Books in the Park

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

Leave a comment

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). 

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

Vote for Me! by Ben Clanton

vote for me clantonDonkey and Elephant have lots of reasons why you should vote for one of them, even if those reasons aren’t very good. Donkey promises candy if you vote for him; Elephant promises peanuts. The not-so-serious debate soon devolves into literal mud-slinging as the candidates call each other all kinds of funny names. But the story has a surprise ending that neither Donkey nor Elephant could have predicted.

If a child you know has shown any interest in the hotly contested United States 2016 election, s/he will love this book and its derisive humor. Both Donkey and Elephant are portrayed as one-dimensional characters with no other ambitions except to win your vote. The book also shows children that there are more than two candidates to vote for, no matter what Donkey and Elephant say. And the colors, blue for Donkey and red for Elephant, will help the child recognize the traditional symbols of our two major political parties. Although this book was written in 2012 during the Obama/Romney election season, it works well for any United States election.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Vote for Me!

Leave a comment

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

rgb carmon“Laws which disable women from full participation in the political, business and economic arenas are often characterized as ‘protective’ and beneficial. The pedestal upon which women have been placed has all too often, upon closer inspection, been revealed as a cage.”

The Internet phenomenon that is Notorious RBG has given Ruther Bader Ginsburg (the second woman to ever be appointed to the Supreme Court) some well-earned popularity and respect. After one of her famous impassioned dissent speeches, feminists flocked to the Internet to discuss just how awesome RBG is.  This book not only chronicles her life, education, and career but it also explores the many Internet memes surrounding her and her opinion towards them.

RBG attended Harvard Law School in 1956 with just nine other women. She was wildly successful, but when her husband, who had recently recovered from a very serious bout with cancer, obtained a job in New York, she transferred to Columbia Law where she graduated at the top of her class. RBG faced constant unequal treatment due to her gender and career choices. With the support of her husband, her hard work, and excellent intellect, she was eventually appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.

While RBG claims to be a moderate, she always votes for equality. Often, voting against her fellow peers and fighting for justice alongside movements that are typically aligned with the left. Despite efforts and calls for her retirement, RBG has remained on the bench making solid decisions. Sandra Day O’Conner and Ruther Bader Ginsburg paved the path for future female justices and are an inspiration to equal rights movements across the country. Oh and check out the sweet blog that started it all:

Check the PPLC Catalog for Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Leave a comment

On the Fence: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

blog on the fence freedom franzenFreedom follows the lives of the Burglund family, a well-to-do middle class family that appears to have it all: pretty couple, pretty children, pretty neighborhood. As the story progresses and the characters are filled in, however, it becomes apparent that Patty and Walter Burglunds’ marriage has been falling apart basically since day one. Patty feels like she settled for wholesome Walter when her dream man and indie musician, Richard Katz, is out there living the life she always wanted. Richard and Walter were roommates in college and nearly inseparable until Patty started hanging around and Richard’s career really started taking off. Walter is unfulfilled in his career and fed up with Patty’s erratic behavior. When the family moves to Washington D.C. so that Walter can follow his dream of being an environmental activist, everything changes. Patty reconnects with Richard, Walter’s stunning and foreign assistant falls in love with him, and their now adult son gets in the business of selling some pretty sketch materials to suppliers in the Iraq war. Told from different perspectives and partially through Patty’s therapeutic autobiography, the reader gets an eclectic account of the lives of the Burglands and those touched by their story.

Oprah and President Obama both loved this book, calling it “terrific” and “a masterpiece”. This is quite some heavy praise coming from an overwhelmingly respected audience. It was originally released in 2010 and I just got around to reading it after listening to someone on NPR gush about it earlier this year. To be honest, it was definitely great. There is no doubt that it kept me interested, turning the pages, and waiting for some vastly amazing climax. Franzen’s prose and attention to the littlest detail makes this close to the most epic novel I have ever read. Seriously, all the makings of an American classic novel are here. But… it just felt so pretentious. Does anyone care about the first world problems of white, upper-middle class mid-westerners? Affairs, financial corruption, the woes of a lost inheritance—it was all so unreal. Does anyone live like this? Then again, I’m not sure Franzen wrote any of his characters to be truly likeable, which in a way does make them human. Franzen also pushes a pretty left-ish political agenda and while I don’t disagree with it, his points feel a little heavy-handed and unnecessary as his audience is generally pretty liberal anyway.

Should you read this? Yeah. Probably. Maybe. You won’t have to fight for a copy anymore, so there’s that. Maybe get it on audio and listen to it while you’re commuting so that the next time you’re at a waspy dinner party you have something to talk about.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Freedom.

Leave a comment

The Divide by Matt Taibbi

the divide taibbi coverTaibbi reexamines the white-collar crimes committed by those in the financial and banking industries brought to light in 2008, while adding new and detailed research as to how and why most were not charged with any crime. Taibbi’s purpose is to juxtapose the crimes of the multi-millionaires involved in the economic crisis with those of minorities and the poor. He points to a multitude of examples of obvious injustice and outright prejudice against those needing government assistance or living in poverty. Taibbi interviews victims of undercover police sweeps where black men and women were snatched off the street and thrown in the back of a van where they wait hours to be charged with a crime they did not commit. The Divide provides account after account of illegal immigrants targeted and detained until they can be deported to their home country. One man was deported to Mexico when he was actually from Columbia; no real research or representation is given to these people who may be sent back to a country penniless and surrounded by violence.

I recommend this title to everyone. Yes, it upset me, but the injustice that is occurring across the United States is upsetting. Taibbi does not seem to be without hope despite the surmounting evidence of mistreatment. If we all fight together to end harmful legislation that targets minorities and the poor, we can change the system and get the real criminals behind bars.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Divide.