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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Banned Books: Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Drama is a middle grades graphic novel and a quick read, even for a reluctant reader! The illustrations are charming and colorful and the characters all have distinctly different designs, including the identical twins in the story.

The story stars Callie, a 7th grader at Eucalyptus Middle School, and a member of the theater stage crew. She has a passion for set design and no ambitions to actually perform the musicals that she loves so dearly.

Drama doesn’t just allude to the production being staged in the story, but to the actual drama of middle school life. Callie has a crush on Greg, her friend’s brother, but he’s dating someone else, and so on and so forth – Anyone who has ever been a middle school student will find it easy to relate to. Callie must balance her friendships and relationships with the upcoming production and the rapidly approaching deadlines that come with it.

Telgemeier tells a story that isn’t outlandish or unreal – it’s easy to imagine this happening at one’s own middle or high school. The characters all feel real and fleshed out and it’s easy to read their tone and personality through how they are drawn.

I would definitely recommend Drama to any middle or high school readers or any young adults looking for a trip down memory lane.

Check the PPLC catalog for Drama, by Raina Telgemeier.

 


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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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Assassin’s Creed (2016)

Assassin’s Creed, for those unfamiliar, takes the player into the past to relive the memories locked within their DNA and passed down from their ancestors. For the first several games you travel into this world with the help of Desmond Miles, a modern day assassin with genetic ties to many important figures within the history of the Assassin’s Brotherhood. He is being forced to relive these memories by Abstergo, a mega conglomerate that is a front for the Knights Templar.

You don’t need to know that to watch Assassin’s Creed. We pick up with a brand new protagonist: Calum “Cal” Lynch, played by Michael Fassbender. Little is shared about Cal’s backstory outside of the events that start off the film. He’s not necessarily a likable character, being on death row when we first meet him, but you quickly begin to wonder about his past and be a bit concerned for him as he is brought in by Abstergo to help them test their Animus project and delve into the history of his own ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha.

It’s at this point that the story really picks up the pace. Cal is placed into the Animus and his ancestor’s memories play before him. He must keep up with Aguilar and not stray from the path that he took. Doing so would risk desynchronization, which could lead to ejection from the Animus, insanity, or even death.

Aguilar lived in 15th Century Spain, during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. We see him and the other members of the Assassin’s Brotherhood fighting against troops led by Torquemada – a member of the Templar Order, of course – to keep an item of great power out of their hands.

While the present day story line is interesting, the historical aspect is what screams Assassin’s Creed about this film. Watching Fassbender (who also plays Aguilar) running through the streets of Seville in 1491 to escape Torquemada’s men is fast paced, heart pounding action that could keep nearly anyone entertained. The series has always been known for their use of Parkour or Free running, which is predominantly displayed through the ancient city.

Overall, as an Assassin’s Creed mega fan with high expectations, I was entertained and enjoyed the film. There were enough differences from the games that it felt like something that was new and it’s own instead of a game sequel. Was it the best movie of 2016? No. Will I re-watch it anyway? Absolutely, and for that reason I will gladly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun movie.


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Seconds, by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Seconds, by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Until now I haven’t read an entire book in one sitting since I checked out Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as a teenager and stayed up all night to read it. I picked up Seconds the other day and brought it home. I was exhausted but I decided to start reading anyway. What harm would a chapter or two be before bed? 

What I didn’t know, as I cracked open the book, was that I wouldn’t put it back down until I’d finished the last page. I loved O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series and, if I’m totally honest, I wasn’t expecting to like this as much. I hadn’t read much about Seconds, but knew that it always caught my eye on the shelf or in the bookstore. Now that I’ve read it, I can say that comparing Seconds to Scott Pilgrim is apples to oranges. The art style is similar and the writing hooks you, but they’re truly worlds apart in direction.

When we meet the main character, Katie, she’s 29 and is a chef at one of the city’s best restaurants – Seconds. Katie had opened the restaurant with friends and is gearing up to open her very own restaurant in another part of town. She’s got the place picked out and the contractors are working on the renovations. With one foot out the door at Seconds, Katie is feeling a bit lost. After a serious accident at work, she’s presented with a mushroom and a choice – if she could change one thing, would she? The mushroom not only comes with the choice, but with a set of rules.

Katie makes her decision and thus begins her descent down the rabbit hole à la Alice. As Katie falls deeper into a world that is changing day by day, she wonders what has brought her to this point and how can she fix it.

I’ll end my synopsis there, as this book truly takes some wild turns and I’d hate to spoil anything for the next potential reader. Going into Seconds blind (which sounds a lot cooler than saying I checked out a book without reading the description on the cover) turned out to be a good decision. I knew when I picked it up that if I didn’t connect with the story, I’d at least have loved the art and I wasn’t expecting any of the twists that came along.

Wait! One last thing! The art! That’s what I’ll leave you with. If you liked O’Malley’s art in Scott Pilgrim then you’ll love it in Seconds. His style is still the same but it feels very unique to this story. My favorite character design is Lis with her white hair and red eyes. She is somehow creepy and adorable in the same panel and has an epic sense of style thanks to Hazel’s contributions to her wardrobe. Now, go! Pick up a copy of Seconds and tell us what you thought of it!

Check the PPLC catalog for Seconds.

 

 


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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