Books in the Park

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

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I Am Princess X, by Cherie Priest

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

I will raise my hand and say that, while I love adventure stories, I’m not the biggest fan of mysteries or crime stories. When I picked up I Am Princess X after seeing it recommended in our #ReadersUnite video I was drawn to the fierce Princess X character on the cover and decided to give it a shot.

The book hooks you instantly by detailing the curious friendship of Libby and May. Their friendship grows from one of circumstance to one of true sisterhood. They seem to spend every minute together creating their character, Princess X. The creative process stopped, however, when tragedy struck. Libby and her mother died in a car accident. May could no longer bring herself to write Princess X and her story died with Libby…

Or so May thought. One day, May sees a sticker with a princess character that looks exactly how Libby had drawn Princess X. Then she sees another, and another, and another. She finds out from someone sporting a Princess X patch on his bag that it’s from a popular web comic.

After reading the comic, May knows in her heart that Libby must be alive somewhere and creating more Princess X stories. With the help of a computer savvy friend, she tries to track down the creator to see if it really is her friend or someone who bought the stories from the thrift store where Libby’s father had sent all of his daughter’s belongings. What she finds is an adventure worthy of Princess X herself that puts May, her friends, and family into harm’s way.

Panels of the web comic are sprinkled throughout the novel to help guide the story, so I highly recommend reading the book instead of the audio book! The panels are wonderfully illustrated by Kali Ciesemier.

Pick up a copy of I am Princess X to find out what happens!

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Lady Killer #1, by Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones

lady killer richLady Killer is a magnificent play on words that draws you into the story of Josie Schuller, the lady who is a killer. Josie is a perfect 1950s-era housewife and mother who is also, secretly, a trained assassin.

The book opens with an Avon lady calling on a homemaker client in the afternoon. Innocuous, sure. Very June Cleaver. Then we see the Avon lady slip something into the housewife’s drink and we get a taste of the brutality Josie is capable of as the poisoning attempt fails and she is forced to improvise the successful conclusion of her contract.

The running joke is the balancing act of a life of homemaking when the husband is home and murder when he leaves for work. Early in the tale, this life is threatened by assassin-for-hire politics and a nosy mother in law. The breakneck pace of the story takes you from mission to mission, interleaved with Josie’s perfectly coiffed housewife persona, lipstick un-smudged. Her mother-in-law’s sordid suspicions of infidelity are hilarious when compared with the dark reality of Josie’s wet work side job.

The graphics are perfect, underscoring the clean with the brutally messy and lending a counterpoint to the story. The background scenery is quintessential 50s décor and style. Setting the comic in that era of squeaky-clean nuclear family life with its underlying Cold War paranoia and clandestine chaos is a telling commentary on how we can look back at an era with rose-colored glasses. Lady Killer has just published its fifth issue, each as entertaining as the one before. Be aware, some of the scenes are graphic.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Lady Killer.


The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

girl on the trainRachel’s life is in pieces. Her husband cheated on then left her, she lost her job because she’s developed quite an alcohol addiction, and her roommate wants her out immediately. She spends all of her time riding the commuter train she used to take back when she was still employed. Speeding by suburbia, Rachel becomes obsessed with a couple whom she often sees from the train window. They live just a few houses down from her ex-husband. She’s created elaborate stories for their lives and goes so far as to name them Jess and Jason. One night, while on a spectacular bender, Rachel gets off the train near her old home. What she sees and how she obtained some pretty serious injuries, she can’t recall the next morning. This, of course, has happened to her before, but this time a girl has gone missing—and it’s her Jess. Does Rachel know what happened to Jess deep in her subconscious? Will the police take her report seriously even if she does happen to remember something?

A few months back EVERYONE had to read Girl on the Train. The waiting list for this thriller was massive so I avoided it and made no move to secure a copy. The hype has died down now and I finally got me a copy. I read it in two days and I can definitely see why everyone was so excited about it. After Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn became a bestseller, readers were hungry for another dark and twisty mystery. Here it is. Unreliable narrators are one of my favorite literary devices and Rachel makes an excellent anti-hero. I recommend this title wholeheartedly.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Girl on the Train.

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Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan

altered carbon morganThe hard-boiled, “noir” genre of mysteries inspires writers of other genres, sometimes to fantastic effect. Altered Carbon is one of those great novels that takes a cyberpunk staple, store-able memories, and extrapolates its effects on society into a fascinatingly coherent world set 500 years in the future.

In the future, most people have cortical “stacks” stored in their spinal columns. If they die, their stacks can be stored forever, if necessary. The wealthy can re-download their stacks into new bodies, called “sleeves”. This makes murder a difficult crime, since the murdered person can be re-sleeved and go on to tell the authorities who the murderer was. It also makes destroying a stack a particularly heinous crime.

The truly wealthy are known as Methuselahs or “Meths” and they can afford multiple clone sleeves and redundant downloaded stacks so they essentially never die. Killing them is useless, since they download into a new sleeve with backed-up memories the next day.

Takeshi Kovacs is a former elite soldier designed to be transmitted digitally across solar systems to fight in specially prepared sleeves. The mental training necessary to survive the rapid, disorienting transit between sleeves and environments is so powerful that “Envoys” aren’t allowed to hold government offices on most worlds.

Killed on his home planet in the prologue, Kovacs wakes up in a new sleeve on Earth, hired by a Meth to find out who killed the Meth in his own home. In a twist on the classic locked room mystery, there was no one in the house but the Meth, and a suicide makes no sense, since he’d be re-sleeved the next morning. The only clue Kovacs has is that his employer double checked his upload time just before he died.

Kovacs finds his way around the Bay area in 2500 AD Earth, learning the city’s underside while we learn how the world works in this dystopian future. As Kovacs threads his way through this dark world, all the twists and crimes that can happen with backed up memories, clone bodies, virtual holding chambers and updated weaponry are exposed. When he discovers why he was downloaded into this particular body, he brings down the fortunes of the Earth’s most powerful Meths.

Fast paced, violent, and charged with new and disturbing ways to commit crimes and conceal them, Altered Carbon is a thrilling beginning to the Kovacs series. The series has just been announced as a Netflix TV show, so you can look forward to seeing it streaming in the near future.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Altered Carbon.

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Gone, by Randy Wayne White

Gone by Randy Wayne WhiteEver get a detective job because you piloted a fishing boat through a storm? Hannah Smith did, and it serves as a thrilling introduction to a new character from Randy Wayne White. Known for his twenty-two and growing “Doc Ford” thrillers, Randy Wayne White writes a story where Doc Ford and his friend Tomlinson play bit parts, and the action follows Hannah as she tries to find a millionaire’s daughter.

For a new character, White has written a deep backstory, making Hannah a descendant of a Florida folk hero, Hannah “Big Six” Smith and her sister, Sarah Smith Maclain. Daughters of a Georgia man known to be a giant, Sarah and Hannah were known for their 6 feet plus size and their immense strength. She played a minor role in White’s much earlier novel, Captiva. Linking the character of Hannah (the fourth) in Florida lore makes her instantly a local fixture in the Sarasota area inhabited by Doc Smith.

Lawrence Sessions is a well-to-do fishing client who gains great respect for Hannah for the way she guides him and his friends out of a storm during a fishing trip. Based on this and a connection to her uncle, he hires her to find his daughter, who is missing despite (or perhaps because of) having recently inheriting ninety million dollars. Despite receiving weekly phone calls, Sessions believes she is in danger.

Hannah traces the daughter and her drifter boyfriend’s whereabouts through the Florida haunts of the upper crust. Her level-headed approach to problems save her more than once, and her deep knowledge of the people and places of the area help her stay on the trail.

Engaging and disarmingly straightforward, the new character from Randy Wayne White is worth a read. This is the first of the series, of which there are three so far (Gone, Deceived, and Haunted). If you like this series, you may also like the Doc Ford series by White.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Gone.

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Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

christmas christieChristmas is a time for love, joy, and togetherness—unless you are a member of the Lee family. Sadistic patriarch, Simeon Lee, has gathered his expansive family around him for the holiday, including his four sons, their wives, and a long lost granddaughter. This gathering is a troubled one full of old grudges, financial squabbling, and petty arguments, which is just what Simeon needed to make this Christmas fun! However, when the old multi-millionaire implies that he is re-writing his will, he is asking for trouble, and it predictably arrives in the form of a murder on Christmas Eve.

Not too far away, world-famous detective, Hercule Poirot, is enjoying a quiet Christmas Eve with his friend Colonel Johnson, the Chief Constable of the area. Their evening is unpleasantly interrupted by a call commanding Colonel Johnson to inspect the crime scene at the Lee mansion. Johnson asks for Poirot’s assistance, and he is all too happy to oblige.

This is not a conventional Christmas story; the murder is violent, and every family member is a suspect. Additionally, most of the characters are utterly despicable. It certainly makes for a confounding mystery, with ample clues to point to the murderer, along with many more distracting red herrings. Ultimately, when the murderer was revealed I was surprised and pleased. The book ends on a light note, with all the remaining characters rallying together to make the most of what is left of the holiday, making this a story that delivers and a murder mystery, and a heartwarming Christmas tale.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Hercule Poirot’s Christmas.

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Dark of the Moon by John Sandford

dark of the moon coverJohn Sandford is well known as the author of the Prey series featuring Lucas Davenport first as a lieutenant in the Minneapolis Police force, and eventually a Deputy Chief in Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Dark of the Moon is the first book in a spin-off that features a supporting character from the Prey series: Virgil Flowers, a detective working for Lucas Davenport in the BCA.

With his long blonde hair and obscure rock band t-shirts, Flowers is the opposite of a stereotypical cop. In fact, he is known as “that f***in’ Flowers” to his peers in Minnesota law enforcement, because he follows his own rules to complete an investigation. Thrice divorced and a somewhat compelling figure to women, he completes his investigations by talking to everyone and judiciously leaking information to the public and press alike. He is primarily assigned to rural Minnesota, which brings him to the town of Bluestem.

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