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Book Review: Off Book by Jessica Dall

Book Review: Off Book by Jessica Dall

It's Book Review Wednesday, but today we've got so much more than just a review! Starting off, a book with a totally new twist on writing…

Off Book

Twenty-year-old Eloise has learned all she can from the School, where characters live until joining their novels. No one knows genre and plot structure better than her, but despite her knowledge, she’s yet to be assigned to her own story. All her friends are off starting their lives with their authors—and if Eloise doesn’t get assigned soon, she’ll fade away, forgotten by all. Off Book -- Jessica Dall -- REUTS When she is suddenly offered a job at the Recording Office, she takes the chance to write her own future. Suddenly living among the post-storied, Eloise meets Barnaby Fitzwilliam, a former romance novel hero who hasn’t lost any of his in-story charm. But just as their relationship begins to get serious, everything Eloise has been taught gets turned upside down when she’s sucked into a novel she was never meant to be part of. Now, caught where the only rules are made by the authors and truly anything is possible, Eloise must find her way back home—or else her life might end before she ever gets the chance to live it.

My Review: 4 Stars

First off, I have to say that I loved the concept. It's unique and gives an interesting look at the world of writing--both from the perspective of the characters and that of being a writer. The intro was pretty solid, but it lost my interest after a few chapters. It takes a bit to understand what the characters are talking about, but once you get it, the book makes a lot more sense. The character of Eloise is solid, though perhaps a bit two-dimensional. There's no real character growth in the story, no personal suffering that leads her to the climax in the end. The loss of her friend is the closest it gets to hardship for the character. Also, the romance between her and Barnaby just felt a bit too contrived for my tastes. There's no real reason for her to have fallen in love with him, no real connection between the characters. More like a girl falling in love with a guy because he's there--almost too convenient to be real. As the book nears the climax, the characters mention that their stories needs that high point, but I felt no fear, no potential to lose. It was an anti-climactic ending, one that didn't really make me worry about the fate of the character at all. The concept was interesting, the world was fascinating, and it was a fun read, but it's not a book I'd read again because it was exhilarating.

Here's a Taste:

Releasing a shaky breath, Eloise forced herself out of bed, not bothering to put on more than the tank top and boy shorts she had ended up sleeping in. The bulk of Barnaby’s clothes from last night remained where they’d been dropped on the floor, likely a byproduct of hurrying to dress this morning. Shaking her head, she gathered them up, dumping them all into the hamper by the dresser. The jacket she had worn out still lay where she had placed it, apparently forgotten. She picked it up, at least pretending to be productive. The compass fell from the pocket, bouncing slightly on the carpet as it landed. Eloise stared down. Looking entirely benign where it sat, something about it still made Eloise’s chest tighten. Placing the jacket back where it had been, she sank to the floor, sitting cross-legged as she picked the compass up. The metal felt as cool and smooth as it had out by the Wall. Steeling her nerve, she found the seam between the two halves, pressing the little latch. The little silver needle wavered, finding north from where it floated under a glass dome. She studied the markings around the edges—a flourished zero at the top near the clasp, a ninety, one-eighty, and a two-seventy marking the other sides of the circle. Raised black enamel wrapped the edge in what looked like some mix of Arabic and Tolkien Elvish, not that she could have read either. She ran her fingers over the lettering. Whatever it was, wherever this was from, it was a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Snapping it closed, she frowned as the smooth surface on the top of the case seemed to engrave itself out of nowhere. She watched the winding curves form, unable to put it down. Slowly, it warmed, a blue glow starting under the new pattern. She released her hold, squinting against the light, but it didn’t drop, sticking to her palm as though seared there. She tilted her hand, tried to shake it off, unable to keep her eyes open as the heat became painful. A final jerk and the compass came free, hitting the ground with a thud. Dust puffed up. She coughed, trying to bat it away as she babied her hand at the same time, eyes not quite readjusted. Something small and hard dug into her thigh. Eloise froze, the hair rising on the back of her neck. Slowly, she forced her eyes to focus. Trees surrounded her, taller than she had ever seen before. She took a deep breath, debating the likelihood of a complete mental break. Running her hand along the ground, she felt the dirt, hard and gritty. If it was a mental break, her subconscious hadn’t gone halfway. It even smelled like outside—all grass and pine and petrichor. She stood cautiously. “Hello?” Nothing answered. Wrapping her arms around her midsection, she took a few steps forward and tried again. “Hello?” A tall, blond man broke through the trees with a crossbow leveled at her chest. Eloise’s hands went up on instinct as she looked at him, wide-eyed. He stared at her for a long moment, frowning before lowering the bow. He called back over his shoulder, “Over here. It’s just some girl.”

About the Author

Besides being able to read her novel, I also got the chance to sit down with the Jessica Dall, the author of this unique novel, and ask her some questions… Jessica Dall Tell us a little about yourself and your background? As most people know at this point, these days I’m a writer, editor, and creative writing teacher in the DC Metro Region, but I grew up on the West Coast (Los Angeles and then San Diego) and my educational background is actually in political science. Until about Junior Year of college, I was certain I wanted to be a lawyer, and so I had long declared my major with a pre-law specialization. I then got an internship at a small press, which was almost a bit of a fluke, and the rest is history. I was only two classes away from my major, so I got my degree in Political Science, but I have writing and editing ever since. When did you decide to become a writer? I’ve always been a writer in some form or another, I feel like. Even before I knew my alphabet, I was scribbling down “stories” in what I though cursive looked like (so… basically a bunch of loops in a line). I wrote my first proper novel at fifteen, about the time that I joined my high school’s Creative Writing Club, but I don’t think I actually got it into my head that being a writer was something I could do professionally until college when I started interning at a small press. My first (published) novel came out the year after that and I haven’t looked back. Why do you write? Whenever someone asks me that, I always seem to end up quoting Lord Byron, “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” There are so many characters and stories in my mind that if I didn’t actually write, I’m not sure where they all would go. I also find writing to be very calming in general. If I get writer’s block for a few days, I’ll actually begin getting a little tetchy. It’s just something I’ve always been compelled to do. Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors? As I’ve said, I work as an editor outside of writing, so in a way I’m always reading (I tend to have at least one editing project every two weeks on average). That means I’m reading two to three books a month, along with whatever of my own projects I’m currently writing or editing, and my students’ stories for the classes I teach. So when people ask me what I’m reading, I have a ton of things to pick from. When they ask me for reading recommendations, however, I start having problems trying to remember both what I’ve liked lately and what would actually be out that other people would know about. For favorite authors, I’m not sure I have specific names to pull out. I’m currently reading Way Walkers by J. Leigh and recently finished Finding the Rainbow by Traci Borum, which are two very different books, but ones I enjoy quite a bit. Really, if it’s a good story with interesting characters written well enough for editor/teacher-me to put away the red pen, I’m probably going to enjoy it. Find Jessica Dall on Twitter andFacebook. The book can be found on Amazon: