Books in the Park

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


The Girl With All the Gifts, by M. R. Carey

girl-with-all-the-gifts-careyThere’s a small problem with zombie novels: besides the zombies, you just have people with problems. That can get stale quickly, especially when graphic novels like The Walking Dead and books like The Passage have covered just about every problem that people in a zombie-infested world can have. The zombies themselves, as metaphors for our inevitable deaths and barely repressed predatory natures, make great extras in horror stories, but don’t necessarily make a great plot—unless a good writer can breathe some life into them. As paradoxical as it sounds, zombies with life in them is what makes The Girl With All the Gifts worth a read.

Melanie is 10 years old and lives in a prison cell. Every day wary armed guards strap her down a wheelchair and then wheel her into a classroom for lessons with the other students. There they learn geography, history, literature, advanced math, and all about the holdout of Beacon, where the last of humanity lives walled away from the “hungries” that prey on them. School is the one bright spot in Melanie’s bleak existence, especially when Miss Justineau teaches. But now Melanie’s classmates are disappearing one by one, taken away by the guards at the command of callous Dr. Caldwell. As Melanie wonders how long it will be before she’s taken, the guards talk in hushed voices about a perimeter breach.

Zombie fans will find a lot to like here, but so will anyone who wants a more nuanced science fiction story about the nature of humanity and the folly of thinking we’re the pinnacle of evolutionary perfection. Plus, the original, imaginative details concerning the zombie infection were fully absorbing.

There is a movie based on the book starring Glenn Close as Dr. Caldwell. The screenplay was written by the author. Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Girl With All the Gifts.


The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

5th wave yanceyImagine that you are a teenager living in a painfully normal town; in fact, your chief worries in life are school, your crush, and trying to figure out what to do on a weekend night. In the midst of this normality, on just another regular day at school, the lights go out. You look out your class window and see a plane falling from the sky, you then realize that the cars have stopped in the middle of the road, and that every piece of technology that the human race has come to rely on is now defunct. This is the first in a series of “wave” attacks coordinated by “the Others,” who Cassie, Rick Yancey’s snarky heroine, discovers to be an alien race. The following waves are coldly and precisely calculated to decimate the human race until all that remains are lone survivors and small groups on the fringes. Cassie’s sole remaining family member, her five-year-old brother Sam, then gets kidnapped by a mysterious military group dedicated to training child soldiers. It becomes her mission to save her little brother while trying to survive alone. But people are not what they seem and no one can be fully trusted. And Cassie’s little brother may play an integral role in the 5th Wave, designed to be the most devastating of them all.

Rick Yancey’s novel, the first in a series of three, is an interesting and fresh take on the “the aliens have come to take over the planet” premise. Each wave is well thought-out and it is evident that Yancey has done his scientific research to create an excellent young adult science fiction novel. His main character, and the chief point-of-view for the novel, Cassie, is witty and clever. Her commentary and inner dialogue makes the novel a quick and interesting read.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The 5th Wave.

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Independence Day (1996)

independeceWith all my complaining about Hollywood and its seemingly endless stream of mediocre, CGI-driven action flicks, you’d think I’d hate this one. Surely, the guy who posts reviews for aging black and white films from the ’40s could never appreciate the absurd spectacle of something like Independence Day.

Well, you’d be dead wrong.

The world needs silly, witty action spectacles, and therein lies the key difference between something like this and a Taken 3 or Transformers. Crazy action films really benefit from lightheartedness or else they tend to be grim and eyeroll-inducing. The very fate of humanity hangs in the balance in ID4, but the film never feels morose. Instead, there’s plenty of wisecracking, satire, and humorous moments to lighten the mood. Smith, Goldblum, and Quaid can all pull off action sequences with ease, but they’re also talented performers that can sell the more humorous bits of the script. Helping push the action along are the excellent practical effects (explosions!) along with a light touch of CGI. Heck, it even has Brent Spiner playing a slightly deranged scientist. How great is that? Yeah, this one’s kind of jingoistic at times, but it’s too big of a goof to get upset with. Enjoy it this July 4th, preferably with friends.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Independence Day.

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Lost & Found, by Shaun Tan

lost found tanThree timeless tales for all ages with stunning and unique illustrations that will speak to an inner part of yourself, a part which relates to feelings of loss, nostalgia, and hope.

In the first tale, “The Red Tree”, a nameless character, a bright spot of color in a world of dull and subdued tones, is weighted down with feelings of isolation and melancholy. She meanders through her daily routine with no sense of direction or meaning until one day a bright red a leaf, a symbol of hope that blossoms into a flaming red tree, saves her from her bleak and subdued world.

“The Lost Thing”, my personal favorite, is about a boy who discovers a lost robotic “thing” wondering near the beach one day. Nobody seems to notice or care that it is lost and the boy decides to take it home. His parents, too busy speaking about current events to truly notice the lost thing, tell the boy that he needs to take it back. The lost thing, a metaphor for the loss of wonder, magic, and imagination of childhood, makes me nostalgic for the days where we could run and play outdoors for the entire day, noticing little details, not weighted down with worries and responsibility.

The last story, “The Rabbits”, written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan, is about a profound environmental crisis, a conflict between the old ways of spiritualism and the new ways of overbearing technology. This story is at once ageless and applicable to our current situation.

The themes in Lost & Found make it a collection that readers of all ages will want to return to again and again. The artwork is so detailed and unique that adults and children alike will look at it many times and always notice something new. I can’t recommend this book enough; it has been a book that I have revisited many times and enjoyed immensely. Look for Lost & Found in our chapter book section.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Lost & Found.

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Y: The Last Man (Vol. 1) by Brian K. Vaughan

y last manAnother gem from Brian K. Vaughan. This series pre-dates the Saga series but is no less awesome. Totally different in story and illustration, Y: The Last Man is 10 volumes of adventure.

In this post-apocalyptic Earth, every person with a Y chromosome has died—except for Yorick Brown and his monkey friend, Ampersand. Together they must work with Agent 355 and Dr. Allison Mann to discover what happened to their world and discover a solution to save humanity.

In the first volume we discover that Yorick’s only real skill is escaping. Years of practicing upside-down in a straightjacket have finally paid off. However, his mouth often gets him and his female saviors into trouble. Agent 355 of the U.S. government’s mysterious Culper Ring organization is tasked with protecting Yorick on his journey to discover the truth. She’s a no-nonsense, butt-kicking professional who also happens to knit. All of the other characters introduced in volume one are quirky like this and it makes for a fun read. Initially, the idea that a world without men would lead to chaos offended me. I quickly got over it as it is made apparent that it’s not the women who are incompetent; it was the system that was in place before the fall that really created the chaos. The first page lists that in 2002 (the time of the plague) “495 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are now dead” and that “in the United States alone, more than 95% of all commercial pilots, truck drivers, and ship captains died as did 92% of violent felons”. Any loss of this magnitude would turn the world into a chaotic mess. Do not fret my feminists friends, this comic was not designed to attack you! I loved this first volume and look forward to reading the others.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Y: The Last Man.

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Red Rising by Pierce Brown

red rising brownThe Earth is dying. Sixteen year old Darrow is a Red, one of the miners who lives beneath the surface of Mars hunting for precious resources needed as part of humanity’s effort to terraform Mars. Red is the lowest caste in a color-coded society where the Golds are the godlike rulers of all. Under the Golds’ watch, generations of Reds have never seen the sky nor felt green grass beneath their feet. The life of a Red is so short and harsh that they marry as teenagers. Such a lifestyle is only bearable because the Reds believe that they are pioneers, that they are humanity’s only hope for survival. But, it’s all a lie. When Darrow is recruited by a resistance group, the Sons of Ares, he ascends to the surface of Mars for the first time and sees for himself just how huge a lie it is. Darrow is tasked with infiltrating the Golds to fight for his people’s freedom.

Red Rising has been compared to books like The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and Lord of the Flies. There is truth to these comparisons. Red Rising is a dystopian sci-fi novel with a strong, intelligent teenage lead who is in a fight to the death with both his peers and the government. However, Red Rising is definitely more mature in terms of content; Darrow’s experiences are often violent and the language is quite imaginative, to say the least. For these reasons, Red Rising is usually catalogued in the Adult Fiction section. However, older teens will definitely enjoy this book. It’s a more in-depth and grown up version of a lot of popular teen science fiction they are already reading, and much of the more heinous violence within the story is non-explicit.

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Parasite by Mira Grant

parasite-grantMeticulously researched and well-executed, this is the first book in a trilogy. If you haven’t picked up this series yet, this is a great time to do it; the final book is set for publication on November 24, 2015.

In the not-too-distant future, a corporation called SymboGen has genetically engineered a tapeworm that, when implanted in the human digestive tract, protects a person from all sorts of illnesses and ailments by boosting the immune system and secreting medication. The SymboGen Intestinal Bodyguards™ are even said to preform medical miracles, such as helping Sally Mitchell recover from a coma after a severe car accident. But the coma didn’t leave Sally entirely unaffected; her memory loss was so complete that she even forgot how to speak and read English, requiring her to undergo years of expensive physical and mental therapy—which SymboGen paid for in exchange for regular testing of their “miracle worm”. But when some people implanted with the tapeworm—and there are millions of them—begin to exhibit strange, terrifying symptoms, Sally learns that there’s much more to the parasites than the general public knows.

I really enjoyed this book. Of course I like all the books I suggest on this blog, but this one gave me special delight. Yes, the science is feasible (if not plausible) and the premise raises some interesting philosophical questions, but, really, the book is just downright entertaining. I liked everything about it, even if the final revelation was a little predictable. I raced through the second book and can’t wait for the conclusion.

I’d love to hear from other readers. Have you read it? What did you think?

Check the PPLC Catalog for Parasite.