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Monday, August 30, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Title: Mockingjay
Series: The Hunger Games Book 3
Author: Suzanne Collins

Release Date: 25th August 2010

My Rating: 3/5

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12.

My Review:
There isn't a whole lot I can say without completely spoiling the ending...but I will make a couple of points...

1. I love Gale
2. One of my favourite characters dies
3. Katniss does not go into another Hunger Games
4. I think some some parts of the story are drawn out too long and others were just glazed over where they should have had more attention
5. There is an epilogue that I wish wasn't there
6. One of my favourite quotes from the book is:

"If we burn, you burn with us"

While I did like Mockingjay and felt Suzanne Collins probably couldn't have finished the trilogy any other way, and obviously it is impossible to please everyone, I was disappointed in a quite a few spots, mostly relating to the ending, and overall I prefer the previous two books. Does anyone else agree? Almost every review I have read seems to be that they think it was amazing and that it ended perfectly. The shining light for me is a post I was told about by Nomes over at inkcrush. The post covers everything I think is wrong with the book (and I have since added my own comment at the bottom) so I am not feeling quite so alone. To view this post over at Forever Young Adult click here, but be aware it is full of spoilers so do not read it until you too have finished the book.

Please do not post any spoilers in my comments (obviously non-spoilery comments are always welcome). If anyone has anything to say about the ending, or wants to discuss it, send me an email at jwillis87@hotmail.com

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Immortal by Gillian Shields

Title: Immortal
Series: Immortal Book 1
Author: Gillian Shields

Release Date: 14th September 2010 (Australia)

My Rating: 2/5


Wyldcliffe Abbey School for Young Ladies, housed in a Gothic mansion on the bleak northern moors, is elite, exspensive, and unwelcoming. When Evie Johnson is torn away from her home by the sea to become the newest scholarship student, she is more isolated than she could have dreamed. Strict teachers, snobbish students, and the oppressive atmosphere of Wyldcliffe leave Evie drowning in loneliness.

Evie's only lifeline is Sebastian, a rebellious, mocking, dangerously attractive young man she meets by chance. As Evie's feelings for Sebastian grow with each secret meeting, she starts to fear that he is hiding something about his past. And she is haunted by glimpses of a strange, ghostly girl- a girl who is so eerily like Evie, she could be a sister. Evie is slowly drawn into a tangled web of past and present that she can not control. And as the extraordinary elemental forces of Wyldcliffe rise up like the mighty sea, Evie is faced with an astounding truth about Sebastian, and her own incredible fate.

My Review:
Immortal is a suspenseful mystery based on elemental magic that spans generations.

I really like that the story is based on magic and witchcraft, and that the chapters alternate between present day with Evie and then pages from Agnes' diary (Agnes is the ghostly-girl mentioned in the blurb), allowing us to see a comparison between the two.

I wish that there had been a little more depth to all the characters. Agnes is the most interesting of all but Sebastian is rather irritable and difficult to like (not unlike how I felt about Daniel in Fallen). I also feel that the relationship between Evie and Sebastian has been fast tracked too much and they are all of a sudden madly in love, making it unbelievable.

The last chapter felt a little hurried as an attempt to tie up some loose ends and there are still quite a few unanswered questions. I'm guessing the sequel, Betrayal, will tie those up. Some scenes though just seemed pointless, such as the appearance of a local stable boy. I feel there should have been at least a little bit of an explanation as to why he was brought into the story. And if he isn't going to make an appearance in Betrayal, then why include him at all?

My initial impression at the beginning of the story was that it seemed like a mix of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Fallen by Lauren Kate. I don't think I was that far off in my predictions. I feel that if you are a fan of Fallen then maybe you will like this story. Personally, I am indifferent to it, but everyone has their own tastes.

An easy, semi-predictable read.

For a second opinion: Black Nailed Reviews, Bookduck, Secretly Captivated

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Author Interview: Dee White

I was very lucky to have the chance to interview Dee White, author of Letters to Leonardo, which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago.

For those of you who did not see the review, I loved the book and while it was released last year, before I had even started blogging, I wanted to share the book with you.

It's Matt Hudson's 15th birthday and all he wants is some art lessons. Instead, he gets a card from his dead mother. How can someone who died ten years ago send you a card? Simple answer - they can't. This awful truth changes Matt's life forever.

Where did you get the idea for writing Letters to Leonardo?
A friend told me the true story of a man who got a card on his twenty-first birthday from the mother he thought was dead. He discovered she had been in an asylum for most of his life, suffering from a mental illness.

Why did you decide to write about bi-polar disorder?
I needed to find a reason for Matt's mother's absence from his life, and for why his father had lied to him. I knew someone whose Mum was bipolar so I had seen how difficult living with bipolar is and how devastating the illness can be when a person doesn't take their medication. I needed a reason to explain why Matt's father might want to protect Matt from her.

Why did you choose Leonardo da Vinci?
I've always had a bit of an obsession with Leonardo da Vinci and as I developed Matt's character, I found out he was artistic so Leonardo seemed like he would be make a good mentor figure for Matt - and someone he could express himself to.

What do you hope your readers will get out of Letters To Leonardo?
I hope they will empathise with Matt and his situation, and that it will make them think about the issues raised in the book. I hope readers will care about the people in the book and that it will move them emotionally, make them laugh and cry, make them feel inspired. I hope it will introduce them to the world of Leonardo da Vinci and make them think about choices.

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I have wanted to be a writer since I was seven. I wrote a poem and was asked to read it at assembly and I've been writing since then.

Why do you write for children and young adults?
I started writing for children when I had kids of my own. It just seemed like a natural thing to do. As my kids have got older, my readership has got older. I particularly love writing for young adults because of the subject matter you can explore and because it's okay to tell the truth - YA readers want it. I think that YA has an honesty and depth that you often don't find in books for adults.

Do you have any must-haves while writing? Tea? Chocolate? Music?
I don't listen to music, but I do drink a bit of tea and chocolate is really great for those days when you get bad news like a rejection from a publisher. I walk my dog a lot. If I'm stuck for what to say, I walk the dog and usually, inspiration comes to me.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Read a lot and write a lot. To be a writer you have to persevere, you have to really want to do it. You have to put the bad days aside and celebrate the successes. I have a page on my blog that's full of information about how to become a writer and tips on better writing.

What can we expect from you next?
I just had a new book, Harry's Goldfield Adventure out this month and I'm currently working on rewriting my next YA novel, Street Racer and a YA psychological series called The Chat Room

"Thanks for having me on your blog, Jess and for your interest in my book. You can find out more about me and my work on my website or my blog."

I would like to thank Dee for letting me interview her and for her enthusiasm. I would also like to wish her all the best for all her future projects.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Title: Graffiti Moon
Author: Cath Crowley

Release Date: 1st August 2010

My Rating: 5/5


Let me make it in time. Let me meet Shadow. The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds trapped on brick walls and people lost in ghost forests. Paints guys with grass growing from their hearts and girls with buzzing lawn mowers.

It's the end of year 12. Lucy's looking for Shadow, the graffiti artist everyone talks about.

His work is all over the city, but he is nowhere.

Ed, the last guy she wants to see at the moment, says he knows where to find him. He takes Lucy on an all-night search to places where Shadow's thoughts about heartbreak and escape echo around the city walls.

But the one thing Lucy can't see is the one thing that's right before her eyes.

My Review:
Love Love Love Love Love! This is one of my favourite books of 2010! I absolutely could not put it down.

It is the last night of year 12 and Lucy and her two friends, Jazz and Daisy, are aiming for an all-nighter. Lucy, as always, is looking for Shadow. Jazz wants to find a hot boy and Daisy wants to have fun while deciding if she should dump her boyfriend. It just so happens that the boy Jazz chooses happens to be hanging with his mates; Dylan, Daisy's boyfriend, and Ed, who Lucy has an embarrassing history with. And so an adventure all over Melbourne begins!

We are lucky enough to get to hear the adventure from both the perspectives of Lucy and Ed, as well as little snippets of Poet's poetry (Poet writes the words to some of Shadow's artwork). The story is funny, witty and breath-taking. It literally had me laughing out loud at one point (and I received some strange looks as I was on a train at the time)! It is really great to have both the girl and the guy's perspectives. As a plus, at some points the perspectives cross over and we get to see how each of them interprets what the other has said or done, which is not something you see often (usually it is a straight swap to the other person and on with the story rather than going back and seeing what has just happened from the other side).

The conceptual art that Crowley has imagined for Shadow is amazing and I would love to turn around a corner and see some of the pieces on a wall. As the reader, we are able to feel connected to the artwork, not only because it is described in detail but we also get to hear not only how Shadow's pieces make Lucy feel but also what her creative force and the emotions behind her own art are. It is this kind of personal touch that really reaches out to the reader.

Graffiti Moon will speak to art-minded people the same way Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist reached out to those who adore music.

I really liked the extra personal details included such as Lucy's family's quirky arrangement, Jazz's supposed psychic abilities and Ed's inner turmoil over his future, the end of a past relationship and the death of a close friend. There is so much depth to all the characters that you just can't help love them all. You can also feel the tingles of attraction between certain characters. ZING!

I have had one of Cath Crowley's previous titles, Chasing Charlie Duskin, on my TBR list for ages and I am definitely going to have to put it on order because if Graffiti Moon is anything to go by, I'll be reading a lot more of Cath Crowley in the future.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood

Title: The Poison Diaries
Author: Maryrose Wood (based on the concept by the Duchess of Northumberland)

Release Date: 1st July 2010

My Rating: 2/5

In the right dose, everything is a poison... even love.

Jessamine Luxton has spent her whole life in a cottage close to her father's apothecary garden, surrounded by medicinal plants and herbs that could kill her - although her father has never allowed her into the most dangerous part of the grounds... the poison garden. She's never had reason to be afraid - until now. Because now a newcomer has come to live with the family, a quiet but strangely attractive orphan boy named Weed.

Though Weed doesn't say much in words, he has an instinctive talent for the apothecary's trade, seeming to possess an extraordinary sensitivity to growing things. Soon, he and Jessamine share a close bond. But little does Jessamine know that passion can be just as poisonous as the deadliest plants - for behind Weed's gifted knowledge of the garden lies a terrible secret...

My Review:
Although I found the premise of
The Poison Diaries to be rather interesting, I really struggled to get started. I will admit it now, I am not a fan of reading historically set fiction. I like it set in the present day. I usually find historical fiction boring and tedious. Taking this into account, I didn't really have any urge to continue reading the book as it really wasn't grabbing me. It wasn't until our newcomer, Weed, shows up about a quarter of the way into the book, that I was able to sit down and read without getting distracted by something else going on around me.

What I did like about the book were the lessons Weed learns. Weed can talk to/understand plants. This is not me spoiling anything (I have read quite a few synopsis's where the reader finds this out even before opening the book). Through this connection, the plants attempt to educate Weed on the concept of right and wrong. Is there actually a difference between right and wrong or will it always be based on the individual circumstances and perspectives? This is also relevant to one of the main themes of the story. How far would you go/what would/wouldn't you do for the person you love?

I also loved the personalities of the different plants, especially those from the poison garden. This was my favourite part of the book. I think they were imagined/interpreted brilliantly.

Plain and simple, I did not like the ending. It is so unjust and unfair. I found it frustrating! That is all I can say without spoiling the ending for anyone who plans on reading this.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Love for The Tales Compendium

It has been a good week for The Tales Compendium!

First off, Kate over at Reads, Reviews and Recommends has posted an interview with me for her Blogger Interview section. Check it out here. Thanks Kate! Alternatively you can read my Author Focus featuring Kate here.

Secondly, Anne over at
Head Full of Books has awarded me my first Versatile Blogger award! Thank you so much Anne!

Here are the rules for this award:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.

Seven things about me:

I love travelling. I spent 3 months backpacking through Europe a couple of years ago and am about to head of to America for 3 months. My next trip will probably be New Zealand or back to Europe.
I love going to see bands live. My dream is to see The Rolling Stones but until then I can be found at every Angus and Julia Stone concert.
I love Disney movies. My favourite is Aladdin but I also love Cinderella, Balto and Robin Hood.
My favourite TV shows are Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars, NCIS, Bones, Lie To Me, Buffy, House and Supernatural. Ok I have a lot of favourites!
5. I have a collection of snow globes from all the places I have visited around the world.
6. My all-time favourite movies are Love Actually and Still Crazy.
7. I love winter.

I pass this award along to:
1. So Much To Tell You
I Live In a Fictional World
Book Harbinger
5. Books and the Bees
Lost in Stories
7. So Many Books, So Little Time
8. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
9. Wondrous Reads
10. The Bookette
11. A Flight of Minds
Dead Book Darling
13. The Book Owl
14. Narratively Speaking
15. I Was A Teenage Book Geek

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

Title: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend
Author: Emily Horner

Release Date: 28th June 2010

My Rating: 4/5

Cass and her drama-crazy best friend, Julia, were planning a road trip to California. When Julia is killed in a car accident, Cass decides to follow the original plan anyway. Even if she has a bicycle instead of a driver's licence, and even if Julia's ashes are coming along in Tupperware.

This a story about friendship. About love. About travelling a thousand miles just to find yourself. And it's a story about the kookiest high school musical one quiet suburb has ever seen.

My Review:
I really enjoyed A Love Story. It's about one girls quest to confront her grief and discover herself. It is a funny, touching, coming-of-age debut and while I wouldn't go so far as to say Cass is highly likeable, I do think teenagers will be able to relate to at least one of her struggles (including her alternative parents). The main themes are friendship, grief, relationships, self esteem, sexuality, growing up and... musicals!

Although Cass is a smart girl, she hasn't quite figured out who she is or her place in the world and after the death of Julia, while she tells herself the road trip is to honour Julia, it's more about being independent, proving herself to those back home and herself and it also allows her to get away from some of Julia's friends who are striking out at her and each other amidst their grief. It also gives her the chance to get away, think clearly and discover who she is as a person and also what Julia really meant to her.

The story is a little slow and confusing at the beginning, mostly due to the fact that it goes back and forth in time, from 'Then' when Julia was alive and the subsequent road trip and 'Now' after Cass has returned and is working on the musical penned by Julia, 'Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad'. I'm not a big fan of books that go back and forth in time but I quickly got over my initial confusion as I think Emily Horner has done a really good job of keeping the story together and all events relevant.

There are two little paragraphs that have really stuck with me since finishing this book. Neither of them have anything to do with each other (they both just happen to occur at 3am).

The first is this, for no reason other than it made me laugh.

'Okay. Obviously you have not lived.'
'I was once kissed in a motel hallway by a bass player, at three in the morning,'
'Impressive, but unconvincing.'

The second is part of an entire chapter which I love but if I write down the whole chapter, aside from being ridiculously long, it will spoil some of the story. I will say that this chapter, to me, represents the true meaning of friendship.

'Thank you,' I said. Like that would cover it. Like it would come anywhere close to covering it. But what else was there to say at three in the morning?

If I was to compare it with other YA titles, I would say if you mix Will Grayson, Will Grayson, The Sky is Everywhere and Pink by Lili Wilkinson, you have A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Letters to Leonardo by Dee White

Title: Letters to Leonardo
Author: Dee White

Release Date: 1st July 2009

My Rating: 4/5

Dear Leonardo,
Truth is important in art, don't you think?
Truth is important full stop.

It's Matt Hudson's 15th birthday and all he wants is some art lessons. Instead, he gets a card from his dead mother. How can someone who died ten years ago send you a card? Simple answer - they can't. This awful truth changes Matt's life forever.

My Review:
When Matt discovers that the mother he though died 10-years ago is actually alive, he sets out on an emotional roller coaster to find her and get to know her. He has so many questions and it is a lot to deal with. Part of the story is made up of letters that Matt is writing to Leonardo da Vinci for a school assignment. Through these letters, Matt is able to talk his way through the frustration and new discoveries he makes about his life as he knows it and the mother he has never gotten to know.

This is a story about family, friendship, art and the experiences of having a family member with bipolar disorder.

The extremely emotional ending is a real tear-jerker and very well written. I look forward to reading any reviews by people who have experience with a family member who has bipolar.

I read this book long before I started writing these reviews but it is such a fantastic book that I wanted to share it with you.

Ages 12+

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer

Title: The Deadly Sister
Author: Eliot Schrefer

Release Date: 1st August 2010

My Rating: 4/5


Abby Goodwin has always covered for her sister. Maya's screw-ups started out ordinary enough - broken curfews, failed classes, hanging out with drugged-out losers...

But now Maya's been accused of murder. And Abby's not sure she'll be able to cover for her anymore.

With the police closing in, Abby helps Maya escape...and then starts investigating, hoping to clear her sister's name. What she finds, though, shows that you can't trust anyone - not even the people you think you know.

From the author of The School For Dangerous Girls comes a page-turning thriller about the things we do for family, and how sometimes even the most innocent person can be guilty underneath.

My Review:

I am a major fan of Eliot Schrefer's The School for Dangerous Girls and so was very excited when The Deadly Sister landed on my desk. I was also excited because, when I'm not reading YA fiction, I read adult crime novels, so a combination of both really appealed to me.

Essentially this is a crime thriller but with a teenage cast. If you like who-dun-its, teen reads without bubblegum romance and/or you don't like fantasy/sci-fi novels, then this is for you. The Deadly Sister is a suspenseful read about how far you would go to protect your family, and yourself.

Schrefer favours misdirection by introducing many characters who could all be the murderer. We find out many people had motive for killing Jefferson Andrews; Maya, Maya and Abby's father, Jefferson's brother, Abby's best friend, one of Jefferson's many female companions, Rose his official girlfriend, drug dealers, even the owner of the convenience store near the high school.

My only gripe, and why it is not getting a 10/10 rating, is regarding something at the end of the book but I can't talk about it without giving away the ending. Frustrating I know, but if you read it and feel like something is slightly off, then feel comfort in knowing you are not the only one. Or maybe I'm just nit-picking an otherwise thrilling read.

Read this if you enjoyed The School for Dangerous Girls or Rebecca James' Beautiful Malice.
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