Books in the Park

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

Leave a comment

Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor

binti-okoraforWe here at the Barbara S. Ponce Library are big fans of the works of Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor, especially her novel Who Fears Death, which, in 2011, made her the first black person to win the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. Okorafor has proved herself to be a major player in the science fiction world, and no self-respecting scifi fan should miss the chance to pick up her work.

Binti is a novella set in a universe where starships are living technology and multiple races interact on a galactic scale. When the titular Himba woman is offered a scholarship at the most prestigious intergalactic university, family strife about her selection and her decision to accept it cause her to abandon her family without warning. She finds herself on a living starship with many people from many cultures, and is intimidated by their strangeness until she finds commonality with fellow students in her field.

She has barely started feeling at home when a terrifying event changes the course of her life, and she is thrust into a war of intolerance and revenge. Her academic gifts and understanding of the experience of strangeness, linked with her compassion, make her a key player in creating a new future.

Okorafor uses her deep knowledge of African culture and religion to flesh out the interactions between individuals. Her descriptions of the Himba people and their practices reflected through her protagonist are used to show the many differences, and eventually, the many commonalities all peoples share. Binti’s thoughts are laid bare for the reader, and we struggle as she struggles, and fear when she fears. Her talent is a key part of the story, and she steps into her new life while respecting her past.

Binti has won both the Hugo and the Nebula Award for short fiction. While Binti is a short novella, there are two more to be published in the series.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Binti.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

Lost & Found, by Shaun Tan

lost found tanThree timeless tales for all ages with stunning and unique illustrations that will speak to an inner part of yourself, a part which relates to feelings of loss, nostalgia, and hope.

In the first tale, “The Red Tree”, a nameless character, a bright spot of color in a world of dull and subdued tones, is weighted down with feelings of isolation and melancholy. She meanders through her daily routine with no sense of direction or meaning until one day a bright red a leaf, a symbol of hope that blossoms into a flaming red tree, saves her from her bleak and subdued world.

“The Lost Thing”, my personal favorite, is about a boy who discovers a lost robotic “thing” wondering near the beach one day. Nobody seems to notice or care that it is lost and the boy decides to take it home. His parents, too busy speaking about current events to truly notice the lost thing, tell the boy that he needs to take it back. The lost thing, a metaphor for the loss of wonder, magic, and imagination of childhood, makes me nostalgic for the days where we could run and play outdoors for the entire day, noticing little details, not weighted down with worries and responsibility.

The last story, “The Rabbits”, written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan, is about a profound environmental crisis, a conflict between the old ways of spiritualism and the new ways of overbearing technology. This story is at once ageless and applicable to our current situation.

The themes in Lost & Found make it a collection that readers of all ages will want to return to again and again. The artwork is so detailed and unique that adults and children alike will look at it many times and always notice something new. I can’t recommend this book enough; it has been a book that I have revisited many times and enjoyed immensely. Look for Lost & Found in our chapter book section.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Lost & Found.

Leave a comment

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King

bazaarbagdreamsking-Alright, I’m late to the party again. This was my first Stephen King read. After finishing everything his son, Joe Hill, has ever written I figured it was time to read some King.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is a collection of short stories, some never published before and some newly revised but all originally published after 2009. As it was my first introduction to King’s writing, I loved his introductions to the stories. Knowing just a little bit about his writing/thought process or where he was borrowing a writing style from really added some depth to the pieces. My favorites would have to be Morality, Bad Little Kid and Obits. Obits in particular struck a nerve. It’s about a writer for an Internet gossip site who specializes in writing terribly mean obituaries for celebrities. He gains popularity but it is ultimately denied a pay increase by his boss. When he, in frustration, writes an obit for her and the next day discovers her dead under similar circumstances, he questions if he’s gained some sort of dark power.

Since reading this collection I have gone on to read ‘Salem’s Lot and The Green Mile. Getting to see King’s writing progression from the seventies to the nineties to now is really striking. Of course, looking back at these short stories after reading the others I realize they are still so Stephen King. I recommend this title to fans of Stephen King, Joe Hill, and spooky stories.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.

1 Comment

The Grownup, by Gillian Flynn

grownup flynnThe narrator of this story, who goes unnamed, used to make a living as a prostitute of sorts until she gets promoted into a job as a psychic and rips off unsuspecting housewives with fake predictions. When one woman comes to her and pleads for her help, the narrator can’t miss an opportunity for some easy cash. The woman says her house might be haunted and her stepson is acting out in violent ways. The narrator thinks that a couple of quick trips to the home and some floor polish might deceive her client into the belief that the house has been cleansed. It quickly becomes evident that the pseudo-fortune teller is in over her head and what’s actually in this house might be the end of her.

The Grownup is a whopping 62 pages. I picked it up because I love Gillian Flynn’s creepy mysteries and needed a quick read. This, of course, is exactly what The Grownup is. Gillian Flynn is a master of the gritty mystery and with her new dip into the supernatural is pretty impressive. I didn’t want the book to end and wished it was a full length novel; I have so many questions.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Grownup.

Leave a comment

The Book of Virtues edited by William J. Bennett

bovI had this book in my house when I was little. I’m not sure where it came from; my mother must have received it as a gift. All I know is that when I opened the cover one rainy afternoon, I was hooked. Suddenly I was spending hours upon hours reading through this huge (by nine-year-old standards) book story by story. In fact, I credit this book with kindling my lifelong reading obsession. But it’s a small wonder, since the editor of this book is William J. “Bill” Bennett: former Secretary of Education.

This collection of morality tales are arranged by category: Self-Discipline, Compassion, Responsibility, Friendship (my favorite section), Work, Courage, Perseverance, Honesty, Loyalty, and Faith. Many of the stories will be familiar to adults, but the retelling and editing of them is superb, giving these old stories a timeless feel.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

through the woods coverTerror abounds in this short graphic novel collection. Murderous spectres, reanimated corpses, and hungry beasts populate this book, each pursuing a hero of more or less respectability.

This is a collection of short stories in one graphic novel. All of the stories are period pieces, and they evoke a historical elegance. They also exhibit the playfulness of fairy tales gone disastrously sour, making these the ideal tales for reading around a campfire. Each one is beautifully written and illustrated by Emily Carroll, an artist/author who has an excellent understanding of what is scary, and what makes readers uncomfortable. If you do happen to read this book, I would strongly recommend reading her other comics on her website, which are all equally as frightening.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Through the Woods.