Books in the Park

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


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Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), by Lin Manuel Miranda

Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), by Lin Manuel Miranda

Few musicals have taken off in popularity the way that Hamilton has. The hit show about founding father Alexander Hamilton has been going strong on Broadway for two years and the original cast recording has gone platinum twice.

The story begins with a narration by Aaron Burr, played here by Leslie Odom, Jr., who describes himself at the end of the first song as “the damn fool that shot him.” The introduction, Alexander Hamilton, tells the story of Hamilton’s tragic upbringing and his immigration to the United States, setting up his involvement with the American Revolution.

The themes of friendship, revolution, toil, and arrogance ring throughout the musical. Ambitious as can be – Miranda described the titular character as a Slytherin when asked about his Hogwarts house – Hamilton is quick to make influential friends, including Aaron Burr, the Marquis de Lafayette, and George Washington. Burr, as most likely remember, was later Vice President of the United States – the post that he held when he and Hamilton dueled in 1804.

I will say that I am not much of a hip hop fan. This was one of my first forays into the genre, and it was a good introduction, indeed! Miranda’s writing combined with music by Alex Lacamoire is catchy, witty, and holds the attention of five and fifty year olds, alike (However, while my children enjoy the clean version of the soundtrack, it’s not something that I’d recommend for all children!).

Check the PPLC catalog for Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording). 


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The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon

Nicola Yoon, author of Everything, Everything, returns with a new novel! The Sun is Also a Star tells a story from multiple perspectives. There are the main characters, Natasha and Daniel, as well as some of the minor players in their story that they encounter along the way.

When the story begins, Natasha is  fighting to stay in America. Her family is facing deportation back to Jamaica. Daniel, who’s family immigrated from South Korea, is on his way to an interview for an Ivy League university.

After a serendipitous meet-cute, Natasha and Daniel strike up an unlikely friendship – and perhaps more – on what is to be her last day in America. Natasha doesn’t believe in fate or destiny, and not even in God, really, so she is not going to let herself focus on Daniel and give up her fight.

Daniel, a poet, has his head filled with romantic ideas about how this day would be the story that he tells his future children when they ask about how their parents had met. The two part ways and are drawn back together multiple times throughout the day, each time with Daniel asking himself if that meant that they were meant to be together.

Yoon’s writing is realistic and wonderful. Daniel and Natasha, along with the cast of supporting characters who lend their voices to the story, are fully fleshed out with backstories, hopes, dreams, and dilemmas. As adorable as it sounds, remember that this is NOT a fairy tale! The Sun is Also a Star has a wonderful stream of conscious style to it that draws you in and will not let you go until the last page has been turned.

Check the PPLC catalog for The Sun is Also a Star.

 


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Teen Book Review – The Selection, by Kiera Cass

Our latest review comes to us from one of our teen patrons! As a part of our Build a Better World summer reading program, we asked our teens to share reviews of some of their favorite summer reads with us. Arni has reviewed The Selection, by Kiera Cass.

The Selection is one of my favorite books. The book follows the story of a woman named America Singer. She started off in the lower caste of her society. She was a five, seven being the lowest and one being the highest. America had a boyfriend who was a six. In the society, if a girl married someone in a lower caste, she was a disgrace. On the other hand her family was looking forward to entering her into a contest to win her husband. The prince of her country needed a bride, and America was invited to participate for the contest.

Who will America choose, her lover or the prince? This book was a bumpy road because there were so many twists and turns. Sometimes America would lean towards her boyfriend, and then the prince. You would never know what was going to happen!

Thank you, Arni, for the review!

Check out the PPLC catalog for The Selection and the other installments in the series!

 


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The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Starr Williams is 16 years old and has seen two of her best friends die from gunshot wounds. Starr Williams is 16 years old and has seen two of her best friends die from gunshot wounds.

Starr and her family – her father, mother, older half-brother, and younger brother – live in Garden Heights. Despite the name, there’s not much beauty to be found there. Weeds spring up from the sidewalk and drugs can be found on almost any street corner. Starr’s parents send her and her siblings to a private school 45 minutes away. When their spring break ends, Starr’s best friends talk about their vacations to summer homes in the Bahamas, a trip to Taipei, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Starr saw her oldest friend shot to death by a police officer after being pulled over for a broken tail-light.

Starr faces pressure in her neighborhood to speak up and be a voice against the violence, but is hesitant. She is fearful of retaliation by the members of the local gangs, the police, and worries about how she’ll lead a normal life once everyone at her school finds out.

When Starr returns to school after break, after the reader has been introduced to “Garden Heights Starr,” we quickly meet “Williamson Starr.” Williamson Starr does not use curse words. She says ‘no sir’ and ‘yes ma’am.’ She is also one of only two black students in her junior class. Her best friends, Haley and Maya, face little difficulty in their lives. They don’t know “Garden Heights Starr.” They have been friends for years, but the relationship seems strained as they grow older.

Outside of Williamson, Starr must learn to find and develop a voice strong enough to raise in defense of herself, her family, her fallen friends, and her community. By the end of the novel, Starr is a force to be reckoned with and is so much more than “the witness.”

I urge you to check out The Hate U Give, which has been a stunning debut novel from Angie Thomas. You will not put it down until the last page has turned and the last name has been read.

Check the PPLC catalog for The Hate U Give. 


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The Stars Are Fire, by Anita Shreve

The Stars Are Fire, by Anita Shreve

I have several favorite authors that I routinely rely on for captivating stories that take me away from my everyday life and then stay with me long after I return their book. Anita Shreve is one of those authors. Her latest novel, The Stars Are Fire is based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine history. Shreve had me on the hook right away. Her latest novel is suspenseful and fast paced. It was easy to get lost in the story; not so easy to put it down until I found out how things turned out for Grace and her children.

It is October 1947 in Maine. Grace is a young wife and mother of limited means and resources, doing what it takes day by day to care for her husband and small children. Although she has a mom nearby and close friend, Rosie, to talk to and commiserate with, she struggles to make the most of her long days caring for her children and mostly absent husband.

After a summer long drought, a fire breaks out. While her husband goes off to help as a volunteer firefighter, Grace is left alone to fend for her children during the devastating fire.

The expert story telling puts you right in the coastal town where people are fighting for their lives and dealing with a tragedy too horrendous to fully comprehend. At times, I could not put the book down wondering how Grace was going to get out of certain situations. Compassionate strangers help Grace along the way. There are interesting side stories about these strangers and how they help Grace move forward in her new life.

Check out The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve. You too may get lost in this suspenseful story and think of Grace and her children long after you return this book.

Check the PPLC catalog for The Stars are Fire.


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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

 

Ari Mendoza is fifteen years old during the summer of 1987. He lives in El Paso, TX and has few friends. His mother is a teacher and his older siblings are grown up and out of the house. His twin sisters are mothers and are 12 years older than him. His brother is in prison. His father is a Vietnam veteran, though he never speaks of his time in the war and he and Ari rarely speak at all. Life for Ari is pretty isolated until he decides to make a decision that is his and his alone after going with the flow or just doing nothing for his entire life. He rides his bike to the public swimming pool, despite not knowing how to swim. It’s there that he meets Dante.

Dante is unlike anyone that Ari has ever met. He is intelligent, kind, and adores his mom and dad. Like Ari, Dante is also Mexican-American. Their shared cultural background and loner status are just a few of the similarities that ignite their initial friendship. The relationship between Ari and Dante flourishes throughout the summer until they go back to school. They don’t attend the same school and won’t see each other again until the following year. During their time apart they grow in different ways. Ari has taken a job and has become an angry teen. He wants to know more about his brother, who he barely remembers. He learns to drive and spends time alone star gazing in the desert. Dante, spending the year in Chicago, starts to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood.

During this gap between being a child and an adolescent, Ari and Dante learn about friendship, acceptance, sacrifice, and love. As a teen centered LGBT novel, it deals with the themes of coming out in a place and time where being gay was not seen as an easily acceptable concept. It also goes into gender roles, specifically masculinity, as well as artistic expression, family secrets, and intellectualism.

The book chronicles the summer, school year, and following summer from the perspective of Ari as he exists between the universe of being a boy and a man. It is one of the purest and most sincere relationships to have graced the pages of a YA novel.  Sáenz’s characters are well written and fleshed out and their story is so realistic that you might question whether or not you are truly reading a work of fiction.

The audio book is narrated by Lin Manuel Miranda, creator and star of the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton. The attitude and inflection with which he reads the story truly feels like an auditory glimpse at the life of two teens in 1987.

Check the PPLC catalog for Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. 


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Library Playlist: The Expanse (2015 – )

expanse-season-oneI adore science fiction television, but lately it doesn’t seem as if it loves me back. Far too much of what’s appearing on TV right now is either dreadfully boring or so cheap and unconvincing that it looks like a craft project rather than a major television series. I get that this stuff is tricky, but aren’t we past the era when set design consisted of papier-mâché and Christmas lights? Yeah, there are a bounty of decent superhero shows right now, but fans of hard sci-fi like myself know that they don’t really count. Mix all that mediocrity with a new Star Trek series whose release date is about as fixed as a mirage and it’s easy to become discouraged. Imagine my surprise then that the SyFy Channel had paused from making Sharknado sequels to give us something pretty good. It’s time to rejoice: The Expanse is the space drama that we’ve been owed for some time now.

It’s two hundred years in the future, and humanity has spread throughout the Solar System. Detective Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane) has taken on the task of locating the now missing Julie Mao (Florence Faivre). Meanwhile, the destruction of the ice hauler Canterbury forces Executive Officer James Holden (Steven Strait) to make decisions that will embroil him and his crew in the midst of a potential interplanetary conflict. Back on Earth, the United Nations executive Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) hopes to stop a war before it begins. Soon, all three will discover that their paths converge upon a massive conspiracy, one that could have dire consequences for humanity.

Like complex political intrigue set against the backdrop of space? The Expanse might just be for you, with beautiful ships, celestial bodies, and space vistas augmenting a clever story of interplanetary intrigue. Still not convinced? How about rousing performances from a talented cast? Thomas Jane is awesome fun to watch as the cocky, hard-luck Miller, and Shohreh Aghdashloo is delightfully cunning as U.N. high official Avasarala. No doubt, The Expanse is a quality series, but it’s also an effort that is long overdue for the SyFy channel. In this golden era of TV, SyFy and its frequently lackluster attempts at dramatic television were always a disappointing oddity. Hopefully, The Expanse is not a fluke and we can expect more like it. Highly Recommended.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Expanse.