Books in the Park

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

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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.

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Adultery, by Paulo Coelho

adultery coelhoPaulo Coelho is a revelation. There are writers whose works I enjoy, there are writers whose works I admire, and then there are, occasionally, gloriously, writers that leave me speechless.

Paulo Coelho is best known for The Alchemist, which has sold more than 83 million copies, is one of the best-selling books in history and has been translated into 67 different languages. It’s also been published as an excellent graphic novel. I picked up Adultery to read for the most simple of serendipitous reasons – it was on the shelf when I walked past, and I’ve always wanted to read something of Coelho’s.

Linda, our protagonist, is living the perfect life. She has a handsome, talented husband, two children, and a fulfilling career of her own as a journalist. They live in a beautiful home in Switzerland and take vacations in countries and hotels most of us only dream about. Things are going very well for her and her future. She has it all, and, somehow, is unhappy.

After an interview with an author who insists that the way to live life, instead of seeking happiness is to live passionately, she starts to notice how few, if any, risks she takes in life. In this vulnerable moment, she meets a successful man from her youthful past, and commits an adulterous indiscretion.

Instantly she (and you, the fortunate reader) is catapulted into a life of courting risk, assessing risk, and throwing caution to the wind. She risks her marriage, her lover’s marriage, and her own happiness through increasingly dangerous acts that both conceal and enflame her and her lover’s lives. There were points where I, as a reader, thought Linda had lost her mind. The delicate yet powerful dance she leads us on is incredible, at times thrilling, at times horrifying, but always, fundamentally, human.

Adultery is an example of what happens to an idea when it is taken in hand by a masterful author and expanded into a story which is intoxicating, nuanced, well-envisioned, and searingly well-written. His use of language (though in translation) is as clean and deep as a volcanic lake. Books like this are why we read.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Adultery.

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The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

the-haunting-of-maddy-clareIf you like scary ghost stories that don’t get too graphic, The Haunting of Maddy Clare is for you. This book is doubly good for mystery junkies; the ghostly element is an interesting twist on the typical whodunit storyline. And the tantalizing love affair between main characters, suspenseful in itself without being distracting, is delightful frosting on this already provocative story.

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The Princess Bride by William Goldman

princess bride book“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father.  Prepare to die.” — The Princess Bride

For some of us, that just might be the greatest line in literature AND the greatest movie line of all time! If you have never heard that line, then I have to say that I feel really sorry for you.  But fear not, for I have come to rescue you from your bleak existence, just as Wesley rescued Buttercup from the evil clutches of Prince Humperdinck!

William Goldman wrote both the book and the screenplay for the movie.  Goldman has won two academy awards for best screenplay for the movies Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All The President’s Men.  So this guy knows how to write, and he does a charming and witty job with both the book and the screenplay for The Princess Bride.

The movie was masterfully directed by Rob Reiner and stars Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, Peter Falk, Fred Savage, and Billy Crystal. The enchanting music is by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame.  In my opinion, the film was perfectly cast and all the actors gave beautiful performances.  My two favorite, however, are Wallace Shawn as the impossibly brilliant Sicilian mercenary, Vizzini; and Billy Crystal as the cynical, depressed, aging, and un-employed Miracle Max.

What is the story about?  To answer that question I will quote some classic lines from the book and movie.  The movie opens with the grandfather of a sick boy coming to read him a story handed down from father to son: The Princess Bride.  The unimpressed boy asks:

“Has it got any sports in it?”

“Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulist ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.”

“Sounds okay,” the boy says. ”I’ll do my best to stay awake…”

Of course the boy does stay awake and gets waaaaaayyyyy into the story.  You will, too, regardless of whether you read the book or watch the movie.  I strongly encourage you do both!

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Princess Bride.