revolution in WWII Warsaw. In efforts to protect passerby Jews seeking asylum, Antonina and her husband successfully save the lives of 300 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, by hiding them in animal cages and teaching them how to appear Aryan in the public eye. The Zookeeper’s Wife is a compelling, tragic story that asserts the serious outcomes of combining eugenics with hateful intentions. Additionally, this book was adapted into a movie back in 2017 and is available on the shelves as well.

The Brand New Testament (2017)

Movie – To give mankind the awareness of their own death may be an inapprehensible phenomenon, but Ea has done just that. The Brand New Testament is a dark yet humorous film about God, who, by the way lives in Belgium with his wife and daughter. God creates inconveniences and atrocities to all of mankind out of his own boredom. His daughter Ea is not very fond of it and has had enough. After discovering her father’s malicious intentions are being controlled through a dated computer, she rebelliously sends out the death dates to everyone on Earth. What would you do if you knew when your last breath would be? Would you leave the job you dread? Would you spend your life’s savings? Or would you not change a thing? Six very different lives answer just that in Ea’s search for additional apostles to add to the New Testament.
This French film was incredibly thought provoking and had an amusing spin on all things biblical. Although it was in French (English subtitles provided), the dialogue was light enough to truly enjoy the essence of the sheer artistry. The cinematography and plot were engaging. It’s no wonder that the film was up for numerous awards and was generally favorable among critics. If you’re looking for something different but nonetheless refreshing, this is one to see.