Books in the Park

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


Leave a comment

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.

 

 


Leave a comment

The Devil and Winnie Flynn, by Micol Ostow and David Ostow

devil-winnie-flynnWinnie Flynn doesn’t believe in ghosts. (Though she wouldn’t mind a visit from her mom, explaining why she took her own life.) When Winnie’s mysterious Aunt Maggie, a high-profile TV producer, recruits her to spend a summer working as a production assistant on her current reality hit, Fantastic, Fearsome, Winnie suddenly finds herself in the one place her mother would never go: New Jersey.

The review that follows may make it sound like I hate this book but, there is some indefinable quality that has kept me thinking about it ever since I read it almost nine months ago. Finding a book that is unforgettable, for whatever reason, is high on my list of requisites.

When I first picked up The Devil and Winnie Flynn, the premise seemed interesting. I had hoped that Winnie’s story would play into the clichés of reality TV and the horror/paranormal genres while still delivering an exciting and scary mystery. The movie Scream is a great example of this type of story done well, which succeeds in sending up the horror genre in a way that is fun and scary. Instead, in The Devil and Winnie Flynn, I got scenes that played lukewarm rather than terrifying, characters who were distracting, a mystery that seemed haphazard, and unsatisfying world building.

One main issue I had was with how the driving questions of the book are dealt with. Winnie must confront whether the paranormal and magic are real and how these things relate to her recently deceased mother. But, nothing quite connected with me in the way, I’m sure, the author wanted it to. The book intertwines script style writing and official memos from the show, Fantastic, Fearsome, with the rest of Winnie’s narrative. Instead of adding to the mystery, I felt that these additions took me out of the action and disrupted the flow of the story. It made things feel not quite real. Maybe that was the point but, for me, it didn’t work.

Despite the flaws I’ve described here, I decided to review and recommend this book because, while there is nothing better than finding and reading a book that you love, it can also be worthwhile to explore things you aren’t sure of. Books like that can make you think. Or, they might just be really fun to complain about. Totally valid.

While The Devil and Winnie Flynn wasn’t right for me, I can definitely see other readers being sucked into Winnie’s feelings of loss and being lost, of the quiet way in which the mystery is developed, into the eerie black and white illustrations of David Ostow, and even into the continuous stream of pop culture references. Take a chance with this book, it will stick with you long after you’ve read it.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Devil and Winnie Flynn.


Leave a comment

The Raven Cycle series, by Maggie Stiefvater

raven-boys-stiefvaterA family of psychics, a prophecy of death to a first true love, a boy who once cheated certain demise, an ancient legendary king who will grant one wish to the one who discovers him, rolling Virginia hills, mysterious ancient magic that lives in forests—you had me at hello.

Enter Blue Sargent, a seemingly typical teenage girl who is trying to get through school, works a part time job at a local pizza joint, and wants to move out of her small town in Virginia once she graduates. Seems normal, right? Wrong. Blue belongs to a family of psychics who perform all manner of fortune telling, tarot card reading, phone psychic hot line, bowl scrying, talk to the trees type stuff. Except, Blue seems to be the only member of the family who does not possess the gift. She is a major player in the family business, however, due to her ability to amplify their psychic powers.

The story begins on St. Mark’s Eve, where Blue sits at midnight in a church with her aunt, Neeve. Blue’s duty is to write down the names of all souls who pass into the church—souls that will perish in the coming year. Blue, of course, cannot see these souls. However, this St. Mark’s Eve proves to be different than from those in the past. One soul she is able to see. A teenage boy, wearing the sweater of the local all-boys private academy, Aglionby, drenched and whose name, he tells her, is Gansey. Blue seems struck at how close this boy feels to her and wonders why she is able to see this ghost when she cannot see any other. Neeve simply replies, “There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, Blue. Either you’re his true love, or you killed him.”

And so begins the story of Blue Sargent joining Richard Gancey, Adam Parrish, Ronan Lynch, and Noah Czerny on a quest to find the ancient sleeping Welsh king, Glendower, who is rumored to be slumbering in the mountains of Virginia. The readers know from the get-go that Gansey faces impending doom and we read the story because, like Blue, we are railing against it. Along the way we discover hidden magical realms, remarkable talents that have been kept secret from the closest of friends, and characters that should not be walking on this Earth but seem to find a way. Fans of urban fantasy should sink their teeth into this juicy steak of a series.

Unfortunately, I had to wait for the release of each book with bated breath—The Raven Boys; The Dream Thieves; Blue Lily, Lily Blue; and The Raven King. But you, oh lucky reader, can devour this entire series as fast as your little eyes will allow. Enjoy it! It truly is one of the very best teen series I have read, and I’ve read so, so many.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Raven Cycle series.


Leave a comment

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling

cursed child thorneFirst off, I’m a huge Harry Potter nerd. When I hear those first few musical notes at the beginning of each movie, I get goosebumps. I read my first Harry Potter book when I was 10, and 17 years later I’m still obsessed. Having said that, I was not at all excited for this new installment. I had come to terms with the end of Harry and was content just revisiting the original material. But for some reason when the library got our first copy in for circulation and I was holding it in my hands, I just had to have it. My mom bought me a copy (as is tradition) and I read it all immediately in one sitting. I know there is a lot of hate going around for Cursed Child right now. I’ve seen people refer to it as fanfiction. Honestly, I sort of agree, but it is really really really good fanfiction. It wasn’t written by J.K. Rowling, but it was written by an accomplished playwright who did wonders with a new storyline. Seriously, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany do a great job capturing character with only dialogue. I was beyond impressed.

The story is definitely fast-paced and at times a little confusing, but we’ve got to remember that it isn’t a book, it’s a play. You can’t expect the same level of detail that the rest of the series supplies. Only super nerds like myself would go see an 8 hour Harry Potter play.  What I’m saying with all this is that if you’re fan of the characters, the story, the message—you’ve gotta read Cursed Child. Love it, hate it, you feel how you want but you’ve just got to have this story in your brain. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t get into to specifics but TIME TURNERS. Guys, we get more details about time turners and MCGONAGALL. She’s back and just as awesome as before. Read it for her. Cursed Child got me back in the Harry Potter spirit and now I’ve got to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in November. Thanks J.K. Rowling for another great story.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.


Leave a comment

Night Work, by Laurie R. King

In summer of 2016, we asked our patrons for book reviews as part of our adult summer reading raffle. We have chosen the cream of the crop to feature here on our blog.

night work kingSynopsis from the publisher:

Kate and her partner, Al Hawkin, are called to a scene of carefully executed murder: the victim is a muscular man, handcuffed and strangled, a stun gun’s faint burn on his chest and candy in his pocket. The likeliest person to want him dead, his often-abused wife, is meek and frail–and has an airtight alibi. Kate and Al are stumped, until a second body turns up–also zapped, cuffed, and strangled…and carrying a candy bar. This victim: a convicted rapist. As newspaper headlines speculate about vendetta killings, a third death draws Kate and Al into a network of pitiless destruction that reaches far beyond San Francisco, a modern-style hit list with shudderingly primal roots.

Review by Christine Hammerman:

This book was a suspenseful and entertaining read.

The story provided mystery and humor at the same time. The main character was well-written and stood up for herself and her principals, despite a tough job role and personal relationship.

Favorite phrase: “My sides were clapping together like an empty portmanteau.”

Check the PPLC Catalog for Night Work.


Leave a comment

Independence Day (1996)

independeceWith all my complaining about Hollywood and its seemingly endless stream of mediocre, CGI-driven action flicks, you’d think I’d hate this one. Surely, the guy who posts reviews for aging black and white films from the ’40s could never appreciate the absurd spectacle of something like Independence Day.

Well, you’d be dead wrong.

The world needs silly, witty action spectacles, and therein lies the key difference between something like this and a Taken 3 or Transformers. Crazy action films really benefit from lightheartedness or else they tend to be grim and eyeroll-inducing. The very fate of humanity hangs in the balance in ID4, but the film never feels morose. Instead, there’s plenty of wisecracking, satire, and humorous moments to lighten the mood. Smith, Goldblum, and Quaid can all pull off action sequences with ease, but they’re also talented performers that can sell the more humorous bits of the script. Helping push the action along are the excellent practical effects (explosions!) along with a light touch of CGI. Heck, it even has Brent Spiner playing a slightly deranged scientist. How great is that? Yeah, this one’s kind of jingoistic at times, but it’s too big of a goof to get upset with. Enjoy it this July 4th, preferably with friends.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Independence Day.


Leave a comment

Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight

reconstructing ameliaGrace Hall is not your typical high school. Very expensive and elite, the kids who graduate from this prep school go on to get Ivy League educations and work for Fortune 500 companies. Amelia has always been a hardworking and intelligent student who chose to stick with her quirky best friend instead of seeking popularity. But when Amelia is singled out to join the Maggies, a secret sorority, and her BFF isn’t, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Can she tell her mother, Kate, about the escalating hazing she must endure or about how she might just be in love? Kate is high-power attorney for an aggressive law firm in Manhattan. She doesn’t have a lot of free time but does her best to schedule weekly activities with Amelia. Kate is not proud of her past and has tried very hard since Amelia’s birth to overcome an overwhelming mistake. Things are going well for their little family; Amelia is excelling in school and Kate just landed a big case. But then, in the blink of an eye, Amelia is dead. Ruled a suicide, Kate must reconstruct her daughter’s life through e-mails, texts, and sordid websites to figure out just what exactly happened to her perfect daughter.

I really enjoyed this title because it rode the line between YA and adult mystery. It has these awesome little excerpts from an online gossip newsletter called gRaCeFULLY that are just hilarious. It confronts school bullying without being too preachy and has plenty of drama for young and old alike. Genuinely compelling and reminiscent of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, I recommend this title to those that love a little twist in their stories.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Reconstructing Amelia.