Weekly Reads

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Brianna- I am Princess X

Christine- Scarlet Women:The Scandalous Lives of Courtesans, Concubines, and Royal Mistresses

JoAnna- Big Girl Panties

Shianne- A Court of Mist and Fury

Sue- A Man Called Ove

Weekly Reads

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Brianna- The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu (nd their race to save the world’s most precious manuscripts)

Christine- The Blackthorn Key

Meghan- Lady Midnight

Sue- A Wrinkle in Time

Saving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I was Gay, and that’s When My Nightmare Began

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saving alex

Saving Alex: What I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I Was Gay, and that’s When My Nightmare Began
By: Alex Cooper & Joanna Brooks

“When Alex Cooper was fifteen years old, life was pretty ordinary in her sleepy suburban town and nice Mormon family. At church and at home, Alex was taught that God had a plan for everyone. But something was gnawing at her that made her feel different. These feelings exploded when she met Yvette, a girl who made Alex feel alive in a new way, and with whom Alex would quickly fall in love.”

Alex Cooper’s plight within the Mormon Church was horrifying and brought to light a growing problem that many LGBTQ children face within religious communities. After coming out to her strict Mormon parents, she was forced into an eight month conversion therapy and rehabilitation program in Utah. These programs are spread out all across the country with the intention of “praying the gay” out of children. Under the guise of a therapeutic residential treatment program, these conversion therapy programs are notorious for being highly abusive.

I found this biography to be disturbing and heartbreaking. Cooper’s story is not unique to the teens forced into these programs by fanatical parents believing that their children’s sexuality can be changed with routine praying, isolation, verbal abuse, routine beatings, and forced labor. In a time when acceptance is the societal norm, reading about families still living with archaic beliefs is unnerving, especially when their beliefs overshadow the love and devotion they are meant to have for their families.

Within these conversion programs, LGBTQ teens are basically held captive and faith is used as a means of punishment and fear. What makes Cooper’s story unique is the fact that she managed to escape the program and was granted amnesty in Salt Lake City, Utah under the law’s protection as an openly gay teenager. Her story helped make legal history by allowing LGBTQ teenagers fundamental human rights.

Saving Alex tells the story of a brave young woman willing to defy her family and their religion in order to gain her own freedom, acceptance, and truth. 9/10.

“Alex Cooper’s story is a call to action—we must put a stop to this brutal practice of conversion therapy and ensure that every child is embraced for who they are in their homes, schools, and communities.” —Chad Griffin, president, Human Rights Campaign

For further reading about this topic, I recommend Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA by Roberta Kaplan and Lisa Dickey.

Trending Titles

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See what’s popular at Wolcott Public Library now!

The Witches:Salem, 1962Stacy Schiff

“The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Cleopatra analyzes the Salem Witch Trials to offer key insights into the role of women in its events while explaining how its tragedies became possible.”

Thing Explainer:Complicated Stuff in Simple WordsRandall Munroe

“The creator of the popular webcomic “xkcd” uses line drawings and just ten hundred common words to provide simple explanations for how things work, including microwaves, bridges, tectonic plates, the solar system, the periodic table, helicopters, and other essential concepts.”

Lady MidnightCassandra Clare

“Shadowhunter Emma Carstairs and her parabatai Julian Blackthorn race to stop a demonic plot that threatens Los Angeles”

All Dressed in White– Mary Higgins Clark

“Five years ago Amanda Pierce was excitedly preparing to marry her college sweetheart in a lavish ceremony at The Grand Victoria Hotel in Palm Beach. Then, with their guests and families on site, Amanda disappeared. In present-day New York City, Laurie Moran realizes a missing bride is the perfect cold case for her investigative television series, Under Suspicion. She and her team set out to recreate the night of the disappearance at the Florida resort with Amanda’s friends and family in attendance, hoping to shed new light on the mystery as the series has done in past episodes. With a jealous sister, playboy groomsmen, Amanda’s former fiance; now married to a bridesmaid, and rumors about the “beloved” bride herself, Laurie and Under Suspicion host Alex Buckley quickly realize everyone has a theory about why Amanda vanished into thin air. One thing is certain: whoever was behind Amanda’s disappearance plans to keep the truth hidden “until death do they part.”

Parchment and Old Lace– Laura Childs

“Carmela couldn’t imagine a finer evening than dinner at Commander’s Palace with her beau, Detective Edgar Babcock. The food and the company are equally divine-with the exception of Isabelle Black’s stopping by to brag about her upcoming wedding. Resuming the romance with a walk in the evening air, the couple is interrupted once again-this time by a terrifying scream from inside the cemetery. Having just seen Isabelle, Carmela and Edgar now find her lying across an aboveground tomb, strangled to death with a piece of vintage lace. Carmela would rather leave the investigating to Edgar, but she can’t say no to Isabelle’s sister Ellie when she asks her to help. As she untangles the enemies of Isabelle’s past, Carmela hopes she can draw out the killer before someone else gets cold feet.”

Weekly Reads

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Brianna- Jane Steele

Christine- Goodbye Stranger

Meghan- The Horse and his Boy

Shianne- Any Day Now:David Bowie-The London Years 1947-1974

Sue- The Lake House

The Stanford Prison Experiment

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8883Rating: R

This film tells the story of the famous 1971 psychological experiment at Stanford University were 24 students were selected to take on randomly assigned roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison. The experiment was supposed to last 2 weeks; it was shut down after 6 days.

For those of you who don’t know about the Stanford Prison Experiment click here.

This movie, like the experiment, is shocking. The participants of this study did not take their roles lightly, and their personalities quickly transformed. Even though all  the students were deemed emotionally healthy and friendly, the “guards” became emotionally abusive and the “prisoners” quickly became depressed and submissive. It is quite disturbing to watch this experiment, especially because the movie seems to draw out the abusive scenes.

At the end of the film you’re left relieved that it’s over and questioning how anyone could act like this. The most disturbing aspect of this movie is that these are all normal, happy, healthy people who seem to completely lose sense of who they really are, and that’s scary. No one wants to think that they could be cruel and abusive or obedient and passive to people being abused, but that is what happened in this situation.

I enjoyed the movie, though it was a bit long. This is an important story, and  I recommend that everyone learn about it, even if they don’t want to see the movie. I give the film 8 out of 10 stars.

Weekly Reads

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Brianna- How they Croaked:The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous

Candace- Scarlet Women:The Scandalous Lives of Courtesans, Concubines, and Royal Mistresses

Christine- Six of Crows

Jeanne- The Paris Architect

JoAnna- A Thousand Naked Strangers:A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back

Meghan- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

 

Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath

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Lights OutLights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath
By: Ted Koppel

“Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage [treatment], no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before.”

Ted Koppel, one of our most renowned journalists – New York University named him one of the top 100 American Journalists of the past hundred years, a forty-two-year veteran of ABC News, anchor and managing editor of Nightline – explores the possibility of a potential attack on the United States power grids. A well-planned attack on just one of the nation’s three electrical power grids could destroy the entire infrastructure. As we know, the federal government has plans for natural disasters and various forms of terrorism, but the government lacks a plan for the aftermath of an attack on the power grid.

Lights Out not only dives into the possibility of a terrorist attack on our power grid structure but also the repercussions of what could happen to our nation without a plan for surviving and overcoming a complete blackout across the country. Koppel explains that with the way technology has developed and how easily it is obtained, a simple laptop could be used as a weapon of cybernetic warfare. With the lack of government plans for a power grid attack, many Americans have resorted to taking matters into their own hands. Koppel visits a few doomsday preppers, revealing that there are over three million families and communities within the country that are considered preppers, these people are completely self-sufficient – they don’t have to rely on any outside resources and can live completely off the grid (which is essentially what this book is about).

The most fascinating interview that Ted Koppel conducts within Lights Out is with the Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah. Koppel reveals that Mormons are encouraged to prepare, over time, for unspecified emergencies. They are urged to set aside enough food, water, clothing and money to sustain themselves for three to twelve months. Their mass preparations are called Deseret, meaning “honeybee” as a symbolism to work and live within a self-sufficient, collaborative and highly productive community.

Despite all the planning and preparations these three million doomsday preppers have done, Koppel writes that the average person is not prepared for such a catastrophe. He stresses the need to prepare and plan for any sort of scenario and not assume that the government will have plans in place for such an attack. Lights Out shines a glaring spotlight on the necessity to prepare for a cybernetic attack; Koppel offers potential solutions and ultimately warns that an attack on our power grids is highly possible. 9/10.

Scarlet Women: The Scandalous Lives of Courtesans, Concubines, and Royal Mistresses

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Scarlet WomenScarlet Women: The Scandalous Lives of Courtesans, Concubines, and Royal Mistresses
By: Ian Graham

“In 1965, an impoverished elderly woman was found dead in Nice, France. Her death marked the end of an era; she was the last of the great courtesans. Known as La Belle Otero, she was a volcanic Spanish beauty whose patrons included Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia. She accumulated an enormous fortune, but gambled it all away. Scarlet Women tells her story and many more…

Courtesans were an elite group of talented, professional mistresses. The most successful became wealthy and famous in their own right. While they led charmed lives, they occupied a curious position: they enjoyed freedom and political power unknown to most women, but they were ostracized by polite society. From the hetaerae of ancient Greece to the cortigiani onesti of 16th century Venice, the oiran of Edo-period Japan to the demimondaines of 19th century France, this captivating book–perfect for readers of A Treasury of Royal Scandals–uncovers the rich, colorful lives of these women who dared to pursue fortunes outside their societies’ norms.”

The concept of this book had a lot of potential. It could have been truly revealing of the impact women had on history and the influential men they slept with in order to rise to power, wealth and notoriety. Instead, Graham wrote this book more as a gossip column, divulging salacious “secrets” of the women who bedded men of great power and wealth. The tone of this book borders on mocking and doesn’t deliver the proper respect these women garnered during their times with kings, noblemen, and knights.

I would have liked a more scholarly approach to the topic. I felt Graham should integrate some of these women into a narrative that explained more about the courtesan life. He mentions many times how women were schooled in the art of the courtesan. What does that mean? Who taught them? What were they taught? Many of the women took to the stage as dancers and singers to gain notoriety or to earn money. What kind of singing and dancing? How could amateurs so easily become stars? Today singers and dancers endure grueling years of lessons and practice. It must have been different in earlier centuries, but how? These are the kinds of things I would have liked to know.

The sketches of the courtesans, concubines and mistresses are brief – so brief that they start to blend together and feel the same as the previous one. If Graham had no intention of going into detail about the lives of these women, he certainly achieved that. This book felt more like a list of names of women who slept with men, their rise to fame and then their decent into madness, poverty and eventually death. I would have preferred to read a book about five or six mistresses, well written, researched and in depth, rather than a book full of every possible mistress and just a brief few paragraphs about each of them. 6/10.

In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom

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In order to liveIn Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom
By: Yeonmi Park

“I am most grateful for two things: that I was born in North Korea, and that I escaped from North Korea. Both of these events shaped me, and I would not trade them for an ordinary and peaceful life. But there is more to the story of how I became who I am today.

Along my journey I have seen the horrors that humans can inflict on one another, but I’ve also witnessed acts of tenderness and kindness and sacrifice in the worst circumstances imaginable. I know that it is possible to lose part of humanity in order to survive. But I also know that the spark of human dignity is never completely extinguished, and that given the oxygen of freedom and the power of love, it can grow again. This is my story of the choices I made in order to live.”

Yeonmi Park’s book is a terrifying account about the oppression that North Korean’s face on a daily basis. The Hermit Kingdom lives in complete shadow away from the eyes of the rest of the world and for good reason; the people in North Korean are starving, suffering and being fed lies about the rest of the world. The Kim Dynasty has reigned over the people of North Korea with an iron fist, controlling everything in their lives and denying their people basic rights as human beings.

Park’s struggle to survive in North Korea is not a unique one, sadly, the majority of people not ranked with the highest honors in society live in dismal conditions typically starving to death, living in small huts and forced to eat bugs to try and survive. In her book, she recounts what life was like for her and her family living in Hyesan, North Korea – a small mountain village by the Yalu River that borders China. As a child, she could recall standing on the river’s edge, watching children in the Chinese village across the water playing, laughing and singing. The electric lights fascinated her and the smells from the Chinese village made her mouth water and reminded her that she was starving just across the river.

Despite the suffering the Park’s experienced while in North Korea, Yeonmi writes about the devotion and love she and her family had for the Kim’s; which is often the case for many North Koreans. However, unlike many North Koreans, who accept their suffering, the Park’s dreamed of a better life. Her sister was the first to leave North Korea, and when Yeonmi fell ill with a severe intestinal infection and was wrongfully treated for appendicitis; her mother knew it was time to leave North Korea for a better life in South Korea. While in China, Yeonmi and her mother were sold into sexual slavery and were forced to suffer through horrible psychological and physical hardship before they made their way to Seoul, South Korea.

At twenty-one, Yeonmi Park has lived through experiences that few people of any age will ever know. In Order to Live is a book not only intended to shed light on the struggle the North Korean’s face, but also a beacon of light for Yeonmi Park to find her sister who escaped North Korea two years before her. 10/10.