Review: Off the Page by Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer

9781743439982

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: May 19, 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN13: 9781743439982
Pages: 384
Goodreads || Book Depository (US cover) || Allen & Unwin

Meet Oliver, a prince literally taken from the pages of a fairy tale and transported into the real world. Meet Delilah, the girl who wished Oliver into being. It’s a miracle that seems perfect at first – but there are complications. To exist in Delilah’s world, Oliver must take the place of a regular boy. Enter Edgar, who agrees to play Oliver’s role in the pages of Delilah’s favourite book. But just when it seems that the plan will work, everything gets turned upside down.

In this multilayered universe, the line between what is on the page and what is possible is blurred, but all must be resolved for the characters to live happily ever after.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Off the Page is a companion novel to Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer, which I’ve recently reviewed. Off the Page can be read as a stand alone novel but I would recommend checking out Between the Lines because it’ll give you a better introduction to the fairytale world and the characters. I don’t think Off the Page would be quite as good if it was read as a stand alone, but I’m only able to speak from the perspective of someone who has read both books.

I liked Off the Page better than Between the Lines, because we get to see Oliver and Delilah interact together in the same world. They’re adorable together and I loved seeing Oliver trying to navigate his way through the life of a normal teenager. There were lots of funny moments, especially the scenes with Seraphima.

Like Between the Lines, Off the Page was fast-paced and easy to read. I finished it in one sitting. I liked how the story unfolded and that it was easy to follow and logical. I think this would be a great read for a lot of people.

And I also loved that there was a happily ever after for everyone.

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Review: Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer

between-the-lines

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: June 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
ISBN13: 9781743310922
Pages: 352
Goodreads || Book Depository (US cover) || Allen & Unwin

What happens when happily ever after… isn’t?

Delilah hates school as much as she loves books. In fact, there’s one book in particular she can’t get enough of. If anyone knew how many times she has read and re-read the sweet little fairy tale she found in the library, especially the popular kids, she’d be sent to social Siberia… forever.

To Delilah, though, this fairy tale is more than just words on the page. Sure, there’s a handsome (well, okay, hot) prince, and a castle, and an evil villain, but it feels as if there’s something deeper going on. And one day, Delilah finds out there is. Turns out, this Prince Charming is real, and a certain fifteen-year-old loner has caught his eye. But they’re from two different worlds, and how can it ever possibly work?

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

This was a fun story that was quick and easy to read. Between the Lines is the first Jodi Picoult book I’ve ever read, and it’s co-written with her daughter, Samantha van Leer. It is a fun book with pages of illustrations and coloured text.

Even though this book is marketed as a YA novel, it felt a little bit juvenile to me. I’m not sure if it’s because of the fairytale aspect of the book…but this felt more middle grade than young adult. But because of how young it felt to me, it was very easy and fast to read. It had an enjoyable story, though there were bits that I didn’t think were believable (especially how Oliver escapes from the fairytale in the end) and there were some things that I couldn’t grasp the logic of.

I liked the format of the book and how it was split into Oliver chapters, Delilah chapters, and pages from the fairytale. It was nice to be able to see things that unfolded from each of their perspectives. I thought Oliver’s chapters were particularly interesting because we get to know more about the fairytale world and what happens to their story when the book is closed. I loved the illustrations that were included, though I did wish that some of them were more relevant to the fairytale that was unfolding at the time.

Overall, I think this would be a really great and enjoyable book for a younger audience.

Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

all-the-light-we-cannot-see

Publisher: Scribner
Release date: May 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 1476746583
Pages: 531
Goodreads || Book Depository

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When Marie-Laure is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

I think this book changed my life. I’m just not quite sure how yet. Everything about it was amazing; I don’t think there’s anything negative that I could say about it. It has definitely become my favourite book of all time.

First of all, the cover is amazing. I have the hardback US version and it might be the most beautiful book I’ve ever owned. The writing is exquisite and filled with metaphors and descriptions that I’ll never forget. “Jutta, six years old, with a round face and a mashed cumulus of white hair, crouches beside her brother.” Every single sentence just moved me so profoundly and you can tell that Anthony Doerr has considered every word of every line so carefully. As I was reading, I felt like I could picture everything that the characters were experiencing. I could see everything that Werner was seeing and I could also see everything that Marie-Laure couldn’t see. I could feel everything the characters were feeling.. the fear, the desperation and the resilience. I love the format of the book, that it jumped from present to past and every chapter alternated between the perspectives of Marie-Laure and Werner. I loved that the chapters were short, but yet none felt like they were lacking anything. Because of the short chapters, I also sped through this book in a couple of days.

I completely fell in love with all the characters, even the ones who I didn’t think I’d like at first. I thought the main characters were just perfect. They were young but so completely intelligent, strong and resilient. I went into this book, having read the blurb first, thinking that it was going to be a romantic story but it really wasn’t. And I’m really glad that it wasn’t because I don’t think it would have been as good. I did, however, spend most of the book anticipating their meeting. The first time Werner sees Marie-Laure was probably the best part of the whole book for me. Maybe only bested by their first actual meeting. I think that scene will stay forever in my heart, mainly due to that fabulous page-long sentence in the chapter (Anthony Doerr’s writing is just exquisite). And while the book didn’t have the romantic aspects that I had initially expected to read, I love that they saved each other in such different ways. If I had one criticism of the book… it would have to be what happened to Werner towards the end. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Overall, this book was absolutely breathtaking, and haunting, and all the good things in the world. There were times when I was so overwhelmed by the imagery and everything I was feeling that I had to put the book down to just breathe. Anthony Doerr did such an amazing job with this novel. I can’t even begin to comprehend the amount of research that went into writing this book. Reading this book, you feel like Doerr is an expert in WWII, locks and keys, radios and machines, shells and mollusks…. My mind is blown.

This is a book I’ll read over and over again, not only for its plot but for its brilliant writing. I wouldn’t change a thing about this book.

Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

me-before-you

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin)
Release date: January 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0718157834
Pages: 480
Goodreads || Book Depository

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

There is a trigger warning for suicide in this book. Also if your life is affected in any way by quadriplegia, you may or may not want to read this book. I’d suggest looking at some other reviews first before jumping into this book.

I was so deeply affected by this book. I laughed and I cried so hard… this book really caught me by surprise. It was completely different to what I had expected when I first picked it up. Based on the cover and a quick skim through the summary on the back, I thought it would be some fluffy contemporary romance, but it couldn’t have been more different. I don’t think I realised how much I loved this book and how moved I was by it until I’d reached the end and had tears pouring down my face.

There were definitely some parts of the novel that felt slow but each event that happened had a purpose. The writing was easy to read and without a lot of medical jargon, but still allowing us to feel the full impact of the story. I loved the use of first person perspective because it really allowed me to get into the head of Lou. There were some strange changes in perspective in the book. There were some characters who had a chapter written from their point of view. These chapters really threw me off and I didn’t like them at all. But aside from that, I have absolutely no complaints about the writing or the plot.

The characters in this book were really relatable (and mostly likeable). I loved Will and Lou as the main characters and I loved their relationship together. I liked how their relationship developed and grew into such a comfortable one. I also loved the character development in this novel. I thought that was one of the key successes of the book. But in addition to Will and Lou, we also get to see the struggles that the other characters go through, which made them and their lives so realistic to me.

I haven’t read very many books about physical disabilities, but Me Before You is definitely one that I will remember for a very long time. I’ve recently heard that a sequel to this book, After You, will be released in September 2015. I’m not completely sure that I’ll be picking that up (at least not straight away), just because Me Before You ended in such a hopeful and strangely liberating way.

Review: A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman

a-year-of-marvellous-ways

Publisher: Tinder Press
Release date: June 18, 2015
Format: ARC (from Hachette Australia)
ISBN13: 9780755390922
Pages: 320
Goodreads || Book Depository

Cornwall, 1947. Marvellous Ways is a ninety-year-old woman who’s lived alone in a remote creek for nearly all her life. Recently she’s taken to spending her days sitting on the steps of her caravan with a pair of binoculars. She’s waiting for something – she’s not sure what, but she’ll know it when she sees it. Freddy Drake is a young soldier left reeling by the war. He’s agreed to fulfil a dying friend’s last wish and hand-deliver a letter to the boy’s father in Cornwall. But Freddy’s journey doesn’t go to plan, and sees him literally wash up in Marvellous’ creek, broken in body and spirit. When Marvellous comes to his aid, an unlikely friendship grows between the two. Can Freddy give Marvellous what she needs to say goodbye to the world, and can she give him what he needs to go on?

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

This book is so beautiful. It’s poignant and moving and just full of all the things I love in a novel. It’s historical fiction with some great magical realism, and an equally great cast of characters.

At first, I thought this book was a bit slow but as I got further into it, I realised that the pace was one of its charms. The slow pace of it allows you to take it all in and enjoy Sarah Winman’s writing, which was so poetic and metaphorical. I also liked the formatting of the book. I didn’t mind that there were no quotation marks in the book; I think I’m used to this format now, having read quite a few literary fiction novels. Also, it was done so masterfully that it wasn’t hard to follow. Without the quotation marks, the dialogue was really integrated into the story and, for me, it really enhanced it.

I loved the messages in this book. I liked reading about the things that Marvellous has gone through and all the life lessons that she’s learnt. This book made me think about my grandparents a lot and I really connected with the story, and with Marvellous. I think it’s a book that you just need to dive into and discover for yourself. I’m sure that everybody could get something out of it. And the ending was absolutely lovely.

Series Review: The Wolves of Mercy Falls (Shiver Trilogy) by Maggie Stiefvater

cover_shiver_300 cover_linger_300 cover_forever_300

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Format: Hardcover Boxset
Release date (boxset): July 12, 2011
ISBN: 0545326869
Total pages: 1150
Goodreads (trilogy) || Goodreads (Shiver) || Goodreads (Linger) || Goodreads (Forever)
Book Depository (boxset) || Book Depo (Shiver) || Book Depo (Linger) || Book Depo (Forever)

Synopsis for Shiver (book 1)

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without.

Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human… until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

MY THOUGHTS on trilogy

4 stars

Maggie Stiefvater has created a very intriguing series, that is easy to follow even for beginners of paranormal/fantasy books. The chapters in this book are quite short, especially in Shiver, which makes it a quick read. Shiver and Linger both end on cliffhangers, which makes you want to pick up the next book straight away.

While these books are relatively fast to get through, the pace of the story is very slow. It took me a while to get into the first book, because not much happens throughout it. What redeemed it for me was the writing style and the romance between Grace and Sam.

Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is a little bit strange and can be hard to get into, but once I did I began to really love it. The voices of the characters are clear, and you can get a good sense of who they are. Shiver is narrated from the perspectives of Sam and Grace, and there are subtle differences in voice between human Sam and wolf Sam. Things got a little bit more complicated in Linger and Forever. These books are written not only from the perspectives of Sam and Grace, but also from the perspectives of some of the other major characters. At times, this made the books hard to follow because they would jump from one perspective or storyline to another too abruptly, sometimes multiple times within one chapter.

What I loved most about this trilogy was the romance. I really liked Sam and Grace as a couple and thought they were great together. I probably enjoyed reading about their relationship more than I enjoyed the story about the wolves.  The romance probably got me through the books – I might not have finished the trilogy otherwise. I did start to enjoy reading about the wolves as the series went on, particularly in Forever. Forever was a really great finale to the trilogy, packed with action. It was probably my favourite book in the trilogy. It also answered a lot of the questions I had after reading Shiver and Linger. It ties the whole story together at the end, though it does end a little bit obscurely.

Overall, I do recommend this trilogy. Each book does start off slowly, but it definitely becomes more action-packed toward the end. The last book, Forever, is filled with action and is definitely worth the time spent getting to it.

Ratings of each book

Shiver    4 stars

Linger    35 stars

Forever  4 stars

Review: The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi

9780062302229

Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: June 16, 2015
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0062302191
Pages: 304
Goodreads || Book Depository

Before Matt, Ella had a plan. Get over a no-good ex-boyfriend. Graduate from high school without any more distractions. Move away from Orlando, Florida, where she’s lived her entire life.

But Matt – the cute, shy, bespectacled bass player who just moved to town – was never part of that plan. And neither was attending a party that was crashed by the cops just minutes after they arrived. Or spending an entire night saying “yes” to every crazy, fun thing they could think of.

Then Matt abruptly left town, and he broke not only Ella’s heart but those of their best friends, too. So when he shows up a year later with a plan of his own – to relive the night that brought them together – Ella isn’t sure whether Matt’s worth a second chance. Or if re-creating the past can help them create a different future.

In alternating then and now chapters, debut author Lauren Gibaldi crafts a charming, romantic story of first loves, lifelong friendships, uncovered secrets, and, ultimately, finding out how to be brave.

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

This debut novel by Lauren Gibaldi is a short and fun contemporary read. I thought it was a good debut novel that reminded me of writing by Sarah Dessen and Jennifer E. Smith. However, I thought The Night We Said Yes lacked the depth and emotional quality that Dessen and Smith incorporate into their novels. It wasn’t as sophisticated but if you’re looking for a fun and fast-paced read, I would definitely recommend this.

This book contains alternating chapters of ‘then’ and ‘now’, which I’m not always a fan of. Lauren Gibaldi did a great job at integrating the dual timelines so that it read as one story rather than two separate story lines. My problem with the alternating timelines was that some aspects of the story felt very repetitive, especially because Matt and Ella are trying to recreate a night that happened a year ago. Things that happened in the past would be alluded to or described in a ‘now’ chapter, and then described again in the following ‘then’ chapter. Because of this, I would have preferred just one single timeline, which would also allow for deeper exploration into the story and the characters.

I didn’t feel a deep connection to any of the characters. I liked Matt but wasn’t in love with him like I normally am with YA male love interests. I felt like we never got a good sense of who the characters were. I liked Ella but I didn’t always love her voice. I also felt like there could have been more character development. I felt as though all of her character development came in random bursts of sudden self-realizations. I would have definitely liked the novel more if we got to see her character gradually developing. The alternating timelines also made it difficult to see her character develop.

Overall, I enjoyed the reading experience. I finished it in one sitting and I appreciated how relatable the book was.

Review: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

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Publisher: HarperCollins
Release date: May 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 000749145X
Pages: 314
Goodreads || Book Depository

“I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.”

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

The Shock of the Fall is one of those books that you need to read and experience for yourself.

Written from the perspective of Matthew, a young man struggling with schizophrenia, this book left me speechless. His voice was so strong, and I could feel the conflict and the battle in the writing. I really appreciate what Nathan Filer was able to do in this book. At times, the story was confusing because it jumps around a little bit, but I slowly grew to appreciate it and see it as part of the novel’s charm and how confusing and unsettling schizophrenia is. This book definitely affected me and probably would have affected me more if I wasn’t a psychology major.

I loved the format and the typography in the book. It really added to the story and made it even more realistic. It made me feel like I was there and part of the story.

But most of all, I just loved Simon, just like Matthew said I would.

Review: Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott

9780385391160

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Release date: June 9, 2015
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0385391161
Pages: 352
Goodreads || Book Depository

Charlie, a senior, isn’t looking forward to her last year of high school. Another year of living in the shadow of her best friend, Lila. Another year of hiding behind the covers of her favorite novels. Another year of navigating her tense relationship with her perfectionist mom.

But everything changes when she meets her new English teacher. Mr. Drummond is smart. Irreverent. Funny. Hot. Everyone loves him. And Charlie thinks he’s the only one who gets her.

She also thinks she might not be the only one with a crush.

In this stunning debut, Jessica Alcott explores relationships-and their boundaries-in a way that is both searingly honest and sympathetic. (from Goodreads)

MY THOUGHTS

1 star

I really struggled with this book. This really wasn’t what I had expected after reading the Goodreads summary and the prologue at the beginning of the book. The plot went in a different direction to what I had expected and I didn’t understand the message of the book, which was probably why I didn’t connect with it. Although I did finish the book, I didn’t understand the point of it and I didn’t like the way the story panned out. A re-read of the book might allow me to understand the message a bit more but I definitely didn’t enjoy it enough to read it a second time. Another thing that added to my frustration, was the fact that I had received a library edition of the book from Book Depository (nothing to do with the book or the story and more to do with the description on Book Depository)…but for the price that I paid for it, I expected a proper hardcover with a jacket, and not a library edition. (The one I’ve linked above should be a proper hardcover edition).

I thought the writing in this book was unnecessarily detailed in parts and included lots of information and descriptions that weren’t crucial to the plot. This book is split into sections, one section for each month of the year. I would have preferred a book that had really focused on the important, life-changing events/revelations, rather than giving a general overview of what happened in Charlie’s life each month. We were given little snapshots into different aspects of her life but nothing was explored very deeply. We see briefly into her relationships with her friends and her family but I never got a true sense that any of these relationships had developed by the end of the book. There were issues between Charlie and her parents and Charlie and her friends that I don’t feel were resolved at all.

I also didn’t like any of the characters in the book, especially Charlie. I didn’t enjoy reading from her perspective. From the very first page, I thought she was too broody and self-deprecating. I really couldn’t stand her and I never warmed up to her. I liked Drummond a little bit better but I never got a sense of who he was. I didn’t like the infatuation/romance between Charlie and Drummond. There were also some inconsistencies in the characters, for me. For example, Lila is portrayed, at times, as a loud-mouth, dumb blonde, popular girl who enjoys acting like a bit of a slut. At other times, she’s portrayed as a super smart, potential Stanford student who has never had sex before. These inconsistencies made it difficult for me to follow and enjoy the book.

I did like the way the book ended. I thought it ended on a really hopeful note. But other than that, I didn’t connect with the book or enjoy reading it at all.

Review: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

the-summer-of-chasing-mermaids-9781481401272_hrPublisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: June 2, 2015
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 1481401270
Pages: 368
Goodreads || Book Depository

The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them. . .

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

This is my favourite Sarah Ockler novel that I have read so far. It’s a beautiful story about finding yourself and finding ways to express yourself even when you’re not allowed to.

This story is a retelling of the Little Mermaid. It was a very well thought out story, that is deep and moving, as well as fun and romantic. A great, fast-paced summer YA read, with a great coming of age message. This book really focuses on the different kinds of relationships we have with others. It explores family, friendship and love, and the positive and negative sides of these relationships.

I really liked the romance between Christian and Elyse. I thought it developed in such a real and believable way, and I just loved the two of them together. I really liked Christian as a character – he was just so easy to fall in love with. I did feel that he was portrayed a little bit inconsistently throughout the book. He’s described as a player who sees multiple girls at the same time and can’t even remember their names. At the same time, he’s portrayed as a sweet and sensitive boy. There were times when I felt like they were two different people. Other than that, I loved all of the characters in this book. They were all unique and funny, especially little Sebastian who spends each of his summers chasing mermaids and wanting to be a mermaid.

As in all of Sarah Ockler’s books, the writing is fantastic. Elyse’s voice was so clear and easy to read throughout the whole book. One criticism that I did have was that the lip reading was a little bit unrealistic (although it was necessary for the story to work). The fact that all the characters in the book were so good at lip reading whole sentences was a little bit mind blowing. But other than these little unrealistic aspects and inconsistencies, I thought the book was stellar. Definitely one to take with you to the beach!