Books in the Park

suggestions from the Barbara S. Ponce Public Library at Pinellas Park


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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling

cursed child thorneFirst off, I’m a huge Harry Potter nerd. When I hear those first few musical notes at the beginning of each movie, I get goosebumps. I read my first Harry Potter book when I was 10, and 17 years later I’m still obsessed. Having said that, I was not at all excited for this new installment. I had come to terms with the end of Harry and was content just revisiting the original material. But for some reason when the library got our first copy in for circulation and I was holding it in my hands, I just had to have it. My mom bought me a copy (as is tradition) and I read it all immediately in one sitting. I know there is a lot of hate going around for Cursed Child right now. I’ve seen people refer to it as fanfiction. Honestly, I sort of agree, but it is really really really good fanfiction. It wasn’t written by J.K. Rowling, but it was written by an accomplished playwright who did wonders with a new storyline. Seriously, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany do a great job capturing character with only dialogue. I was beyond impressed.

The story is definitely fast-paced and at times a little confusing, but we’ve got to remember that it isn’t a book, it’s a play. You can’t expect the same level of detail that the rest of the series supplies. Only super nerds like myself would go see an 8 hour Harry Potter play.  What I’m saying with all this is that if you’re fan of the characters, the story, the message—you’ve gotta read Cursed Child. Love it, hate it, you feel how you want but you’ve just got to have this story in your brain. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t get into to specifics but TIME TURNERS. Guys, we get more details about time turners and MCGONAGALL. She’s back and just as awesome as before. Read it for her. Cursed Child got me back in the Harry Potter spirit and now I’ve got to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in November. Thanks J.K. Rowling for another great story.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.


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Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

DSB TaylorLooking for a young adult fantasy book that’s a little different? This one might be for you.

Karou is an art student living in Prague who is easily picked out of crowd due to her vibrant blue hair. Everyone thinks she dyes it, but  it actually grows that way right out of her head. She spends most of her days drawing elaborate, realistic portraits of half-human, half-animal creatures and telling detailed stories about them. Whenever anyone asks her how she comes up with such strange ideas, she simply gives them a wry smile and says: “What? It’s all true.”

And, indeed, it is. Karou is no ordinary girl. She was raised by a group of chimaera and can travel to visit them in Brimstone’s shop through a certain door in her city. Brimstone, an imposing, devilish creature with crocodile eyes and ram’s horns, is also known as the Wishmonger, because he trades wishes for teeth. Karou doesn’t know why or how Brimstone makes these strange trades, but business is booming as humans and chimaera arrive in Brimstone’s shop at all hours. Karou has seen the dark side of this trade, however; the corpses of animals and human girls with bloody mouths haunt her dreams.

The story really begins when black handprints start appearing scorched into doorways all over the world, with witnesses describing the perpetrators as angels who make the prints with their bare hands and then fly away. Little does Karou know, these innocuous events have everything to do with her existence.

It’s easy to see why this book was a finalist for the National Book Award; author Laini Taylor is an amazing writer who has a gift for painting pictures with words. Her prose is beautiful and the story is captivating if a little strange, evolving into an intense romance in the third arc.

This is the first title in a trilogy.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Daughter of Smoke and Bone.


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Ăn: to Eat, by Helene An and Jacqueline An

an eatThis lovely Vietnamese-French fusion cookbook is also a family history of sorts, with 100 recipes that range from medium difficulty to hard. Rest assured that these meals are worth making, however; Helene An is an award-winning chef who lives in California and caters the most exclusive Hollywood events. Her main restaurant, Crustacean, is a high-end dining destination in Beverly Hills.

Jacqueline An sets out to chronicle her family’s history and her mother’s recipes, the two of which are so entwined that they’re almost the same thing. You’ll read about Helene and her husband’s harrowing escape from Saigon and their tentative first steps into the American restaurant business. It’s amazing to think that this world-renowned Vietnamese-fusion chef started out with a tiny Italian deli and slowly revitalized it by adding healthier food options. The new food coupled with Helene’s famous hospitality and masterful French cooking techniques quickly gained popularity, and a family business was born.

The book also contains an intriguing history of Vietnam and goes in-depth into the country’s culinary traditions. This alone made the book a worthwhile read for me. There’s a section on selecting and using certain kitchen tools like woks and rice cookers, as well as a section on basic techniques and the favors, uses, and health benefits of select herbs and spices.

I found the recipes to be a bit out of my microwave dinner skill set, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to try my hand at them some day. I did find at least one recipe to which the instructions were a bit unclear, but most of them seemed straight-forward enough. I especially liked the section on libations.

I don’t think I would buy this book, but it’s still a wonderful read and a great source for inspiration if you’re interested in fusion cooking.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Ăn: to Eat.


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Game of Crowns, by Christopher Andersen

In the summer of 2016, we asked our patrons to send us book reviews as part of our adult summer reading raffle. We’ve chose the cream of the crop to feature here on our blog.

This review is by Wendy Risk.

game of crowns andersonMost girls, at some point in childhood, want to grow up to be a princess. The gowns, the palaces, and the prince all promise romance. But the scandals of the house of Windsor provide a more authentic glimpse into modern royal life.

According to Christopher Andersen, the British royal family is the world’s longest running soap opera. Andersen has written the bestselling William and Kate and seventeen other New York Times bestsellers. He’s frequently interviewed on U.S. talk shows.

In Game of Crowns, the author details Queen Elizabeth, her daughter-in-law Camilla, and her granddaughter-in-law Kate’s similarities and differences. The author sets the tone of this gossipy book by calling Camilla the Black Queen and Kate the White Queen.

The author describes royal residences and daily routines. He poses questions, including will the Queen abdicate, letting her son become King Charles III and Camilla become his queen? The majority of Brits hope not. If Charles is passed over, his face will never grace coins, paper currency, or stamps.

For most of the book, the author lets us in on the scandals. He enjoys comparing Kat, whom he calls the most stylish woman on the planet, with Camilla, who underwent a sever makeover including Botox to make her a more presentable future queen.

Royal watchers on both sides of the Atlantic will enjoy the trivia. For example, did you know that a royal piper lays the bagpipes every morning outside their window after the Queen and Price Phillip finish their breakfast? Are you curious to know that Rogers and Hammerstein song he often plays? It’s from Oklahoma, a musical Elizabeth and Phillip saw while dating. The song? “People will say we’re in love.”

And how about Prince Charges, a man of many mistresses, some for decades and simultaneously. What nickname did he ask his paramours to call him? King Arthur.

The book is fun, scandalous, and a quick read. Wondering if it’s for you? Take this quick quiz. The answer to each question is either Elizabeth, Camilla, or Kate:

  1. Which woman drives, according to her cousin, “like a bat out of hell”?
  2. Which woman was nicknames “the Rottweiler” by Lade Diana?
  3. Which woman said, “Strange but I never felt intimated in his presences, never. If felt from the beginning that we were two peas in a pod?”
  4. Which woman’s husband spends $100,000 annually on his wardrobe?
  5. Which woman said: “Let us not take ourselves too seriously. None of us has a monopoly on wisdom.”?
  6. Which woman’s marriage reportedly cost $4 million?
  7. Which woman was photographed rather topless in Provence?
  8. Which woman will be the first commoner queen and college educated queen?

If you took the quiz, you would probably enjoy this book.  The answers are: Queen Elizabeth 1 and 5. Camilla 2, 3, and 4. And Kate 6, 7, and 8.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Game of Crowns.


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The Incredible Book Eating Boy, by Oliver Jeffers

incredible book eating boy jeffersHenry loves books just as any child would, although he takes his love for books to the next level. While many children love to read books, Henry, on the other hand, loves to eat books. Yes, you read that right: he eats books, devours them even. Big books, picture books, even reference books! Henry especially prefers red ones; those are his favorite. The more he eats, the smarter he becomes. He eats at an alarming rate until one day all that knowledge he ate is jumbled inside him and makes him sick to his stomach. What could be the matter? Is there any way to relieve such pain?

Although written for ages 4-8, Oliver Jeffers’s quirky story line and distinctive illustrations make this a must-read for all ages. If your little happens to be a book chewer, this story might discourage such behavior in a gentle and enjoyable way.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Incredible Book Eating Boy.


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Night Work, by Laurie R. King

In summer of 2016, we asked our patrons for book reviews as part of our adult summer reading raffle. We have chosen the cream of the crop to feature here on our blog.

night work kingSynopsis from the publisher:

Kate and her partner, Al Hawkin, are called to a scene of carefully executed murder: the victim is a muscular man, handcuffed and strangled, a stun gun’s faint burn on his chest and candy in his pocket. The likeliest person to want him dead, his often-abused wife, is meek and frail–and has an airtight alibi. Kate and Al are stumped, until a second body turns up–also zapped, cuffed, and strangled…and carrying a candy bar. This victim: a convicted rapist. As newspaper headlines speculate about vendetta killings, a third death draws Kate and Al into a network of pitiless destruction that reaches far beyond San Francisco, a modern-style hit list with shudderingly primal roots.

Review by Christine Hammerman:

This book was a suspenseful and entertaining read.

The story provided mystery and humor at the same time. The main character was well-written and stood up for herself and her principals, despite a tough job role and personal relationship.

Favorite phrase: “My sides were clapping together like an empty portmanteau.”

Check the PPLC Catalog for Night Work.


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The View from the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman

view cheap seat gaimanNeil Gaiman’s The View from the Cheap Seats is a collection of his non-fiction writings. There are book introductions, speeches, reviews of books and movies, and the odd writings that come up in an author’s experience of a writing life. Sometimes it seems that reviews of essay collections say the essays are “hit or miss”, then talk about the hits. Neil Gaiman’s The View from the Cheap Seats has no misses. All the essays are hits. (Side note, I’m using the word “essay” throughout the text to generally describe all the writings, due to the immense variety.)

I say all the essays are hits because, while it’s true that the reader will be more or less interested in some of the topics, all of them build such a broad yet nuanced picture of a thoughtful, prolific writer’s life that I insist you read all of them. His essay on watching a reunion show of The Dresden Dolls, for example, begins with his honest acknowledgment and disappointment that he hadn’t seen them in their heyday, and gives an insider’s view of the band’s collapse (his wife, Amanda Palmer, is half of The Dresden Dolls.) This precious insight adds depth and makes the final scene much more meaningful.

His commencement speech, “Make good art”, is both an honest, humble biographical sketch and an exhortation to fight through life’s challenges with creativity and confidence. He explores his life as an artist, and the false assumptions he made early in his career, and the things he wish he knew as a beginning artist.

One of my favorite sections is the biographical sketches he does of his favorite people. His sketches of Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett are wonderful, heartfelt appreciations of their writings, their personalities, and the meaning they added to his life.

Neil Gaiman’s insightful observation and commentary is enhanced by his skillful writing throughout these essays. His storytelling, even when it’s not fiction, shines through the text in such a humble, human, and appreciative voice that each essay in and of itself is a polished gem of a tale. Neil is one of our favorite writers, and we are looking very much forward to seeing his novel American Gods on TV. We’ve reviewed Gaiman’s works before, and can’t wait until we can again.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The View from the Cheap Seats.

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