Great Reads

Russell, Karen. Swamplandia!

Swamplandia! is a somewhat shabby tourist attraction tucked into the depths of the Everglades. Run by the Bigtree clan, it features alligator wrestling and similar performances.  When Hilola Bigtree, the park’s star attraction, dies, it leaves both the park and her family unmoored.  The attraction is failing, and Chief Bigtree—never the strongest business man around—leaves on a trip to the mainland to drum up money to purchase a new breed of alligator for the park. This leaves the three Bigtree children, son Kiwi and daughters Osceola and Ava, alone on their island.  Kiwi, fancying himself smarter and more capable than his father the Chief, leaves as well, only to end up working a dehumanizing minimum-wage job at World of Darkness, a Hell-themed amusement park and Swamplandia’s mainland competitor. This leaves young Ava alone with her increasingly unstable older sister. Ossie has retreated into old-fashioned Victorian spiritualism and believes herself to be in love with the ghost of an Everglades dredgeman. When Ossie, too, vanishes…heading into the swamp to join her lover in the underworld…Ava takes it upon herself to rescue her from death.

Quirky and fanciful, yet always deeply grounded in believable emotion and realistic motivations, Russell’s imaginative first novel is difficult to categorize but impossible to put down. 

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Pickard, Nancy. The Scent of Rain and Lightning

With a western flavor, Pickard’s novel starts with the news that a locally infamous convicted killer has been released from prison. The orphan of his alleged victims, Jody, still lives in the town and has grown up in the shadow of her father’s murder and her mother’s disappearance.  Pickard takes us back to the time of the murder and as the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that more than one person doubts that the truth has ever been told or that justice has been done.  Jody wants nothing more than retribution, and in her mind, it’s the lifetime incarceration of the man returning to town. Jody’s powerful family is behind her, but is it strong enough to withstand the truth?  With plot twists to keep you guessing, this highly recommended novel is a gripping tale of small-town mystery and revenge.  

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Teen/Adult Summer Reading Week Three: Shaun of the Dead

I'll be the first to admit that we sometimes get a little silly with our themes.  Still, we hope you have as much fun with them as we do.  This week's challenge is to read a book by an author named Shaun--however you choose to spell it.  As always, we've given you some choices to pick from.

Shaun, Shawn, or Sean?


Chercover, Sean. Big City, Bad Blood (MYS)

Connery, Sean. Being a Scot (941.1 C752)

Doolittle, Sean. Safer (F)

Greer, Andrew Sean. The Story of a Marriage (F)

Hutchinson, Shaun David. Deathday Letter (Browsing Teen)

Klomparens, Shawn. Jessica Z (F)

Shiflett, Shawn. Hidden Place (F)

Stewart, Sean. Galveston (F)


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Chiang, Ted. The Lifecycle of Software Objects

When zookeeper Ana Alvarado decided to refocus her career and become a software tester, she knew it would change her life…what she did not know was just how profoundly.  Offered a position by start-up Blue Gamma as an “animal trainer” for their new digients (“digital entities” designed to be life-like, lovable pets for online gamers in virtual worlds), she leaps at the opportunity. Her background in animal behavior helps the company find success, creating extremely popular artificial intelligences. Their success spawns competitors in the market who use different “genetic algorithms” and training methods to evolve their own versions of the digients. Unfortunately, these competitors nudge out Blue Gamma and the company folds…but what is to become of those Blue Gamma-style digients already placed with owners, and those still homeless? The creatures are childlike, but still loving and sentient…somewhere between pets and children, but nevertheless wholly unique.  Ana adopts her own digient and becomes part of a small, but vibrant and dedicated, community of digient owners fighting for the survival and the rights of their charges.  When even the gaming platform for which the digients were originally designed fades into obsolesence, effectively isolating the digients in a tiny pocket universe, Ana and the other digient owners are forced to make some increasingly unpleasant and difficult moral decisions.

Despite its slender size, this novella is filled more tightly with complex abstractions, moral ambiguities, and science fictional ideas than most trilogies can contain.  Chiang’s mastery of the short form is evident; while keeping a firm hand on the passage of time he is nevertheless able to pack a lifetime of background, implication, and experience into a small number of pages.  

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Fitzpatrick, Becca. Hush, Hush

What can you say about a paranormal romance in which the love interest is a fallen angel?  Not only is he a fallen angel, but he’s an angel named Patch. It's really difficult to take the character seriously with a name like that.  Still, I persevered in reading this recent teen paranormal romance.

Nora is a high school student who is creeped out by her new biology partner (Patch).  When it becomes apparent that he knows much more about her than she knows about him, she becomes both curious and frightened.  Improbably, the straight-arrow Nora breaks into the student records’ office and looks through Patch’s file to find only blank pages. Things heat up as Patch and another mysterious new student both pursue Nora. There’s a love triangle to keep things interesting and a crazy best friend who helps Nora into plenty of trouble.  This series opener is definitely teen fiction and although it holds some appeal for younger readers, it's not likely to be a crossover title.  You'll find this novel in our Teen Browsing collection.