Review// Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

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Author: Gail Carson Levine
Series: Ella Enchanted #1
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: September 1, 1998
Book Length: 232 pages 
Publisher: Scholastic Books
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the “gift” of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: “Instead of making me docile, Lucinda’s curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally.” When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella’s life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you’ll ever read.

My Review:

Okay this was such a cute fantasy book! First off, I didn’t know that the movie was based on a book, and second, it had completely flown over my head until I picked up the book and actually thought about it that Ella Enchanted is a retelling of Cinderella (whoops!) – and honestly, I found this a lot more mystical and fun than Cinderella is.

Not to try and compare the book and the movie too much, but in the movie, Ella is played by Anne Hathaway who is definitely way older than the Ella portrayed in the book; it surprised me when I heard the narrator’s voice on the audiobook because it was very high pitched like that of a young child. However, once that initial shock wore off, I found the narration in general to be incredible! And although it doesn’t really have much to do with the actual writing, having such good, expressive narration really aided in how much I enjoyed the story. The story is told in Ella’s perspective, and I found her to be so adorable; it actually pained and infuriated me to the point where I sometimes had to pause the book whenever people took advantage of her obedience, especially Hattie and Olive. At the beginning of the book, Ella meets Prince Char. You do get the sense that she has a small crush on him, but I liked that that plot point was not the main focus of the book until close to the end. Additionally, I thought that all of the creatures: elves, ogres, fairies were written perfectly – I especially liked how they even had their own languages; it tied the book together so well.

Above all, what makes this book so good to me is that it transported me to an enchanted land, and even though I thought I’d grown out of fairy tales long ago, it was just so much fun to experience this in my mind; it made me feel like a child again. So if this book taught me anything, it’s that you are never too old for fairy tales; in fact, the older you get, the more magical it is to get to experience that feeling all over again when you thought you never would. 😊 

– Catherine

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Review// The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

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Author: Mark Haddon
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: July 31, 2003
Book Length: 226 pages 
Publisher: Vintage Contemporaries
Review: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.

My Review:

Christopher Boone is a 15-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome – the story is told from Christopher’s perspective and starts off with him investigating and simultaneously writing a book about the murder of his neighbor’s dog, Wellington. Though the book started off with this plot, I would say that it actually has very little to do with the murder of the dog and more to do with Christopher himself and how he views the world through his autism.

I found this book eye-opening, and after reading it I do feel much more emotionally aware. I can definitely say that it taught me something about people with autism and Asperger in particular; at times, it could get very overwhelming being inside Christopher’s brain – his mind is constantly thinking and racing. I felt for Christopher and all the struggles he faced day-to-day, but he also amazed me in many ways; I found all of his math problems, pattern identifications, and problem solving abilities really interesting. I also liked how it realistically portrayed people who had close, and not so close, relationships with Christopher, how they dealt with his Asperger’s, and how he responded to them.

One of the most amazing things to me about books are their ability to show me things from a different perspective and teach me something new, and with this story, I felt my mind and my heart open to something I’ve not had very much personal experience with, if even at all. I felt so many emotions while reading this and I’m really glad I picked it up; definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone.

– Catherine

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Review// The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

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Author: Will Schwalbe
Series: Standalone
Genre: Non Fiction
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Book Length: 336 pages 
Publisher: Knopf
Review: 3/5

My Review

This is a non-fiction book that follows the Schwalbe family in the years after the author’s mother, Mary Anne, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I thought it was so sweet that Mary Anne and Will, her son, started a book club between one another in those final years – it definitely got their minds off of the devastating news (as best as it could) and gave them something to bond over.

As much as I thought it was beneficial for the author to explain the books they chose, at times, I felt like he would go too far off on tangents about what they were reading, and not enough content was about his mother and their relationship – both at present and throughout the years. However, I did appreciate that pretty much every book he explained did correlate back in some way to an aspect of his and his mother’s relationship or lives in general.

This was a very heartwarming book that made me realize the impact that books can have on people and enforced to me the importance of family and living life to the fullest. I am very happy that I read it.

– Catherine

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Review// Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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Author: Gail Honeyman
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Book Length: 336 pages 
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books/ Viking
Review: 4.5/5

My Review:

After reading the synopsis, I was under the impression that this would be a cute contemporary romance, but it wasn’t, and boy am I happy about that.

Eleanor Oliphant is completely not fine: she’s stuck at a dead end job she’s been working at for years, she doesn’t have any friends, she has a mother who degrades her during every weekly phone call they have – in short, Eleanor is quite lonely. However, she’s lived like that for so long that she’s convinced herself that she is better off this way. Cue Raymond, her co-worker from the IT department, and Sammy, an elderly man they rescue together. Raymond and Sammy, through nothing more than a genuine interest at friendship, invite Eleanor to open herself up again and abandon her life of loneliness.

I really loved Eleanor; a big reason for this is because of the way she narrated the book. Eleanor is a little socially awkward and she says exactly what’s on her mind without realizing if she is offending anyone. Despite this, I found her very endearing and I empathized with her greatly; every time she cried, I just wanted to reach into the book and give her a hug.

There is a quote that goes, “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” and I think it’s very relevant here. Oftentimes, Eleanor was misunderstood by her peers because of how enclosed she was in her own little bubble and how socially awkward she could be. This book emphasized how important it is not to pass judgement on someone so easily because you really don’t know what they’ve been through to make them the way that they are.

If there was one thing I didn’t like about the book, it was that something major was revealed right near the end and then it ended so suddenly; I hate when that happens because I felt I needed more time to digest the reveal. Despite that, it was still an amazing book and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I wish there was a second book because I need more of Eleanor!

– Catherine

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Review// A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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Author: Fredrik Backman
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Book Length: 339 pages 
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

My Review:

This book!!! It has had me on the verge of tears 98% of the time, my heart was being broken and mended about a thousand times over from beginning to end, and I had to put the book down and gather my thoughts more times than I have with any other book. I loved this – and if there was a word more powerful than love, that would be how I felt about it.

The book is about a grumpy old man, or at least, that’s the impression you get at the beginning. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Ove back then, but slowly he grew on me. Ove had a lot of traumatic things happen to him in his life, and a lot of sad loss, and when I understood his past, I sympathized a lot more with him.

Six months prior to the start of the book, Ove’s wife passed away, and as you go through the story, you realize she is the most important person in the world to him, and the only person he really has a soft spot for. At the beginning of the book, Ove has a plan to kill himself because he wants to be back with his wife, but then he meets his new neighbors – Parvaneh and Patrick, along with their two young daughters – who, day-by-day unbeknownst to them, and among other strangers he befriends, keep giving him reasons to live.

This is about friends turning to family and how to cope with the grief that comes from loss. It is honestly one of the most touching books I’ve ever read, and I highly recommend it.

– Catherine

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