Books in the Park

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


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Daughters of a Nation, by Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, Piper Huguley, and Kianna Alexander

daughters-of-a-nationA feast for the mind as well as the heart, each of the four stories in this romance anthology are set in the turbulent decades surrounding the dawn of the 20th century in the United States; a time when legal slavery had recently been abolished but women and blacks had yet to obtain the right to vote. The stories feature four spirited African American females who are determined to make positive changes through political activism. Readers will find a mix of timely themes including racism, women’s rights, and immigration, each with a light dusting of romance which does nothing to distract from the subject matter.

All four of these stories are fantastic, but I want to highlight my two favorites. “In the Morning Sun” by Lena Hart is about Civil War widow Madeline Asher who moves to Nebraska to teach reading and writing to African Americans as well as inspire them to fight for suffrage. Meanwhile, she must fight against the passion she feels for a white Union veteran with whom there’s no future, due to the strict ban on interracial marriage. “Let Us Dream” by Alyssa Cole is set in 1917 Harlem. With women’s suffrage on the ballot, cabaret owner and natural born entertainer Bertha Hines is determined to convince her patrons to vote in her favor. She finds an unlikely ally in a disenfranchised Muslim immigrant, and their uneasy friendship soon blossoms into something much more.

Stimulating on multiple levels, this is a great read for anyone who values love and freedom.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Daughters of a Nation.


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Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

DSB TaylorLooking for a young adult fantasy book that’s a little different? This one might be for you.

Karou is an art student living in Prague who is easily picked out of crowd due to her vibrant blue hair. Everyone thinks she dyes it, but it actually grows that way right out of her head. She spends most of her days drawing elaborate, realistic portraits of half-human, half-animal creatures and telling detailed stories about them. Whenever anyone asks her how she comes up with such strange ideas, she simply gives them a wry smile and says: “What? It’s all true.”

And, indeed, it is. Karou is no ordinary girl. She was raised by a group of chimaera and can travel to visit them in Brimstone’s shop through a certain door in her city. Brimstone, an imposing, devilish creature with crocodile eyes and ram’s horns, is also known as the Wishmonger, because he trades wishes for teeth. Karou doesn’t know why or how Brimstone makes these strange trades, but business is booming as humans and chimaera arrive in Brimstone’s shop at all hours. Karou has seen the dark side of this trade, however; the corpses of animals and human girls with bloody mouths haunt her dreams.

The story really begins when black handprints start appearing scorched into doorways all over the world, with witnesses describing the perpetrators as angels who make the prints with their bare hands and then fly away. Little does Karou know, these innocuous events have everything to do with her existence.

It’s easy to see why this book was a finalist for the National Book Award; author Laini Taylor is an amazing writer who has a gift for painting pictures with words. Her prose is beautiful and the story is captivating if a little strange, evolving into an intense romance in the third arc.

This is the first title in a trilogy.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Daughter of Smoke and Bone.


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Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner

good bed weinerWhat do you do when your recent ex calls you out in a newspaper column with his insights on “loving a larger woman”? Candance “Cannie” Shapiro is faced with this in the middle of other life events, and we get to watch her navigate her way through love, friendship, career woes, and body image and daddy issues—all while the bright light of low-level notoriety shines upon her.

Cannie Shapiro has recently broke up with Bruce when he publishes his column about their relationship. Everyone in her circle knows whom he is referring to, and she is embarrassed and hurt. When she confronts him about it, it goes about as well as you can imagine. Soon after an ill-considered liaison at Bruce’s father’s funeral, Cannie decides to take charge of her life. She joins a weight-loss program, decides to get a screenplay published, and pushes through her life’s difficulties.

This is a good attitude, because the hits keep coming. She isn’t able to join the weight loss group (for reasons that I won’t spoil), but gets out to LA to discuss a treatment of her screenplay. She lives the good life in LA for a while, but there still is a tether to her previous relationship with Bruce that keeps pulling her in different directions. A tragedy leads to a revelation near the end of the book, and… You know, while writing this I keep needing to censor myself so as to not give spoilers, so. There are twists and turns, happy and sad, and it’s all wonderful so read it.

This book is about navigating life, with all its joys and tribulations. Things don’t always go the way Cannie imagines they will, but her stick-to-it-ness and chutzpah fuels her transformation and allows her to re-focus on herself and worry less about the noise around her. It’s well-plotted, and the engaging main character and her all-too-real tribulations make this an uplifting read.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Good in Bed.


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Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris

dead dark harrisI’ve been re-watching all of HBO’s True Blood and, while I was not-so-patiently waiting for season 7 to come in, I decided to delve into the book series. So far I have not been disappointed.

Dead Until Dark, the first book in the Southern Vampire Mystery series was just so much fun. The show borrows pretty accurately from the source material, and it’s interesting to pull out all the little differences in the characters and plot. If you aren’t familiar with the show or the series let me break it down for you. It’s got vampires, shapeshifters, werewolves, and telepaths. Also, everyone is beautiful and the one-liners are fantastic. On top of all the supernatural shenanigans, it also has an awesome mystery plot line that never gets stale.

Sookie, a waitress/telepath/danger magnet has been longing to meet a vampire since their existence was revealed to the world a few years back. Rural Louisiana, I guess, isn’t too appealing to most vampires. But Vampire Bill, an ex-Confederate soldier, used to call Bon Temps home and strolls into Merlotte’s and into Sookie’s section. Her life will never be the same!

I recommend this series to fans of True Blood, to those who love supernatural stories, or to those who just enjoy reading detailed descriptions of attractive people.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Dead Until Dark.


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Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

fangirl rowellFangirl was an unassuming read. I picked it up because some friends had read it and because it had a cute cover. I did not realize that it would be the type of book that made me keep reading until I unexpectedly hit the last page.

Fangirl follows a young woman named Cather (but everyone calls her ‘Cath’). Cath is 18 and is starting her first year of college and, for the first time in her entire life, she is not sharing a room with her identical twin sister, Wren.

Cath settles into college where she is pursuing a degree in creative writing while also leading a secret life: she is an accomplished author of fanfiction based on the Simon Snow series by fictional author Gemma T. Leslie. Cath struggles a bit in her creative writing class as she departs from writing about Leslie’s characters, Simon and Baz. She must learn to write from her own experiences and create her own characters to be able to pass her writing class, which becomes easier as she learns to make friends besides her twin. Her roommate, Reagan, and friend Levi, keep her grounded in both of her worlds – the one where she is a college freshman, and the one where she has 20,000 readers following her story, “Carry On, Simon.”

Fangirl follows her entire freshman year and illustrates some of the most common things that new college students face – new friends, new relationships, and the distancing of oneself from their childhood.

Overall, I give this book a 4.5 out of 5. There were some moments where I wanted to scream at all of the characters for their youthful mistakes, but that just makes seeing them grow from them all that much better. I recommend this book for teenage and young adult readers (13+).

The book is followed by Carry On.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Fangirl.


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Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James

fifty shades jamesHaters are gonna hate. That’s how I’d like to start this review. I read Fifty Shades of Grey after binge-reading the Twilight series. I’ve had dozens of people tell me that Grey was just a Twilight fanfiction for adults and, well, that’s exactly what I wanted. No, of course it’s not great literature that you can one day pass down to your grandchildren and share your favorite passages. No, it’s not here to add anything interesting to the craft or to leave you with deep philosophical discussions. It exists to give all Twilight fans what they really wanted in absolutely the worst way. This grown woman refers to her naval area as her belly and it’s fantastic. I’ve never giggled more in a novel than I did reading this one. It’s just a lot of fun and almost a parody on the popular teen series.

In case you’ve been able to avoid the whole series, here’s a brief overview: Anastasia Steele is a recent college graduate who falls for the very serious and very rich Christian Grey. Through a series of encounters Anastasia properly exerts herself as a helpless human being who is pretty okay with her entire life being compromised to please a man. Christian does his best to be the least charming man in existence but yet is somehow completely irresistible. Their relationship is filled with taboo practices and a lot of lip biting.

Seriously, it’s hilarious. Did I mention she has a male best friend name Jose?! Read it, enjoy it, and pass it on to your friends. I’m not saying you gotta run out and get the whole series, but if you’re bored and got some free time go for it, booboo—I won’t judge you.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Fifty Shades of Grey.


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A Guinea Pig Pride and Prejudice, by Alex Goodwin and Tess Gammell

guinea pig prideA Guinea Pig Pride & Prejudice has more cuteness than one could possibly bear!

Just when you thought that every single possible variation of the Jane Austen classic had been produced, this retelling involves guinea pigs wearing dapper clothing and tiny hats. The Regency Period is painstakingly brought to life by freelance set designer Tess Gammell and photographer Belmondo. In this short adaptation, Goodwin manages to include all the main points of the timeless tale.

The following book trailer gives you a glimpse into the world they created. I dare you to not smile!

Check the PPLC Catalog for A Guinea Pig Pride and Prejudice.