Category: Review

The Beginning of Everything

Author: Robyn Schneider
335 Pages
Published: August 27, 2013

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 Stars

Description from Amazon:
Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a witty and heart-wrenching teen novel that will appeal to fans of books by John Green and Ned Vizzini, novels such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and classics like The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye. Varsity tennis captain Ezra Faulkner was supposed to be homecoming king, but that was before—before his girlfriend cheated on him, before a car accident shattered his leg, and before he fell in love with unpredictable new girl Cassidy Thorpe. As Kirkus Reviews said in a starred review, “Schneider takes familiar stereotypes and infuses them with plenty of depth. Here are teens who could easily trade barbs and double entendres with the characters that fill John Green’s novels.” Funny, smart, and including everything from flash mobs to blanket forts to a poodle who just might be the reincarnation of Jay Gatsby, The Beginning of Everything is a refreshing contemporary twist on the classic coming-of-age novel—a heart-wrenching story about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.

Kim’s Review:
Another doozy of a book! I read Extraordinary Means, also by Schneider, earlier this year and loved it! So I picked up The Beginning of Everything and I loved it almost as much! I did give this book only 4 stars because I find teenage drama annoying. But I don’t think the story would have existed without all those high school problems that teenagers believe will just end their lives!! As an adult, I found a lot of those problems petty and easy, compared to real life. However, I do remember being in high school where trying to get people to like me was a full time job.

This book was also a little more philosophical than I was expecting. I had no idea what a panopticon was until I read this book. The idea that we are all just living one big surveillance experiment does describe high school efficiently! The book started out with Ezra going from golden boy to social outcast after he is injured in a car accident. He has to deal with all the pity and stares and trying to figure out what his life is now that his old one has been destroyed. He meets Cassidy Thorpe, who is full of mischief and mystery, and like all high schoolers, he falls in love. And everything goes fine, until one crucial detail comes out. I did roll my eyes a little at how dramatic both Ezra and Cassidy can be, thinking that life in high school reflects the rest of your life. But it was an interesting twist that Cassidy resists Ezra’s glorification of her. She doesn’t want the credit of changing him, when, in reality, he was changing himself.

Basically this is a book of a bunch of kids learning to grow up and their reactions to having to do so. This is actually a good one for high schoolers to read. The language wasn’t bad and any “steamy scenes” were few and far between, along with not being very detailed. Those who have finished high school will probably read this with amusement. But overall, a very good book!

Release Day Review: Letters to the Pianist

Author: S.D. Mayes
Published: September 19, 2017
487 pages

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: August 28- September 12, 2017
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description from Amazon:


In war torn London, 1941, fourteen-year-old Ruth Goldberg and her two younger siblings, Gabi and Hannah, survive the terrifying bombing of their family home. They believe their parents are dead, their bodies buried underneath the burnt remains – but unbeknownst to them, their father, Joe, survives and is taken to hospital with amnesia.

Four years on, Ruth stumbles across a newspaper photo of a celebrated pianist and is struck by the resemblance to her father. Desperate for evidence she sends him a letter, and as the pianist’s dormant memories emerge, his past unravels, revealing his true identity – as her beloved father, Joe. Ruth sets out to meet him, only to find herself plunged into an aristocratic world of sinister dark secrets.

Can she help him escape and find a way to stay alive?

LETTERS TO THE PIANIST is a compelling page turner packed with drama, intrigue and suspense. If you loved The Book Thief, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas or The Pianist, then you will love this exciting new novel.

Jessica’s Review:

S.D. Mayes took a three year journey of meticulous research to bring us her labor of love with Letters to the Pianist. As you read, you can tell she put her heart and soul into this novel.  Letters to the Pianist pulls you in from the beginning by placing you in London during WWII.

We go on this journey with Ruth, her siblings, and also the mysterious pianist.  I really felt the hardships all these characters go through.  There is much more to this novel than the mystery of whether this pianist is actually Ruth and her sibling’s father or not.  He questions his whole past and then his present life takes us in an unexpected direction that spirals towards the fast paced conclusion.

All the characters are extremely well developed and you will like some and some you will not.  You feel all the emotions these characters do. S.D. Mayes did a superb job! These are flawed characters as you deal with family issues, and most of all love.

If you are a fan of Historical Fiction, especially World War II then you MUST read this novel!  Letters to the Pianist is recommended.

I received an arc copy from S.D. Mayes.  Thank you so much for offering this to me for a review!


The Great Gilly Hopkins

Author: Katherine Paterson
172 Pages
Published: March 3, 2009

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 Stars

Description from Amazon:

This Newbery Honor Book from bestselling author Katherine Paterson will simultaneously tug on the heartstrings and cause laugh-out-loud laughter. Eleven-year-old Gilly has been stuck in more foster families than she can remember, and she’s disliked them all. She has a reputation for being brash, brilliant, and completely unmanageable, and that’s the way she likes it. So when she’s sent to live with the Trotters-by far the strangest family yet-she knows it’s only a temporary problem. Gilly decides to put her sharp mind to work and get out of there fast. She’s determined to no longer be a foster kid. Before long she’s devised an elaborate scheme to get her real mother to come rescue her. Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t work out quite as she hoped it would…

Kim’s Review:

I started out this book, hating Gilly Hopkins. No wonder she changes foster homes so fast, she’s a nasty little girl! And I know, she’s had a hard life, the foster care system is hardest on the kids, and I should probably have more compassion . . . if it makes it any better, I did kinda, sorta like her by the end of the book. She thinks she’s smarter than everyone else in the world. She behaves in horrible ways just to get a rise out of people. And she has to have her own way or she throws a fit. If I behaved like that, my mom would have tanned my hide and I wouldn’t have been able to sit down for a week! Yes, I know, compassion. She was abandoned by her mother, shipped from one house to another.

Thankfully, she begins to learn important lessons throughout the story. And the person who I loved more than anyone in this book is Miss Harris, Gilly’s teacher. Miss Harris found a way to relate to Gilly in a way that makes Gilly think she’s still in control, but is willing to learn and make changes. I’d love to think that I had, at the very least, a good impact on my students when I taught. My kids were a little older and not as troubled as Gilly, but being the one that the girls came to when they needed advice about boys, being the one that the boys felt comfortable enough with to come eat lunch in my room everyday . . . I’d like to think that I was somewhat successful. And Trotter was a saint, with such patience, showing Gilly and W.E. love, no matter what the situation. And dear old Mr. Randolph. I’d love to have a blind little old man coming to my house every night for dinner, if he was like Mr. Randolph. Even though this is classified as a kids’ book, I wouldn’t recommend this to kids. I would absolutely recommend this to teachers, but also to anyone else who wants a good, heartwarming read.