Books in the Park

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

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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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Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James

fifty shades jamesHaters are gonna hate. That’s how I’d like to start this review. I read Fifty Shades of Grey after binge-reading the Twilight series. I’ve had dozens of people tell me that Grey was just a Twilight fanfiction for adults and, well, that’s exactly what I wanted. No, of course it’s not great literature that you can one day pass down to your grandchildren and share your favorite passages. No, it’s not here to add anything interesting to the craft or to leave you with deep philosophical discussions. It exists to give all Twilight fans what they really wanted in absolutely the worst way. This grown woman refers to her naval area as her belly and it’s fantastic. I’ve never giggled more in a novel than I did reading this one. It’s just a lot of fun and almost a parody on the popular teen series.

In case you’ve been able to avoid the whole series, here’s a brief overview: Anastasia Steele is a recent college graduate who falls for the very serious and very rich Christian Grey. Through a series of encounters Anastasia properly exerts herself as a helpless human being who is pretty okay with her entire life being compromised to please a man. Christian does his best to be the least charming man in existence but yet is somehow completely irresistible. Their relationship is filled with taboo practices and a lot of lip biting.

Seriously, it’s hilarious. Did I mention she has a male best friend name Jose?! Read it, enjoy it, and pass it on to your friends. I’m not saying you gotta run out and get the whole series, but if you’re bored and got some free time go for it, booboo—I won’t judge you.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Fifty Shades of Grey.

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Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty

big little lies moriartyThis book comes with trigger warnings for sexual violence and domestic violence.

Jane, Madeline, and Celeste are all mothers of children at Pirriwee Public School. Single, divorced, and unhappily married respectively, each woman finds an easy friendship with one another despite the vast differences in their lifestyles. Over the course of the school year the three get to know one another whilst combating school yard drama, helicopter parents, holier-than-thou ex husbands, and painful secrets of both the past, and the present, all of which culminate in a tragedy at the school’s Trivia Night fundraiser.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of Jane, Madeline or Celeste, and the perspective switches rapidly. This not only keeps the story interesting, but it also allows the reader to experience the same events through different characters. I found that it enabled me to better understand the story. Each character has a unique sense of humor, meaning that each chapter is hilarious in a different way. Despite the sometimes tragic subject matter, Moriarty manages to keep an overall hopeful, light-hearted tone, but she is never glib. The book is a balance of tragedy and comedy, petty squabbles, and serious issues, and ultimately a highly enjoyable read.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Big Little Lies.

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Illuminae: the Illuminae Files_01 by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

illuminae coverI haven’t enjoyed a young adult title so much in a long time. Illuminae is at once a love story, a cyberpunk/hacker story, a corporate war story, and a bioweapon nightmare story. What’s most intriguing, however, is that it is told in the form of hacked files delivered to the director of the corporation that started the war.

The narrative unfolds through transcribed interviews, journals, memos, chat logs, photos and emails sent in a post-mortem dossier between the survivors of a brutal attack on an illegal mining colony by a corporate rival. The two main characters, Kady and Ezra, are boyfriend and girlfriend who break up the morning of the attack, but wind up becoming close again as their world is destroyed and they and the other survivors are forced to flee.

Beitech, in attacking the mining operation, also released a biological weapon that infected some of the survivors. Fleeing the remnants of the Beitech battle fleet, the population of the mining world is spread among three ships – a damaged battlecruiser, a science vessel, and a freighter. There are so many dangers the remaining families and crews face:  they frantically try to repair the damaged ships while dealing with an Artificial Intelligence computer that appears to have gone insane, and the creeping, insidious bioweapon that threatens to destroy them all before they can get away. Tensions mount between the scientific and military crews as they try to do what’s best for the colony. Oh, and did I mention a love story that begins with a breakup?

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The Babadook (2014)

*Blog editor’s note: In a crazy coincidence, I received two reviews from different staff members about the same movie. Instead of picking just one review, I’ve posted them both here. Enjoy the different perspectives.*

The Babadook PosterAndrew’s review:

Horror films are more popular than ever, but while the contemporary kind may be flush with cash and graphic imagery, one thing that most of them lack is any sense of true horror. That’s what makes talented director Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook really stand out from the crowd. In a sea of mediocre startle-fests marketed as horror, Kent has crafted a horror film that not only tries, but also succeeds, at being unsettling.

After the death of her husband years before in a tragic car accident, Amelia (Essie Davis) is forced to raise son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) largely on her own. With his frequent emotional outbursts and challenging behavior, Noah is a source of stress for his mother, teachers, and acquaintances. When Amelia inadvertently finds and then reads a strange storybook to Samuel about a dangerous monster called the ‘Babadook’ which lives in dark areas of their home, it’s no surprise when Noah reacts poorly. However, things take a turn for the peculiar when Amelia begins sensing an ominous presence that grows more disturbing with each day.

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