Thursday, September 26, 2013

I smiled and I cried at The Beginning of Everything

Author:  Robyn Schneider
Publisher:  Katherine Tegan
Date:  Now available
Source:  Publisher via Edelweiss
My grade:  A+

Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes?

Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a lyrical, witty, and heart-wrenching novel about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.

Initial Reaction
::wipes eyes::  Remember the very first time you ever fell in love?  Like, real love???  And how it broke your heart?

Cover Story
Thank God they changed the title and cover on this one.  When I first got this review copy it was called “Severed Heads and Broken Hearts” and had the most butt-ugly cover ever!  Who came up with that title?  I hope they got fired!  But “The Beginning of Everything” is a GORGEOUS title and I like the cover.  It’s bright and eye-catching without being cheesy or too teen girl.  I would proudly read this book in the doctor’s office with no fear of judgement.

What’s the Story?
Ezra was the popular jock boy on campus.  Then he did something dumb.  Really dumb.  He drove drunk one night and had a wreck.  One girl was hurt pretty badly and he completely smashed his knee.  Now, he can’t walk without a cane and his sports career is over.  He basically spends all summer in his house along, ignoring all the phone calls and only leaving to go to physical therapy.

Fast forward to the first day of school.  Ezra arrives late and is offered a seat by the kid he used to be friends with in middle school, but who is not really his friend now.  So he and Toby reconnect and Ezra finds himself avoiding the jock table at lunch in favor of the Misfit table.  And he discovers that he actually “speaks geek” really well and he completely fits in with this little group of high school misfits.

Enter Cassidy, the free spirit girl who seems to be the antithesis of the popular girls that Ezra has dated.  She’s mysterious, she’s philosophical and she seems to get Ezra.  He is totally taken by her and she becomes part of the group.

One of the things that made this novel so remarkable is the really likeable cast of characters.  I really liked Ezra, even though at times he was a total, well, dumbass.  He was such a typical teenaged boy and I think that Robyn Schneider did a fabulous job of capturing the teen boy voice.  I never once found myself thinking that a man would have written his voice differently, so bravo Robyn!  I also found myself wanting to sit down at the lunch table with the rest of the characters and just hang out with them.  Toby was especially fun!

This is such a beautiful coming-of-age story.  I loved watching Ezra trying to find himself.  He struggled in many ways and he sometimes made the wrong choices, but I feel like he had such a strong character by the end of the novel.  And even though it wasn’t exactly a happy ending, I closed the book knowing that Ezra would grow up to be a wonderful man.  He really did find his true voice, or at least he began the process very well.

This story didn’t really have a lot of action.  It was much more character driven than plot-driven, but it totally worked.  The plot was Ezra’s search for who he is and where he fits in and how he decides what sort of man he wants to be.  I laughed with him and cried with him and in the end, I was just so damn proud of him.

I loved this book.  I loved Ezra.  I loved Toby.  I can’t wait to recommend this book and see how many of my students love it too.

The Soundtrack

Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson

Life Is Beautiful by The Icarus Project

A Beautiful Mess by Jason Mraz

We Belong Together by Gavin DeGraw

Skinny Love by Bon Iver

Can’t Make You Love Me by Bon Iver

The Final Grade
My final grade for this book is an A+.  This is a poignant, bittersweet coming-of-age novel that will both break your heart and make you smile.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  I was given no compensation, financial or otherwise, for this review, especially not a hot geeky guy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The book may be Of Beast and Beauty, but the story is beauty through and through!

Author:  Stacey Jay
Publisher:  Delacorte
Date:  Now available
Source:  Publisher via Edelweiss
My grade:  A+

In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

Initial Reaction

Cover story
Love, love, love….::hums the Beatles::  This cover is stupendous.  In one picture, it completely captures the juxtaposition of the traditional with the alternate/sci fi universe of the novel setting.  It is pure brilliance.

What’s the Story?
At first, I was skeptical.  I mean, a fairy tale re-telling taking place on another planet that is sort of futuristic/dystopian but not really?  And are these people human or what?  If you find yourself shying away from this book because these things don’t seem to appeal to you or make sense to you, STOP THINKING ABOUT THEM AND READ THE BOOK ALREADY!

This book took what I thought was a far-fetched premise and made it beautiful.  I read Stacey Jay’s Romeo and Juliet books, but this book so surpasses those 2 that I can hardly believe it’s written by the same author.  It is easy to see that Stacey Jay has grown into her own as an author.

This book’s writing lends an almost dreamlike and poetic quality to the entire novel.  It feels like an ancient myth and if I had to draw it as a picture, it would be surrounded by a cover of mist.  And that world just sucked me right into the story.  I grew to love and to hate so many of these characters.  It truly was a story of Beauty and a Beast, although at times, I wondered just who was supposed to be the beauty and who was the beast.

One of the most magnificent things about this book was the way that Stacey Jay managed to take so many of the elements from the original tale but twist them into something that was so entirely new.  It’s like she created her own mythology with this tale.  She didn’t shy away from the very dark elements of fairy tales, either.  This is not your Disney version, for sure.  But it is achingly beautiful.  It made me weep in places and often it was not because of the sadness of the tale but because it reached inside me and touched my very soul.

This is a standalone novel, but I have to say that I would not object to another book in this world because I was simply loath to leave it.

If you are a person who only likes traditional re-tellings, this one may not work for you, but if you love to read beautifully told tales full of magic and have them touch your heart, then this is definitely a book for you.


A Sorta Fairytale by Tori Amos

I’m on Fire by Bat for Lashes

Collide by Howie Day

Distance by Christina Perry with Jason Mraz

Always You by Ingrid Michaelson

The Final Grade

My final grade for this book is an A+.  I cannot fully express how beautiful this story was and just how much I loved it, so just go read it.

I received this copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  I did not receive any compensation, financial or otherwise, for this review, and especially not my own loveable beast.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Yes, I'm Back!

::hangs head in shame::

Yes, I've been gone from my blog for a bit.  School started back on August 25th and I had the school opening from hell, basically.  Then I sort of hit a reviewing slump.  Not a reading slump, mind you.  I've been reading and I've read some really AWESOME books, but I just couldn't make myself sit down and write reviews after long, long days at work that were exhausting.  But I'm catching up now, so I'm going to try to get back on track with the blog.  If you're still reading this blog, I humbly thank you for your patience. : )