Books in the Park

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


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Raven the Pirate Princess Volume 2: Free Women, by Jeremy Whitley

In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, we’re continuing our reviews of the Princeless series! Raven’s journey continues. She now has a full crew of pirate women and has taken command of a ship. The crew sets sail to confront Raven’s brothers who have excluded her from her family’s pirate legacy.

The first volume focused mainly on the journey to finding said crew and ship, and volume two explores the characters and their back stories. It also delves into the democracy aboard the ship, which is something that most people don’t think of with pirates. Raven, a stern pirate thanks to her upbringing, is willing to be more flexible to work with her crew and manages them in a way that is kind and fair and gives everyone on board a voice.

As with the first volume, the art is gorgeous! The entire series uses bright colors that truly pop – there are lots of reds, blues, and golds and everything just feels vivid. The costumes that each of the pirates wear are very unique and distinguishable. Even in zoomed out panels you can tell who is who.

This volume also gives us a chance to see the crew in true life or death action. Raven’s brothers have sent a crew after her and her mates to take them captive and the ladies must find a way to foil their plan by working together.

Now, mateys, I challenge ye to go and find yerself a copy of this here graphic novel! It’ll leave ye wantin’ to find yer own crewe of pirate lasses to set sail with!

Search the PPLC catalog for Raven: Pirate Princess.


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Raven Pirate Princess: Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew, by Jeremy Whitley

Raven Pirate Princess: Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew, by Jeremy Whitley and illustrated by Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt

Take one pirate princess without a crew or a ship, add a heaping scoop of determination, and round it off with a band of misfits that come together under her colors and you have Raven Pirate Princess: Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew, by Jeremy Whitley and illustrated by Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt. I expected action and adventure, but what kept me hooked was the witty humor and lovable characters.

Having previously been abandoned to a tower by herself to wait for her prince, Raven now faces an onslaught of the stereotypical male pirates as she begins her search for a crew. She hears everything from “not all men,” to “Help! I’m being oppressed by the matriarchy!” as she turns down man after man for the job. The crew comes together from women around town who are looking for new adventures. They’ve slayed the Goblin Kings in their table top games, now it’s time to band together and go search for real danger. Led by the new first mate, Katie (a.k.a. Muscles), a diverse crew of women rallies behind Raven to set out to reclaim her rightful place as the head of her family’s pirate enterprise.

The art in Raven Pirate Princess: Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew was stunning – the scenes are all well drawn and dynamic and the story flowed easily from one panel to the next. Beyond the writing and artistic skill used to portray the women, I truly appreciated the diversity that is included among the crew. Yes, it is an all women crew, but you will not confuse one woman for another. They each have their own unique looks, backgrounds, interests, and dialogue style. Any Pirate Princess can pick up this graphic novel and see herself in its pages. This graphic novel is recommended for ages 9+ and is a quick, fun read for any girl (or their mom!) that’s ever dreamed of the sailing the seven seas.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Raven Pirate Princess: Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew, by Jeremy Whitley. 


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The Ables, by Jeremy Scott

ables-scottThe Ables posits a world in which superheroes are real. They call themselves Custodians and live secretly among us. Their powers manifest around adolescence and they live in cities comprised of other Custodians. Phillip Salinger is in the awkward position of having superpowers as well as a physical disability. In Phillip’s case, he can move objects with his mind but cannot see. The Ables tells the story of a group of young people with extraordinary abilities who are limited by their physical and mental disabilities. Or are they?

The author does an admirable job of creating a world of amazing super people and explaining how this society works. He even creates a fairly complicated history for this world that goes back thousands of years. Some bullies use derogatory words such as “cripple” and “freak” but it’s clear from the text that this is not acceptable behavior. The characters are fairly complex and portray a wide range of personality types, and the interactions between them are believable. There is a community of special education kids and they all use appropriate language when referring to each other’s disabilities.

I would recommend this title for anyone. I think it’s great that kids with disabilities can read a story in which people like them are front and center. The message of the book is that everyone is different and each person faces a unique set of challenges in their lives. The superpowers act as a metaphor for the talents that everyone has, and the book tells us that by working together we are all stronger as a whole rather than being merely the sum of our parts.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Ables.


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Blackbirds, by Chuck Wendig

As a reader, I often range wide in getting my reading fix, and find myself following many authors’ blogs. Ones that are clearly creations of a publisher’s marketing department I quickly unfollow, but there are many authors whose unique voice resonates on their blogs as in their writing.

Which brings me to Chuck Wendig, an author whose blog I’ve followed for years. He writes about politics, his son, food, games and the gaming industry, but, mostly, about writing. He is irreverent and funny and, occasionally, not safe for work (visit his blog terribleminds.com with that in mind).

Having read his blog and followed him on Twitter for years, I was talking with another reader about how I liked reading author blogs, and recommended Chuck to him. Then I got the question: “What has he written?” I was stumped, and more than a little horrified that this talented author’s works had slipped past me.

Which brings me to Blackbirds. It is the first in the Miriam Black series, which follows the main character through her trials and tribulations in Mockingbird, Cormorant, and Thunderbird.

Miriam Black is in her early twenties and she knows how everyone dies. With skin-to-skin contact, she gets a vision of the death of anyone she touches. Whether death comes by car crash, suicide, heart attack, the lingering death of cancer or illness, Miriam need only touch a person to see their end. As you can imagine, this messes with Miriam’s head, and she wanders through America, surviving by dead-end jobs, scamming and hitching rides, and generally scraping along the fringes of society.

When she is picked up by a trucker named Louis, she shakes his hand and discovers to her horror that he will die a horrible death in thirty days while calling her name. The thing is – she’s tried to affect outcome of her visions in the past, and those interventions have led directly to the outcome she foresaw.

Careening between trying to avoid Louis and trying to help him, shadowy, evil figures act against her until fate, hope, love, greed, and evil come together in the final scene.

Wendig’s writing is crisp without being wordy, moving the story along quickly. The story flashes from the past, where the narrative takes place, to an interview Miriam Black is giving about her gift in the present. Miriam describes the events as a way to explain both her gift and its implications.

Miriam, as a character, has an excellent back story that reveals itself over time in intense scenes scattered throughout her young life. The other characters are well-drawn, and some are frightening in their amorality and approach to conflict. This is a gritty read and sometimes very violent. Wendig’s plotting and dialogue are tight, and you read from scene to scene with an impending sense of doom for all involved.

So, now I’ve read a book by Chuck Wendig, and I think you should too. Blackbirds is a great read from beginning to end, and the author makes you are about the characters, despite their flaws and baggage. As always with a series, if you like the character, you have more to read and watch the character evolve.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Blackbirds.

Find this title at your local library via WorldCat.


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The Iron Druid Chronicles, by Kevin Hearne

hounded-iron-druid-hearneI love books written in series because they give you a chance to really get to know the characters and to delve deeply into the world they inhabit. I recently ran across Hounded, the first title in Kevin Hearne’s The Iron Druid Chronicles, and proceeded to binge-read every title in the series. The series does all I ask for with well-crafted plotlines, good world-building, and memorable characters that you root for, including a magically enhanced Irish wolfhound. Plus, there is mythology—lots of it.

Atticus O’Sullivan (his actual Gaelic name looks terrifying to pronounce, but is included in a handy pronunciation guide) is the last druid alive and is at least 2000 years old. Before the Romans exterminated all the Druids left in Ireland, Britain, and Gaul, he escaped in order to be able to fulfill his destiny, to protect Gaia. He now lives in Tempe, Arizona, and takes care of the lands around there while avoiding the attentions of the gods.

Gods? Yes, gods. Hearne’s world-building is masterful, blending all the pantheons in a multiverse sort of way, with the Irish gods, Norse gods, and Greco-Roman gods featuring prominently in the stories. There are also witches, vampires, and werewolves. As Atticus is Irish, most of his dealings are with the Tuatha de Danann, the Irish pantheon of deities. He is under Morrigan’s protection, and as such, is a pawn in their pantheon’s plots and machinations. As gods do, they act through other, less deific agents on earth, and so the first few books deal with the magical inhabitants of the Tempe area. Later adventures involve many other pantheons, including even Ganesh the elephant-headed Hindu god.

Atticus has friends, especially his Irish wolfhound, Oberon. Oberon is magically enhanced and carries on hilarious telepathic conversations with Atticus from a dog’s worldview. Atticus’ legal affairs are taken care of by, of course, a vampire and werewolf. As the series progresses, he adds an apprentice, Granuaile (pronounced gran ya wail, if you want to know) whose decade-long training is interrupted with adventures through seven books.

The stories are full of humor, adventure, and the occasional throwdown between gods and mortals. The books’ events follow in sequence, so they really need to be read in order. Atticus is both brash and human, despite his advanced age. His good intentions occasionally go awry, but they make him likable.  The mixing of the various pantheons allows for magic, science, and deific powers to coexist seamlessly, and even with some broad humor. I enjoyed the series thoroughly and look forward to more of Atticus and Granuaile’s adventures.

Check the PPLC Catalog for:

Book 1: Hounded
Book 2: Hexed
Book 3: Hammered
Book 4: Tricked
Book 5: Trapped
Book 6: Hunted
Book 7: Shattered
Book 8: Staked


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Beauty and the Beast, by Ursula Jones and Sarah Gibb

beauty-beast-jones-gibbIf you’re looking for a “tale as old as time,” you’ve come to the right library. In Ursula Jones’s retelling of Beauty and the Beast, we are immersed in a fairy tale passed down from the 18th century by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, which is about true love being anomalous to what we often see in its place, and that no amount of wealth or good looks can take the place of devotion, time, and sacrifice.

The story of selfless Beauty, her merchant father, and egomaniacal sisters will have you laughing and crying from start to finish. If you’re looking forward to seeing Lumière and Cogsworth—DON’T. They’re… not home right now. In this retelling, Beauty’s sisters’ narcissistic behavior will provide all of the laughter needed to go along with the suspense of someone having to die at the hands—erm, claws—of the Beast for the unforgivable penalty of plucking a rose from his collection.

Now in terms of the illustrations, the rich, black shading compliments the bright and strikingly delicate colors with every turn of the page. You won’t feel let down by the magic brilliantly captured by award-winning author Ursula Jones and masterful illustrator Sarah Gibb.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Beauty and the Beast.


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Gotham Academy, by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl

gotham-academy-cloonanOlive Silverlock attends Gotham Academy, the most prestigious boarding school in Gotham, and she is troubled. Not only is Olive’s mom locked up in Arkham Asylum for unknown reasons, but Olive is also haunted by hazy memories of a mysterious incident that happened over summer break. Closing herself off, Olive attempts to avoid Kyle Mizoguchi, her tennis player boyfriend who has the good looks of a K-Pop star. Unfortunately, she is forced to show his freshman sister, Maps, around campus. Add to these problems the innate secrets of Gotham Academy itself: the hidden passageways, the ghost haunting the campus, and the secret society running around, Olive is in for an interesting school year.

There is so much to love about Gotham Academy! It’s been described as Harry Potter meets Batman, and it doesn’t disappoint. Harry Potter fans will appreciate the mystery solving, allusions to magic, and the boarding school dynamics. Batman fans will appreciate the many Easter eggs and guest stars. Bruce Wayne gives a speech at the Academy and he swings onto the scene a couple of times as his alter ego, Batman. There are other familiar elements tossed into Olive’s experience too like a reference to the Langstrom virus and a surprisingly fun appearance by Killer Croc. For Batman fans, it’s fun to see Gotham from the perspective of new characters. It gives an already familiar setting more depth.

None of this, however, takes away from Olive’s story. Perhaps the best part of all is how even readers who know nothing about the Bat-Mythos will still enjoy this book. Olive’s story skillfully intertwines these elements, but they aren’t the point of her story. Readers who aren’t interested in typical superhero comics or who don’t know much about Batman needn’t shy away from Gotham Academy. The new stories and characters it offers definitely stand up on their own. One of the most delightful of these new creations is the character Maps. She’s got the spunky but steadfast sidekick thing down pat. But, she’s a great character in her own right. Her enthusiasm for the D&D-like game, Serpents & Spells, and her love of cartography (which gives her the nickname Maps) is fun, cool, and adorable.

Overall, readers of all ages will find Gotham Academy enjoyable. It’s got great art, smart storytelling, a diverse cast, and a bunch of mysteries that need unraveling. Also, don’t miss the crossover Gotham Academy is currently doing with the comic book Lumberjanes. Read about it here.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Gotham Academy.