The Serpent King

Tonight, I come to you with red, puffy eyes and a slight headache from crying too much. That’s what happens when you read a book that absolutely wrecks you. Today, that book was The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being how much I cried during the movie E.T., The Serpent King probably rates a 9. I went through half a box of Kleenex, had to clean my glasses half a dozen times, and was all-out sobbing at several points. In some ways, it was cathartic, but it’s going to take me a while to get over this heart-wrenching book.

The Serpent King introduces readers to three friends, all of them outcasts in their small Tennessee town. Dill, Travis, and Lydia are in their senior year of high school, and all are facing uncertain futures. Right now, all they really have is each other and the promise of this one final year together.

Dill is the son of a snake-handling minister, Dillard Early, Sr., who was sent to prison for heinous acts–acts that he tried to blame on Dill. Even Dill’s mother, who is now working two jobs to keep the family afloat, blames her son for his father’s incarceration. And she’s not the only one. Dill is, through no fault of his own, a town pariah, and he thinks it’s his lot in life. His only escapes are music and hanging out with Lydia and Travis, his best friends. But even that will be changing soon, when Lydia goes off to college and leaves them behind. Dill doesn’t want her to go, but there’s no way he can ask her to stay.

Lydia, an up-and-coming fashion blogger, has her sights set on New York. She dreams of a career in fashion, and she’s already on her way to making it happen. On some level, she realizes that her friends, especially Dill, aren’t ready for her to leave them, but she needs to get out of this stifling town and make her mark on the world. She wishes Dill had the same ambition. She knows he has more to offer the world than he thinks. The trick is convincing him.

Travis, a big guy with a bigger imagination, finds solace in his favorite fantasy book series, Bloodfall. These books help him reach out to like-minded friends online and offer an escape from his abusive father. Thanks to Lydia and her many connections, he even gets a rare opportunity to meet his favorite author. This encounter leads him to believe that one day he could write fantastical stories that provide escape for people just like him.

Throughout this year, Dill, Lydia, and Travis maneuver through their small town as best they can. Dill and Travis begin to stand up for themselves and make plans for their futures. Lydia realizes how much she’ll miss her two best friends when she goes to college.

Just as things are starting to look up for this trio, tragedy strikes, and everything is thrown into a tailspin. What will become of these friends who mean so much to each other? Will they allow one tragic event–and their reaction to it–destroy their hope for the future? How can they hold onto hope when everything seems so bleak?

Maybe the only way to hold onto hope is to hold fast to each other.


I have to stop now before I give too much away (if I haven’t already). Let me just say that if you’re not ugly-crying at some point during this book, then you’re cold as ice. It’s a heartbreaking story of friendship, growth, grief, faith, and love, and I truly adore it…even if it did cause puffy eyes and a headache. It’s definitely one of my top books of 2016.

The Serpent King is author Jeff Zentner’s first novel, and I really hope we’ll hear more from him. He’s already being compared to John Green and Rainbow Rowell, and I think those are pretty apt comparisons. Keep that in mind when recommending The Serpent King and whatever books we see in the future from this wonderful author.

If you’d like to learn more about The Serpent King, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with Jeff Zentner on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Finally, check out the book trailer below for The Serpent King. It doesn’t give much of anything away, but it does capture the mood of the book. Enjoy!

A Snicker of Magic

Greetings, dear friends. I know it’s been a few weeks since my last post, but I promise I have very good reasons.

  1. I’ve been fighting a wicked bad sinus infection. When I’m sick, all I feel like doing is vegging out in front of the TV. Also, it’s difficult to get involved in a book when you have to stop every few seconds to sneeze or blow your nose.
  2. I’m wrapping up another school year. The beginning and end of the year are the absolute craziest times in a school library, and this has been one of the worst finales I can remember.
  3. My weekends have been jam-packed with birthdays, family celebrations, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Not going to apologize for that.

Anyway, I’m back today with another of next year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees. This one is A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, and, to be perfectly honest, it took me a while to get into this book. (The reasons listed above are partly to blame.) I actually only got really invested in the book last night, and I read 3/4 of it within the past 18 hours or so. (I even skipped watching Supernatural last night so that I could read more. That’s huge.)

So, even with a somewhat slow start, I found A Snicker of Magic to be a delightful, poignant book, and I can only hope that my students–and you–agree.

Felicity Pickle is a word collector. She sees words floating in the air, hovering around people’s heads, and zipping all around. She writes the words in her special blue book, and she carries the book with her everywhere. That includes Midnight Gulch, Tennessee.

Midnight Gulch, her mom’s hometown, is the Pickle family’s latest stop. Felicity’s mom has a wandering spirit, but Felicity is eager to call someplace home, and it seems like Midnight Gulch may just be the home she’s always wanted.

It is here that Felicity meets Jonah, a special boy who immediately becomes her best friend. Together, they learn about the magic that once existed in Midnight Gulch, and they try to figure out just how to bring that magic back.

Felicity soon discovers that the magic of Midnight Gulch is connected to her own family…and a mysterious curse that may be responsible for her mom’s wandering ways. If Felicity can figure out a way to break the curse, using the small snicker of magic still left in this small town, maybe she can finally have the home she’s always wanted.

But can Felicity overcome her own fears and break a curse that’s held Midnight Gulch in its grips for a century? Does she truly have the power–and the words–to make this place truly magical once again? Find out when you read A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd!

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Aside from A Snicker of Magic being a heart-warming (and tear-inducing) book about the healing magic of love, music, family, friendship, and forgiveness, I think it has great potential to expand readers’ vocabularies. The words that Felicity collects are descriptive of the people and places around her, and it could be a fun exercise for young readers to explore that a bit. What words do they associate with their friends, family members, teachers, school, home, and anything else in their lives? Like Felicity, they could craft poems or songs out of these words and create some magic of their own.

A Snicker of Magic is already a big hit in my school library, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Now that I’ve read it myself, I’ll definitely encourage others to do the same. I look forward to talking to my students about this spindiddly book and sharing the beautiful words and magic found within its pages.

For more information about A Snicker of Magic and author Natalie Lloyd, you can visit the author’s blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and even Pinterest.

The Eternal Ones

This may be my final post of 2010 (unless I read all day tomorrow…which is entirely possible).  It’s been quite a year, and I’m honestly glad it’s almost over.  I really hope 2011 is kinder to me than 2010 was…but that’s another story for another day.  On with the show.

Today, I finished reading The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller.  This book has been on my “to read” list for quite a while, and I finally got to it.  I am so glad I did!  This book was wonderful, and I am eagerly anticipating the next installment.  For all of you teachers and librarians out there, I would recommend this book for ages fifteen and up.  There is a bit of mature content that may not be appropriate for middle-grade readers, but I will say that the content in this book is quite understated and not nearly as blatant as many other YA novels.

In The Eternal Ones, we meet Haven Moore.  Haven has lived in a small Tennessee town her entire life.  Why then, does she have such specific knowledge of New York City?  Why is she drawn to that particular city?  And why, for as long as she can remember, has she been having visions of a girl named Constance and a boy named Ethan?  The truth is as unbelievable as it is unsettling for Haven and everyone else in Snope City, Tennessee.  Haven is remembering her past life as Constance and her relationship with Ethan.  Her grandmother is convinced that Haven is possessed by a demon, and she does everything in her power to keep Haven on the straight-and-narrow and away from New York.

But Haven is drawn to New York, and, when things go from bad to worse in her small town, she escapes to the big city to find the one thing she’s always been looking for–Ethan.  She even knows who he is now–the famed playboy Iain Morrow.  She knows he’s the love of her life (lives?), and she must find him.  What will she do when they finally meet?  Will he even remember her?

Well, Iain/Ethan knows Haven instantly, and the two seem to be embarking on a wonderful new life together, but things never really go that smoothly, do they?  Iain is lying to Haven, and she wants to know why.  She seeks help from the mysterious Ouroboros Society, a group that claims to help those who have been reincarnated.  But they may not be the help that Haven envisioned.  Who can she trust?  Who is really pulling the strings in the drama unfolding in Haven’s life?  Is there a chance that she can trust Iain, and their love story can finally have a happy ending?  Or will the forces working against them, even their own deceits, finally win and separate Iain/Ethan and Haven/Constance forever?  Read The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller to find out.

Even though I really enjoyed The Eternal Ones, I will say that Haven annoyed me a bit.  She reminded me of those girls in horror movies who insist on trusting the bad guys and doubting the good guys (who often still do stupid stuff).  I felt like screaming at her at several points, but the story kept me on the edge of my seat, and I especially liked the religious undertones in the book.  Those really made me think.

If you would like more information on this new series, including the second book, All You Desire, due out in August of 2011, I encourage you to visit http://www.theeternalones.com/, the official website of The Eternal Ones.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year!  Happy reading!

How to Build a House

No, this is not a do-it-yourself manual on how to actually build a house.  In this novel, Dana Reinhardt tells the story of Harper, a teen girl who is escaping the drama of her family life for the summer.  She’s going to Tennessee to help build a house for a family who lost nearly everything in a tornado.

How to Build a House alternates between Harper’s present building the house for this family and the past and the mess her home life became when her dad and stepmother divorced.  Harper is dealing with her father’s faults, her relationship with her former stepsister and best friend Tess, and a new relationship with Teddy, the teen son of the family for whom this house is being built.  Harper seems to find peace this summer, both because of helping out this family and the love she finds with Teddy.

How to Build a House was, at times, a very sweet book.  At other times, being the responsible adult I am, I had issues with how casually rules and sex were treated by the book’s characters.  I am not, however, naive enough to believe that the treatment of these issues in this book were unrealistic.  I would recommend this book for those who want a light summer read.  This book is not terribly deep or hard to read, but it does offer a good message about finding peace with oneself.