Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ten Best Apps to Travel With

Right now I'm about to pack my bags to get ready for summer travel.  A top priority  is technology.  They can take a long car drive or bump in the road go by faster. I love my iPad, but unfortunately, I don't have a connection to it (unless there's free Wi-Fi).  My iPhone does connect, but who really wants to squint that long?  So, here are my top ten apps (in no particular order) you don't need to have a connection for to get me from the beginning to the end of any journey and they won't cost a penny:

1. iBooks - find books or documents online and load them before you go.  iBooks will allow you to read anything you place there without connection.  Search and download now before you go and you'll have a free library traveling with you. 

2. Paper 53 - feel the need to get creative?  Use this simple and easy app to doodle, draw, and paint in personal moleskins you create.  Your creativity can be personal or something you'd like to save and use in presentations or websites when you get a connection. 

3. ShowMe - if you'd like to create an online recorded presentation, this app is what you're looking for.  Upload photos from you album, write, draw and highlight and record.  Try this only when everyone has their earphones on and quiet reigns.

4. Videolicious - This handy app has so many possibilities.  Make a simple book trailer, stitch pics together to highlight your trip, or just be creative with what you can do.  The tutorial is also available offline as well

5. DaVinci Note -this app will create beautiful collages or notes you can create now and upload later.  Use the images on your iPad, type your own thoughts and create beautiful pages to share when connection is available

6. Fast Food - it's inevitable...while on the road you have to eat.  If you're watching your weight and trying to avoid eating unwanted calories, this app has most fast food restaurants listed along with what they serve and how many calories, fat, and carbs are in that item. 

7. Candy Crush - this popular and addictive game can be played offline!  That's all I have to say about that :)

8. Minion Rush - this is a new game based off of the Despicable Me movies.  Play with these cute minions anytime with a great graphic interface.  Perfect for children and adults alike (another great alternative would be Subway Surfers, which can also be played offline)

9. Snapseed - if you have pictures and want to make them pop, use this app to modify your images with different tools and filters. 

10. iDice4 - for the more traditional gamer, this is the equivalent of Yahtzee, where you can play by yourself or with others in the car just for the fun of it.

Like packing, make sure you download whatever you may need on your iPad before hitting the road, the ocean, the air or the tracks.  And always (and most important!) keep a charger handy - you'll need it.
Safe travels!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

To Be Perfectly Honest by Sonya Sones

Simon & Schuster, 2013

Lies are a terrible thing, aren't they?  If you tell one, then you have to make sure that everything else you say about that lie stays a lie.  If you let the ball drop once, the game is over.  And Collette is very, very good at lying.

Collette doesn't lie to hurt people, she does it because it has that fantasy element....the possibilities.  Now, with summer approaching and her trip to Paris with her friends put off (and they don't believe a word she says about why that happened), Collette must deal with the fact that she is staying the entire summer with her mother and brother in San Luis Obispo, which to Collette, is the ultimate definition of boredom.

Her little brother Will doesn't seem to mind the trip, and he doesn't pass judgement on his big sister, even though he knows she's full of crap.  His seven year-old self loves her company and his favorite part is getting birthday cake every time they go to a new restaurant ("a cool twick that my thithter says is fun!").  And she loves his gummy worm self just as much as he loves her.  On the other hand, Collette's mother is just too busy with her own life to create a relationship with her daughter.  Of course Collette knows when you're Marissa Shawn, the hottest actress in Hollywood, there are things that get put on the backburner, including family.

Collette has no idea how much her life will change this summer.  And it all has to do with her chance encounter with Death Wish Dude on the drive up there.  But it's when she bumps into with Connor (aka Death Wish Dude) that ratchets up Collette's boring summer.  He's handsome, kind and they seem to always be on the same wavelength.  He doesn't mind her little brother; in fact he is Will's new hero.  Connor is everything Collette could imagine - handsome, carefree, great with kids, and most importantly, his attention is focused only on her. While Marrisa is "going over lines" with her co-star, Connor becomes Collette's epicenter.

Their romance builds up quickly, and Collette can't help but retreat back to her old habit of lying.  She lies about her who her mother is (because she knows the effect it has on people).  She lies about her age. And a relationship built on lies will crumble.  She just doesn't realize the depth of hurt that comes with lying....until the top to their summer romance blows off...

Sones once again writes an incredible novel-in-verse about the important aspects of a teen's life, from friends to family to relationships.  She builds Collette's character from previous novels, but this one is completely dedicated to her.  The reader will get pulled into Collette's story and if they're like me, will gasp in surprise at the talented writing Sones uses to add depth to her main character.  While her theme is about deception, her handling of characterization around this theme is what makes this novel pop because all of Sones's characters are brought to complete fruition where the reader intimately knows each one and the role they'll play in the plot.  It's a "can't put down" kind of book.   Recommended for high school and perfect summer reading!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Razorbill, 2013

Mystica is a country that used to be guided by the Watchers and the Kindred, four stones that could harness the magic of the elements. But throughout time, greed has taken over and the Kindred were lost. Only a powerful sorceress could locate them again. There hasn't been one in ages, but circumstances are about to erupt....

Auranos, the southernmost kingdom rich in all resources, is ruled by King Corvin. There is not queen but he does have two daughters, very different in nature. The oldest, Emilia, has the true qualities of a queen while her younger sister, Cleo, is much more adventurous and carefree. It's this attitude of adventure that leads Princess Cleo down a path of destruction...

 Paelsia is the middle kingdom ruled by Chieftain Basilius. Dry and nearly barren, the only thing that comes from this land are excellent grapes to make the best wine in the country. Jonas Agallon knows this well since his father's reputation is based on his extraordinary skills as a winemaker. A chance meeting with outsiders will determine Jonas's course in life and the personal battles he must endure....

 Limeros is the coldest of all kingdoms up in the north. King Gaius rules with an iron fist and is known as the Blood King. His son Magnus watches everything with cool detachment, learning and digesting. Magnus's topmost priority is keeping his sister Lucia safe. It's her 16th birthday and things are about to change....

The Watchers are only too aware of the turmoil and repercussions each kingdom will play in the war to rule Mystica. They also know that something much deeper is about to surface; one that will bring back their glory and power....or will humanity find them first?

 This is the first in a series of books by Morgan Rhodes. While there may be a long list of characters, the author's writing takes the reader to the heart of each character, sometimes with forethought and at other through transparency. The kindgoms themselves create the characters with their backdrop and politics. While not high fantasy (sorry, no dragons), the novel does revolve heavily around the elements of magic and the unseen but powerful Watchers. This is a well-constructed book, but readers may notice that their predictions within the plot of future events will come to fruition. There is enough detail to ensure a strong storyline, with enough intrigue to surprise the reader. Those who revel in fantasy will want to put this on their to-read list only to eagerly await the next publication. My personal thought? I found this comparable to the series Game of Thrones, but written with a YA audience in mind.  Recommended upper JH/HS

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

Candlewick, 2007

Jane is ready.  She has her sketchbook (one of the most important things in her life), her obnoxious brother Michael and her mother.  Everything is packed.  The beach is calling.  It's a beautiful day, clear and perfect.  Jane couldn't ask for a better one.  She heads toward the water and starts swimming.  And that's about all she can remember.

Her brother Michael remembers it all too well. The water turning red as Jane is pulled onto the beach.  The shock of seeing her mangled body.  The ambulance pulling up and taking his sister away.  He caught it all on camera, and it's this footage that changes Jane's life.

It's a long road to recovery for Jane.  The pain, the loss of her arm to a shark, the's something she can't psychologically get through.  She knows it will take time, and she knows her life now has changed.  The sketchbook she always carried around?  Useless now.  Everyday tasks at home?  Can't even accomplish those.  And don't even talk about going to back to school.  Not now, not with the everyone seeing and knowing what happened.

First it's the newscasts, then the letters begin to come in, not in a trickle but en masse.  Everyone encouraging her, praying for her, hoping for the best.  But all of that doesn't matter unless Jane decides to make is matter personally for her, and she is not feeling it.  Until a boy named Justin enters her life and makes an impact.

But is Jane ready to begin again?  Can she accept her new normal?

Bingham writes a beautiful novel in verse through Jane's eyes from the first struggle to the continuation of her new life.  It's about Jane's journey that pulls the reader in, from her interminable hospital stay to her trying to overcome the obstacles she faces within and without herself.  Bingham also inserts letters and external dialogue within the novel in verse to not only give readers first person perspective, but third person as well.  This is a quick read and is perfect for this summer because....

Candlewick, 2013

Bingham has recently come out with a sequel to the novel entitled Formerly Shark Girl.  They say one year can change your life.  Jane knows this all too well, because she has struggled with her life and still continues to struggle against the doubt she contains.  The reader sees her emotional and physical progress in this sequel and how much stronger she has become.  Again, Bingham inserts letters from strangers asking how she is and how inspirational her story has become.  A perfect ending to Jane's last year in high school and all the changes in her life that have taken place in 365 days.  Bingham ends this novel with the possibility of another...or maybe not.

Hamilton, Bethany.  (2006).  Soul Surfer: the true story of faith, family, and fight to get back on the board.  MTV Books                                        

Capuzzo, Michael.  (2003).  Close to Shore: the terrifying shark attacks of 1916.  Crown Publishers