Monday, January 25, 2016

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

2016, Random House

Dillard Early....named after his father, who was named after his father.  The family has been a legend in the small town of Forrestville, Tennessee.  Dill's grandfather was the legendary Serpent King.  His father was a reverend who handled snakes and drank poison but never died.  He's in jail now because of the illegal images the FBI found downloaded on the good reverend's computer.  Dill lives under a cloud of a bad reputation and constant small town suspicion and all he can hope for is that the madness doesn't exist in him...

Travis loves fantasy novels and lives in them whenever the chance presents itself.  He doesn't care what people think about him and the dragon necklace he wears or the staff he takes everywhere with him.  What truly matters to him is the newest book in the Bloodfall series, and the online forum where he can share his passion for the House of Northbrook.  Now, the forum takes on a special meaning when he meets Amelia, who shares the same passion for the series he does.  He's never had a girlfriend...will she be the first?

Lydia could care less about the small town she has to live in.  She has bigger aspirations, which include hopefully getting into NYU and interning for a fashion magazine.  She's an internet star and her blog, Dollywould has hundreds of thousands of followers.  She takes her fans with her into funky consignment stores and shows them what living outside the coloring lines can be like.  She is her own person, and is grateful that her parents allow her to be, even if her classmates make fun of her.  She doesn't's all about the future.

What these three have in common in a unique friendship they have among themselves.  Dill's family is drowning in debt and he's helping by working all the time.  There is no way out for him. Travis's family owns the local lumber yard in town, but the danger he faces is at home with his dad. Lydia's father is the local dentist and things come easily for her but she creates a facade to keep her readers happy, never revealing who she truly is.

It's their backgrounds which make this trio's friendship so special.  They each want to leave the world behind better than when they lived in it....a special mark to be remembered.  During their senior year, they find themselves swimming in hope, destiny, and desperate times and the only life saver they have in these turbulent waters are each other.  But sometimes, dreams are realized....and sometimes they aren't...

Jeff Zentner brings small town life to light in this book where everyone knows everything that happens and where reputations are hard long-lasting. The readers gets to see not only the individual lives of the three main characters, but also the nuances that happen when Lydia, Dill and Travis get together.  They are three teens who don't belong in a small town, and struggle to find their way through and in one.  But more than that, Zentner writes to the reader's heart, where emotions will ride along with the pages.  The more involved you become in the friendship, the more you'll fill for what happens to all three.  HIGHLY recommended.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

One by Sarah Crossan

2015, HarperCollins

Tippi and Grace are nervous.  Most of their lives, they've been safely tucked away in their home, out of the prying and hurtful eyes of the public.  But homeschool is no longer an option.  Their dad hasn't found another job and their mother is working as hard as she can.  Dragon, their sister, is glad they don't have to go to a public high school like her, but is just as worried about them as the rest of the family.  Today is the first day at Hornbeacon High...

Being conjoined twins is their normal.  While most people look at them and react to their conjointedness, they see it so much differently.  When they hear people whisper about how they wouldn't want to live like that, Tippi and Grace can think of so many other ways to live which could be worse.  They've always had each other.  Sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes it's frustrating, but the love is always there, even if the two girls personalities are so different.

But now, they have to walk through the halls of a new high school.  Dread churns until they meet an unlikely girl named Yasmeen.  Loud, colorful, and not intimidated by anyone, Yasmeen makes their circle a threesome and the girls become fast friends because of their uniqueness.  Then along comes Jon. Another outcast at Hornbeacon High, he rounds out the circle of friendship and slowly slips into Grace's heart.

But one day, Grace faints.  She lies to her parents, saying it was nothing, but Tippi knows better.  She knows something isn't right.  And the accidents go from mild to more severe.  The sisters now have to make a decision that will forever change their lives.  Although both of them have dreamed about it, being separated, in reality, is the scariest thought they've ever faced.  And it's their choice, a matter of life or death...

Sarah Crossan's novel in verse is a beautiful story about life, love, and happiness; struggle, hardship, and choices.  She combines all of these feelings into a story which ultimately makes readers' understand someone else's normal, although not your own, is what makes them who they are - unique, different, valuable.  The twins' family weave in and out of their lives, and while at first being most important to them, now become second-most important as they step out of their bounds and create new lives based on friendships, breaking some rules to show independence, and living like they never thought would happen - a normal life.  Excellent addition to junior high and high school collections.  Highly Recommended.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Infinite in Between by Carolyn Mackler

2015, HarperTeen

They are all beginning to converge on one of the most important days of their lives.  The month: September.  The place: high school in the small town of Hankinson.  The event: freshmen orientation...

Gregor is the quiet one.  He has a close-knit family and an older sister in high school who dispenses advice which may or may not be the best (you know how siblings are).  His best friend Dinky, whose nickname suits him, carries the excitement for both of them.  And although Gregor isn't enthused, he knows this is the day which will usher in the next four crucial years.

Zoe left beautiful Los Angeles to live with her aunt in Hankinson, New York.  Totally out of her realm, Zoe must make the best of it while her famous actress mother goes through yet another stint in rehab.  She knows nothing about her aunt, except the sisters don't get along, and she isn't told why. She's not looking forward to going to freshmen orientation, especially since everyone's seen the infamous video of her and her mother....

Jake has mixed feelings as well about becoming a high-schooler, especially after what happened last year.  His best friend Ted has moved on from him and is the guy all girls want to date - handsome, athletic, popular.  The problem is, Jake let him know how he felt about him and it changed not only their friendship, but his status in school.  Now, the game is to avoid his ex-best friend as much as possible during the next four years.

Whitney bounces and glows wherever she is.  Beautiful and popular, she makes friends easily, is involved in all kinds of clubs, and dates guys beyond their freshmen year.  The thing is, Whitney doesn't condone bad behavior, especially when her friends are being horrendously rude and because of her morals, she begins to be excluded from things.  Four years of icy shoulders is a long time, but can her sunny disposition melt the ice?

Mia dresses in black, wears her hair and make-up dark, and doesn't say much.  She is the anti-establishment of her parents and their country club tennis looks and isn't going to change.  Four years ahead of her is going to be a long journey, but she's ready for it because she has her endgame in mind- to leave this town as fast as possible.

All five of these teens are thrown together during orientation and are tasked with coming up with a "bonding" project to get to know each other more.  They don't run in the same circles, so they come up with the only solution they agree on.  Write a letter to their future selves and meet up on graduation day to read them.

And the next four years of their lives begin...

And this is where the reader gets to be the fly on the wall as we watch all five teens change and evolve physically, morally and emotionally.  There are turns in the roads for all of them in their personal and school lives. Their lives even weave and intersect at times in very interesting ways. What makes this novel so appealing is the reader will be able to see themselves or those they know in any of the characters and which makes this book become personal...the ultimate nod of an excellent YA novel.  As I posted on Twitter, this novel is  part Breakfast Club, part St. Elmo's fire, part New Year's Eve.  LOVED it!!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Taking the Coloring Book Trend to a Whole New Level!

Going back to your past and reliving your childhood can be a great way to spend time, and I suspect that's why adult coloring books are trending right now.  Recently, I purchased coloring books for the students here, and several have been used (I can tell from the ripped pages) but one idea I had that REALLY turned out great was taking pages and cutting them to bookmark size.  No need to buy more bookmarks and kids were asking for 3 or more.  It was a win all the way around!!

Then I started thinking about the pages of a coloring book and begin looking at coloring pages online.  There are several free sites where you can print pages out:

Beautiful Mandalas to color:
Zen and Anti-Stress Coloring Pages for Adults:
Art is Fun!  Free Adult Coloring Pages:

Afterward, I began to think about the what ifs....what if I want to color while waiting in the airport?  How about while waiting on someone to meet me?  How about at night when I'm in bed and need a little de-stresser?  I think there's nothing more stressful than putting not only pages in a folder but having to keep up with all of the markers (or pencils, or colors or whatever!).  It's enough to send me over the edge of Happy Land into the depths of I'm-Going-Nutso Land!  And that brought me to my most used personal device, my iPad!

Bingo!  I hit the motherlode  of coloring pages!  Not only were they online, but they were also amazingly easy to color.  I do love me some technology, and these pages were editable and shareable.  But most of all?  They were relaxing for me!  So here are my top fav apps for adult coloring books, along with the lowdown on them and examples of artwork I colored. There are a TON out there, but I think five is more than enough to satisfy my craving to put color to screen :)

Magic Garden-
Five different books 
Colors: HUGE palette available to use
Menu options: delete, undo, draw any color, auto color fill
Settings: home button, favorites, share via message, email, or social media, save to "my works"
Review: This is by far the most colorful with tons of options!  There are options to purchase extra pages/designs but includes 40 free designs

Color Therapy:
Thirteen different books
Colors: SEVERAL different palettes to choose from.  Basic is free, others you need to unlock via use of social media.  Still others down the line are free to use (like the Fruity palette)
Menu Options: pinch to zoom in or out, undo, return button and share via email and social media.  Save to your photos
Review: Highly intricate, these designs will take a little longer to color.  I recently got a message to download new volumes, but haven't yet.  Saves your completed artwork into a folder on the app.  Another neat thing is that once you share your pic, you also have the option to add effects.  Nice touch! 

Adult Coloring Book:
Eleven different books
Colors: has one major palettes in primary colors, but others can be downloaded for free if you do certain things (like share four pieces of art etc).  There are also paid palettes as well.
Menu Options: A back button taking you to the front of the book, an undo button, ambience button will play certain ambient sounds while you color, a texture button with six options, a more button where you can animate your drawing to saving it on your camera roll to clearing the picture out, and lastly a share button for email and social media
Review: These are great genres and inside each book is chapters, where the first is free and the others you can purchase.  This app had the most unusual option with the ambient noises, but I can see how this would be great in busy places where ear phones are a must have.  The depth of coloring goes from simple to intricate for it will satisfy all types of online colorers.

Coloring Book for Adults:
Has 10 designs
Colors: this has sliding bar of colors
Menu Options: a trashcan to delete, an undo button and a share button for email, social media and to save on your camera roll
Review: This is by far the easiest of the apps and great for quick color.  Doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles but very much satisfies your inner coloring obsession.  Seems like the easier options have more colors and this won't disappoint, although I did get a little aggravated having to slide through colors to get to the ones I used/needed

Has 12 books with multiple volumes inside each
Colors: has a multitude of colors represented by pencils
Menu Options: three pentagons that hold your last three color chosen, an undo button, a share button to email and social media and a home button
Review: I really enjoyed this one.  Of course, its' a freemium, so some volumes will need to be purchased.  The only caution I would give is that each time you open a design, it asks if you'd like a free trial with a purchase, so be careful with your trigger finger!