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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Title: The Fault In Our Stars
Author: John Green

Release Date: 11th January 2012

My Rating: 5/5

Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

In A Nutshell:
Absolutely fantastic book. Read the whole review.

My Review:
I’m not sure I can remember ever reading another book that was so amazingly sad and wonderfully witty at the same time. The Fault in Our Stars had me chuckling and smiling to myself, then moments later in tears, and then back smiling again. Such is the writing power of John Green, who turns a seriously sad subject into one of love, pride, adventure, witty banter, bizarre topics and with characters who have seen so much and are wise and intelligent beyond their years.

John Green fans will not be disappointed with his latest release but should be cautioned to have a box of tissues close by. One of the many moments when they were needed was when Hazel declared she was a grenade. This, while heartbreaking, was also completely understandable from her point of view.

Augustus is funny and charming and has so much heart. He does his best to keep everyone around him upbeat, especially because everyone in the story is suffering with either health or emotional battles. But they also have to deal with everyday problems too, and these are ones Augustus can help with. For example, ‘Support Group Isaac’ goes through the trauma of losing his sight but spends most of the time being more concerned about his love life. Augustus helps Isaac through this with the help of some eggs and Hazel’s driving skills.

I’m not going to comment on the relationship between Hazel and Augustus, except to say that it is special and priceless, heartbreaking and heart-warming. “Okay”.

Hazel and Augustus often discuss their perception and views on their lives as cancer kids and the reality of their morality. Remarkably we don’t get buried in sadness as they are less conventional and clich├ęd and someone always has something light-hearted to say or a joke to make about their illness.

“I didn’t tell him that the diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You’re a woman. Now die.” Pg. 24

“Off topic, but: What a slut time is. She screws everybody.” Pg. 112

“…I had a moral opposition to eating before dawn on the grounds that I was not a nineteenth-century Russian peasant fortifying myself for a day in the fields.” Pg. 137

“My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.” Pg. 311

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you.” Pg. 313

This is the kind of book parents should want their teenagers to read. And it’s the kind of book teenagers will want to read.

A big thankyou to Penguin Books Australia for this review copy.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Title: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Author: Jennifer E. Smith

Release Date: 2nd January 2012

My Rating: 4/5

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

In A Nutshell:
A light, quick, romance novel that is great for escaping but could otherwise benefit from being longer with more character development.

My Review:
The first word that comes to mind after finishing The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is ‘sweet’. My first thought is ‘that was too short’. It is a story about Hadley, a girl who is desperately trying to avoid coming to terms with the fact her dad is getting married to a woman she has never met.

Set over twenty-four hours, Hadley misses her flight to London the night before the wedding, and has to get the next flight out of JFK, which means waiting around the airport for another 3 hours. This is not something easily done by someone who suffers from claustrophobia and is anxious about seeing her dad again. Up pops Oliver, a cute guy with an English accent who offers to help her with her bags and who they find out has the seat one over from Hadley.

I am a hopeless romantic and I do love these types of stories where people meet in a moment of serendipity. They just make me go ‘Awwww’. Oliver is funny, sweet and manages to calm Hadley down as she begins to freak out about being on the plane. Of course he has his own issues as every hero does but we are not supposed to know what those are until Hadley figures it out later.

For the most part I was completely caught up in the story. I do however think the story needed bulking up a bit more, particularly during the middle; I wish their time on the plane had been developed more. It felt like the plane ride was over too fast and I just would have liked a little more as I really enjoyed the conversations between Hadley and Oliver and Smith’s writing style.

Overall, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a sweet, contemporary teen romance which was an enjoyable and quick read.

Also, I know it is only the beginning of the year but this cover will definitely make my list for favourite covers of 2012!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Switched by Amanda Hocking

Title: Switched
Series: The Trylle Trilogy #1
Author: Amanda Hocking

Release Date: 6th January 2012 (first published 12th July 2010 - self published)

My Rating: 2/5

Wendy Everly knew she was different the day her mother tried to kill her and accused her of having been switched at birth. Although certain she's not the monster her mother claimed she is, she does feel that she doesn't quite fit in..

The new girl in high-school, Wendy is bored and frustrated by her small town life - and then there's the secret she can't tell anyone. Her mysterious ability - she can influence people's decisions, without knowing how, or why...

When the intense and darkly handsome newcomer Finn suddenly turns up at her bedroom window one night, her world is turned upside down. He holds the key to her past, the answers to her strange powers and is the doorway to a place she never imagined could exist...

In A Nutshell:
This is a story that wont be for everyone. I'm still deciding if it was one for me :S

My Review:
I opened up Switched expecting to be completely blown away by the words I would find. This was based purely on the massive online following Amanda Hocking received as her e-books became a sensation and the international bidding war that the trilogy went through at the hands of publishers. Unfortunately, I felt rather ambivalent towards the story that followed.

It’s strange, I liked how the story started and Wendy’s character at the beginning of the book, but once she met Finn and everything changed, I kind of wanted to knock some sense into her. And the fact that her brother and aunt didn’t feature much in the story really annoyed me as I liked their characters. One of the only characters I liked after Finn revealed all to Wendy, was Tove because he was intriguing and I would love to see where his character gets taken in the future.

It wasn’t until the very end of the story that I really started to like the other characters and care about what happened to them. The ending is exciting and I think its sequel has the possibility of giving us something new and certainly intriguing. For me, I don’t think this will be one of those books where I wait for the sequel. Had I had a copy of Torn sitting next to me when I finished Switched, I would have picked it up out of curiosity, but I don’t see myself making the effort to get hold of a copy now (much like I haven’t been interested in reading Crossed by Ally Conde – the sequel to Matched).

I think fantasy stories are probably not what I am interested in anymore. The fact that the characters in Switched are trolls is something I find really hard to see past. Every time their ‘troll-ness’ is mentioned, I find it very difficult not to picture them as the trolls from fairy tales, even though, in this story, they are supposed to look like normal people.

I know I seem to be alone in my feelings but ultimately, I’m just a bit undecided about the story :S

Oh but what a pretty cover!

Second Opinions
Novels On The Run
Cotton Candy Reviews

Torn and Ascend will be released in paperback format in February and March 2012 respectively.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Geek Girl by Cindy C Bennett

Title: Geek Girl
Author: Cindy C Bennett

Release Date: 29th July 2010 (self-published), 8th December 2011 by Cedar Fort

My Rating: 5/5

Jen's life of rebelling and sneaking out is growing stale. In a effort to combat her boredom, Jen makes a bet to turn Trevor, a nice little geek, into a 'bad boy.' She is immediately pulled into Trevor's world of sci-fi movies, charity work, and even-ugh!- bowling. Unexpectedly, Jen discovers that hanging out with Trevor isn't so bad after all. But when Trevor finds out about the wager, all bets are off.

In A Nutshell:
Geek Girl is a story about a broken girl who forges an unlikely relationship with the school geek after making a bet. What follows is the complete opposite of what she expected as she learns to trust people for the first time in her life and allows herself to believe that her life can get better.

My Review:
I really loved Geek Girl. Jen is a vulnerable teenager due to her horrible past and being brought up in foster homes where the only reason she was wanted was for the money the family got from the state each month. She doesn’t trust anyone, has low self-esteem and while she wants to be loved by others, she protects herself from letting that ever happen for fear of rejection or having them taken away from her.

Jen is stronger than she gives herself credit for, but her lack of self-esteem steams from never having anyone who believed in her. Our adorable geek Trevor is such a sweetheart. He is pretty straight-laced, comes from a good family and treats everyone with respect. When Jen starts to show an interest in him, he is thrown completely off-guard.

I love the supporting characters, such as Trevor’s friends and family, and Jen’s foster family. Once Jen lets people in to her life, she slowly learns that not everyone has an ulterior motive, even if she does. Jen’s foster family are good people and are different to the families she usually ends up with, and with the help of Trevor, Jen begins to trust and believe in people again, and herself.

The evolving relationship between Jen and Trevor throughout the book totally made me go ‘awww’ and there were definitely some swoon inducing moments. What can I say? I’m a hopeless romantic! Long live the geek :)

When I first picked Geek Girl up I assumed it would be like the 90’s teen flick She’s All That. But for me, it evolved into something more than just a bet and addressed the real issues of vulnerability that foster kids experience every day.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Author Interview: JB Thomas

Today I have Aussie YA author JB Thomas joining me for a chat. JB is the author of Mammon, the first book in The Ferryman Chronicles published by Random House and hails from Perth, just like me :)

Mammon was released 1st September 2011 and in my review I described it as...

"An urban fantasy story with a spy/action type feel to it where demons are fought, rifts to the underworld are opened, good guys turn bad, powerful abilities are developed and people die."

To read the blurb and my review, click here. Otherwise, read on as JB talks about her inspiration for Mammon, her favourite movie, her fondness for all things Russian and what we can expect in Mammon's sequel.

Can you describe The Ferryman Chronicles in three words?
Chilling, kickass adventure.

How did you come to write Mammon? Did it come to you in an instant or were little parts of it simmering away in your head for a while?
I’d just read New Moon and was impressed with the part when the Volturi were about to devour the poor little woman with her rosary beads. That was the best part of the whole series. I would’ve liked to see more of that. Anyway, I was inspired to write a character who fights evil, but not vamps. I wanted something else. The story developed over time to include demons, and the rift/Ferryman concept came into it a little later. To be honest, for me the book evolved from the first word, to the last copyedit before the manuscript was taken out of my hands and on to the printer (terrifying!). I would probably still be editing Mammon now if I could – but you do have to let go, eventually.

Your demon mythology is unique and if it were real, totally creepy! Where did the idea spring from?
‘Know thyself’ – the sign above the door in the Oracle’s kitchen in The Matrix! Yes, that was an early seed planted in my mind. Demonhood is not totally ‘otherworldly’ in Mammon, rather it is a very human condition. One night it just came to me – to make the humans degenerate into demons. To become demons. Humans beings excel at being evil. You only need to read the news to know that. What could be more frightening than evil humans, who become demons and acquire supernatural powers, but the majority of the world can’t tell? Equally, how confronting is it to know that any human being can degenerate – even a mercenary? Grace is in an unenviable position…

You are currently writing the second book in the series. Can you share anything about what we can expect?
Action, romance and scary demons. Mammon’s power is growing, and the sarsareh must try to take him down as best they can. You can expect to learn more about the minor characters and also see some significant personal growth for Grace and Joe. There’ll be romance, of course.

What are you currently reading?
I’m split between two books – both by Russian authors. I’m re-reading Crime and Punishment, and also The Master and Margarita. In case you hadn’t noticed, I have a thing for Russia, and Russians! Yes, my love affair with Russia has been steadily smouldering since I picked up Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy a decade ago. Some of my inspiration for Ivan comes from the romantic, yet complex characters in Russian fiction. Mmm.

What are some of your favourite young adult books?
The Chrysalids, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, the Bartimaeus trilogy, the Mortal Instruments and anything by Roald Dahl (okay, for a younger reader, but gosh, he was fun!). Some of these discoveries have sprung up in English department storerooms. A perk of the job is the chance to read great books. This year, I’m teaching All Quiet on the Western Front: a must-read for anyone who is curious about the realities of war.

If you could choose any fictional character to swap places with, who would you choose?
That’s one hell of a question. So many of my favourite books are dystopian, and while I admire the characters, I don’t want to trade lives with them! Okay – probably Valentine in Ender’s Game. You’ll have to read the book to see why (or see the film in a couple of years).

You are an English teacher. When you are not writing or teaching, what do you like to do with your time?
  • Reading.
  • Playing PS3. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, in particular.
  • Films. One favourite is The Matrix, because of its combination of action, philosophy and science fiction themes. In a way, that film has been a strong influence in producing Mammon. I’ve tried to emulate that kind of storytelling, where the reader can choose to enjoy the book simply as an action story, or think more deeply about its social and philosophical themes.
  • TV. I am in awe of the writers who turn out quality programs such as Dexter and Breaking Bad. On the lighter side, I love The Big Bang Theory.
  • I also enjoy taking walks with my dog, George.

Thank you so much for stopping by The Tales Compendium JB!
Thank you, Jess!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Meeting Sarah Alderson

Last week I was very fortunate to meet the lovely Sarah Alderson, author of Hunting Lila and the recently released, Fated. Myself and five other bloggers and fans met up with Sarah at Greenhouse in Perth to talk books, literary crushes and travelling, as well as eating yummy dessert!

Sarah and I

Signing our books :)

A big thankyou to Sarah for taking time out of her Christmas holiday to meet up with us. It was an absolute treat and she was a delight to meet. A great afternoon had by all!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Most Anticipated Releases of 2012 and 2011 Challenges Round-up

Most Anticipated Releases of 2012

There are so many books set for release in 2012 that I think will be amazing. I could write a very long list but instead I have chosen to share with you my top ten most anticipated releases of 2012.

For more exciting releases, click here.

What do you think of these? Which books are you most looking forward to this year?

2011 Challenges Round-up
Throughout 2011 I participated in two reading challenges; The Aussie YA Reading Challenge and the YA Reading Challenge.

Being an Australian resident, my goal was to read twelve YA books by Australian authors (international participants had to read six). I am pleased to say I read sixteen wonderful Aussie books in 2011.

For the YA Reading Challenge, there were four different levels. I chose the one with the highest amount of books; The
Mega YA Reading Challenge – Read 50+ Young Adult novels. I also reached this goal, reading sixty-one YA novels (well actually, that's just how many I reviewed on here, the actual number is probably closer to 75).

To view the titles, click here.
Yay for me! To see what challenges I am participating in throughout 2012, click here.

Cover Reveal: City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

The cover for the 5th book in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series, has been revealed! The highly anticipated City of Lost Souls will be released 8th May 2012 and will help readers get over that horrible shock ending we were left with at the end of City of Fallen Angels.

So what do you think of the cover? I can't decide whether I really like it or if I think it looks like a bad romance novel :S

Monday, January 2, 2012

Released by Megan Duncan

Title: Released
Series: Agents of Evil #1
Author: Megan Duncan

Release Date: 1st April 2011

My Rating: 4/5

After a demon apocalypse kills their parents and everyone they know, 17-year old Abby Phillips, her brother, Carter, and friend, Max flee their home to travel through what has become the wastelands of America. When radio transmissions of a resistance offering shelter and safety cease, Abby is tempted to give up. Struggling to overcome life-threatening obstacles in their dangerous journey, Abby and her companions quickly discover there are much worse things lurking in the dark than they could have ever imagined.

In A Nutshell:
A kick-butt girl, a post-apocalyptic America and a hot boy who will make you swoon and sweat. Released has plenty of action, suspense, demons and death, with a little romance thrown in as well. Can't wait for the sequel!

My Review:
Released was a novel that got my attention straight away as I love reading books about girls that kick butt and post-apocalyptic-fight-to-survive type stories.

Strange demons have taken over the world and Abby, Carter and Max decide the time has come to set off across America and find other survivors and a place of refuge. As they travel from Washington to New Mexico using whatever means necessary to survive, they each have their roles to play; Carter, the brains and the one his sister and best mate turn to for ideas, and Abby and Max, the ‘brawn’, with their unspoken agreement to watch out for Carter who is less skilled in the self-defence/fighting department. The developing relationship between Abby and Max is sweet and a ray of light in the grim reality of what awaits them around every corner.

As the trio get closer to New Mexico, they stumble upon other survivors and take in the distraught Taya who joins them on their journey and turns out to be more capable than originally thought. They also come across what appears to be a well-organised refuge, although something about the relationship between the leader and those who live there doesn’t fit right with Abby, Carter and Max. When they try to help, they are thrown into a whole unexpected bout of trouble other than the demons. Fighting for their survival suddenly got a lot more complicated than they thought it would and Abby has to question which lines she will cross, and how far she will go, to protect the ones she loves.

Released has plenty of action, suspense, demons and death, with a little romance thrown in as well. Our characters have managed to hold on to their humour despite their dire circumstances and they are smart and tough teenagers who readers will become attached to. There are no boring bits and I can’t wait to read the sequel, Chaos, when it is released early 2012.
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