Books in the Park

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

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On the Fence: As Above So Below (2014)

on the fence as above so below

First before I say anything else, let me state that I really enjoyed this movie. This review is On the Fence because I know it is not to everyone’s liking.

Scarlet Marlowe is an intrepid modern day alchemy scholar who is questing for the Philosopher’s Stone… Stop that! Don’t laugh! She has worked all her life to be taken seriously! In a homage to her late father’s life’s work, she has been researching and hunting for evidence that the Stone actually exists, and she may have just found her big break in an ancient buried temple in Iran. It is a completely legitimate line of work… Stop laughing!

Heading to Paris to follow up on her latest discovery, Scarlett and aspiring film-maker Benji begin to document the search. They hit a road block pretty quickly when they discover the next step in the search lies deep in the Catacombs of Paris. Scarlett enlists the help of her spurned ex, George, who in turn enlists the help of a gang of French scamps, whose specialty just so happens to be hanging out in creepy catacombs.

Once they head underground– well, Randy Cordova sums it up best in his review of the film for

“Once the characters go underground, things start happening. Not scary things, mind you, but things.”

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The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

phantom of the opera coverIt is rumored that in the vast dark spaces of the Paris Opera House lurks a demonic presence: the Opera Ghost. The new owners of the house, MM. Moncharmin and Richard, write this off as the superstitions of theatre folk, and will do everything in their power to ignore the demanding letters left by the “Ghost”. For others, however the Ghost is all too real. One such soul is the comely Christine Daae, whose recent rise to stardom in the opera house can only be described as other-worldly. At one of Christine’s performances she catches the eye, and heart, of her childhood friend, Viscount Raoul de Chagny.

As Raoul begins a clandestine affair with Christine, and the new managers begin a battle with the opera ghost, the sinister forces at work in the Paris Opera House begin to reveal themselves to the world!

This novel was written 1900s, but despite the ‘age gap’, it still remains an exciting adventure. There is action, horror and romance that will appeal to readers of today.

As a work in the United States Public Domain, The Phantom of the Opera novel by Gaston Leroux is available as a free ebook download from Project Gutenberg.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Phantom of the Opera.

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Letters from an American Farmer, by J. Hector St. John

letters from an american farmerHector St. John de Crevecoeur, an emigrant French aristocrat-turned-farmer, provides an “everyday life” account about the emerging United States.

The year was 1765 in Orange County, New York. After having acquired his citizenship, de Crevecoeur became a landowner. His property generated both a food staple and a “literary staple.” In a series of observant and erudite letters, he interprets the development of American society.

Letters from an American Farmer paints a vivid portrait of the young country, not only detailing the hardships of frontier living but the perilous unrest that existed between fanatical patriots, back-country loyalists and plantation culture in the south.

“For many [Europeans], his essays offered the first major impressions of the American landscapes, the people, the institutions, and the problems that stood in the way of making one nation out of the diverse former colonies.”

For a glimpse into “everyday life” from 18th century America and general colonial history, Letters from an American Farmer provides candid insight.

As a work in the Public Domain, Letters from an American Farmer is available as a free download from

Check the PPLC Catalog for a physical copy of Letters from an American Farmer.

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Miss Don’t Touch Me by Hubert and Kerascoët

miss don't touch me coverOrphaned sisters, Agatha and Blanche, make a meager living as maids in 1930s Paris. Though opposite in nature, party-animal Agatha and prudish Blanche are happy together. One night Blanche bears witness to the infamous serial killer, the Butcher of the Dances, carving up his latest victim. To Blanche’s despair, this leads directly to Agatha’s murder, and her own eviction onto the streets. Desperate to avenge her sister, Blanche examines what few clues she has and takes a job at a high-end brothel in hopes of finding the Butcher. As a call girl, Blanche’s haughtiness and ill-temper lend her perfectly to the role of the house’s dominatrix, where she can beat men senseless without ever having to touch them. As her inquiries get her underfoot of the brothel owners and local gangsters, Blanche finds her life in peril. She must tread carefully across a complex web of whores and murderers to stop the Butcher from killing again.

This book was a delightfully pulpy mystery. The art, created by the illustration team Kerascoët, is absolutely lovely, and gives this otherwise grim story a touch of elegance.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Miss Don’t Touch Me.


Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët

beautiful darkness vehlmann coverUnrelated to the young adult novel by Kami Garcia, Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and artist team Kerascoët is a graphic novel that takes dark fantasy to a whole different level. It is difficult to describe the plot without giving too much away; I suggest that you just pick it up and read to get the full effect.

Aurora is a sweet fairy living among her adoring friends and her true love, Prince Hector. However, her charmed life comes to an abrupt end when, in the middle of a tea party, the entire kingdom begins to disintegrate. Left homeless and lost in the wilderness, Aurora and the fairies find they must battle the natural world in order to survive.

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Amelie (2001)

amelie coverAmelie, starring Audrey Tautou, is a French film subtitled in English. It’s definitely worth the effort for those of you who just sighed. Adorably quirky, romantic, and fun, I’d recommend this title to fans of romantic comedies and indie films.

Amélie grew up isolated from her peers after her eccentric parents are led to believe she has a heart defect. Forced to spend her early years alone, Amélie develops an elaborate imagination wherein she escapes the loneliness of everyday life. After her mother dies suddenly and tragically, Amélie’s father becomes a recluse and barely leaves his home. Amélie, not content to spend the rest of her life indoors, decides to get a job as a waitress. There she meets a whole cast of eccentric people not unlike herself.

After tracking down the owner of some long lost keepsakes and moved by the man’s heartfelt response, Amélie vows to make everyone’s lives a little happier. Along the way she builds friendships and finds love.

This film has won a host of awards and, as of this posting, is the highest grossing French film in the United States. Definitely worth a watch.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Amelie.

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My Wish List by Grégoire Delacourt

“A gem of a nomy-wish-list-covervel…one feels unbelievably happy reading this.” –Le Point

What would you do if you won the lottery?  That is a very intriguing question.  It is not one that I think about very often because I don’t play the lottery, and it’s pretty hard to win when you don’t play.  Nevertheless, when I saw that question on the cover of the book, My Wish List, it got me interested and got me thinking.  So I picked up the book, checked it out, took it home, and read it in 2 days.

Yes, it is the kind of book that keeps you interested and keeps you reading.  It also helps to read a book quickly when it is only 177 pages.  So if you like quick, interesting reads, this is the book for you.  The plot is simple – Jocelyne has a normal, everyday life in a small French village, until she wins the lottery.  Needless to say, her life is turned upside-down.  How it gets turned upside-down is what you will discover when you read this book.

I do want to give you a ‘heads-up.’ At the beginning, I quoted a recommendation fromLe Point, a French magazine.  That reviewer said the book made them happy.  I have to confess that I had the opposite feeling after reading the book.  I felt sad.  I am sure you have heard plenty of stories about people who have won the lottery and how it has ruined their lives instead of making them wonderful.  Of course, we all think that if we won the lottery it would be different for us and we would live happily ever after.  Life is never that simple, though, and it is not simple for Jocelyne.  To find out if this book will make you happy, sad, or some other emotion, you will need to read it for yourself!

Check the PPLC Catalog for My Wish List.