Review: Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

Publisher: Bonnier
Release date: April 26, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 400
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How do you survive a mage’s duel without magic? Kellen’s about to risk everything: His family, his home, even his own life…

When you’re a Jan’Tep initiate approaching your sixteenth birthday, you’d better be ready to prove your worth as a mage. Either that or have a miracle on the way. And Kellen isn’t counting on either. He knows he’ll need a few tricks up his sleeve to avoid disgracing his family and becoming a Sha’Tep servant. So when a sassy, straight-talking traveller arrives in town, Kellen is all ears. Ferius Parfax is jaded but worldly, an exile who lives by her wits and the three decks of cards she carries. She can’t teach him to spark his bands and access the seven magics, but with the hand that Kellen’s been dealt, he knows he needs all the help he can get… A rich, compelling and laugh-out-loud new series for all teen, YA, adult and fantasy readers. Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, Hunger Games and Guardians of the Galaxy.

MY THOUGHTS

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for providing a review copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Trigger warning: animal cruelty

Spellslinger is the first book in a new YA series by Sebastien de Castell. This novel follows 15 year old, Kellen, who is a boy without magic, living in a world full of magic. Even though Kellen is the son of a powerful Lord Magus, he shows no sign of having any magical abilities and is at risk of becoming a Sha’Tep and serving the powerful and magical Jan’Teps for the rest of his life. When a strange lady, Ferius, arrives in town, Kellen begins to learn that there are alternative ways to be the hero that he’s always wanted to be.

That was kind of a vague synopsis of the novel but I’m having a really hard time recalling what actually happened or what the book was about. The plot was a little bit messy and confusing and seemed to jump around quite a bit. I just wanted a little bit more flow from it. I couldn’t really engage with the story and it took me a really long time to finish what was actually a really fast-paced book. I did like the magic system for the most part but I found bits of it to be confusing and underdeveloped. There were so many different aspects and I couldn’t really grasp the rules of the magic system because it seemed to be kind of limitless. I appreciate that the author wanted to put in a lot of plot and action but for a fantasy series… I wish he’d spent a little bit more time setting up the world and magic system at the start. The world building was kind of lacking and I didn’t really get a good sense of where they were or what the culture of the world was… besides the part where all the female characters were subservient and submissive.

Having said that, I did like Kellen’s character a lot and I think this redeemed the book for me. He was sassy and funny, and I found him to be strangely relatable. I most appreciated that he wasn’t the Chosen One (in fact, he’s kind of the opposite) and it was really easy to connect with him because he was kind of completely ordinary. I really enjoyed his character development throughout the book and the way that he found himself and who he wanted to be by the end of the novel. But I can’t say that I liked the rest of the characters as much. Ferius was an okay character for me. She was extremely enigmatic and I didn’t know what her motivations were by the end of the novel. I loved that she was there for Kellen and supported him but I don’t really know how I feel about her. I also liked Reichis, Kellen’s squirrel cat friend (or business partner, as he calls himself), and I can’t wait to see more of him in the upcoming books. I do have to mention though that there is some animal cruelty in this book and there was one particular scene that had me shuddering in horror.

The rest of the characters, I found extremely unmemorable and bland. And it also didn’t really help that it was difficult to remember their names. Some characters were from the same family and had really similar names that were easily confusable. And on top of that, a lot of the characters actually changed their names during the book, once they’d reached mage status. I also wasn’t a huge fan of any of the other characters and thought that they were either pure evil or just terrible, terrible friends. I didn’t care about any of them and wasn’t really that invested in their stories or what was happening to them.

All in all, I don’t think Spellslinger was for me. I liked the action in the novel and Kellen’s character a lot but I couldn’t latch on to anything else. I wasn’t able to get into the world or the magic system so the book ended up being a little bit of a drag for me.

Review: My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Release date: June 1, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 372
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‘You are my sister now,’ Victoria said, quietly and solemnly. ‘Never forget it. I love you like a sister, and you are my only friend in all the world.’

Miss V. Conroy is good at keeping secrets. She likes to sit as quiet as a mouse, neat and discreet. But when her father sends her to Kensington Palace to become the companion to Princess Victoria, Miss V soon finds that she can no longer remain in the shadows.

Miss V’s father has devised a strict set of rules for the young princess, which he calls the Kensington System. It governs her behaviour and keeps her locked away from the world. He says it is for the princess’s safety, but Victoria herself is convinced that it is to keep her lonely, and unhappy.

Torn between loyalty to her father and her growing friendship with the wilful and passionate Victoria, Miss V has a decision to make: to continue in silence, or to speak out.

By turns thrilling, dramatic and touching, this is the story of Queen Victoria’s childhood as you’ve never heard it before.

MY THOUGHTS

Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for providing a review copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

My Name is Victoria is a historical retelling of Queen Victoria’s youth, with a twist. While the novel contains historically correct information, the plot of the book is fictional and set in a “parallel world”, as described by the author herself. I didn’t really have any expectations going into the book, because even though I love historical fiction, I have a very general knowledge of Queen Victoria’s life. And because of my lack of expectations and prior knowledge, I ended up really enjoying the novel because of how accessible and interesting it was.

The story follows a young girl named Miss V, who is given the task of being Princess Victoria’s playmate. Miss V’s father is the comptroller of the Duchess of Kent, who is Victoria’s mother, and he plays a big role in the management of their estate and finances, as well as a crucial role in ‘the Kensington System’. Miss V is extremely proud of her father’s position, until she gradually becomes closer with Victoria and others living at Kensington Palace and discovers that not everything is as it seems. I liked the writing style of the novel. It had a simplistic writing style that was easy to read and suited the story perfectly. What I loved most about the story was that it wasn’t as slow-paced as most historical fiction novels out there. I sped through the book in a few hours and it never felt like a drag. It was definitely still on the slow side because there isn’t a lot that happens and the story spans a period of 7-8 years. But the passage of time was done quite seamlessly and besides the beginning when we were getting to know the characters and their situation, there wasn’t any section in the book that felt long-winded and tiresome. My only real criticism of the plot and story was that the last 50 or so pages felt a little bit rushed. It seemed like everything was happening all at once and the resolution of the book came a bit too easily. I would’ve liked if it had been developed a little bit more.

There wasn’t really a character that I latched on to and absolutely loved, though I did find Miss V to be very relatable and likeable. I admired how much she did for Victoria and how much she was willing to give up for her friend. The friendship that developed between Victoria and Miss V was really great to see. It was nice to see that Miss V never really resented Victoria for any of the things that she had to endure, such as dressing extremely plainly in public so as to not upstage Victoria and giving up her future and any romantic opportunities. I also really liked Prince Albert once he made an appearance in the book. He was really sweet, kind and intelligent, and just my idea of a great book boyfriend.

Overall, I really enjoyed My Name is Victoria and learnt a lot about Queen Victoria’s youth. It made me want to go out and learn more about her life, and it’s a historical fiction novel that I’d recommend to anyone who is interested in learning more about her.

My Name is Victoria was published by Bloomsbury Australia on 1st June 2017. It is available at all Australian retailers for $14.99.

Two Year Blogoversary Q&A and Giveaways!

Can you believe it’s been two years since I first started blogging? I’ve met so many great friends (happy 2 year blogoversary to my blogging twin, Aentee @ Read at Midnight) and had so many awesome opportunities along the way. Thank you to everyone who has been reading and commenting on my posts, even though my posting schedule has been sporadic at best and I’ve been a complete failure at replying to comments.

But to thank you all, I have some exciting giveaways and I also posted on Twitter a few weeks ago asking for Q&A questions, which I’ll answer today.

Q&A

I don’t know what this girl is talking about because she reads even faster than I do and churns out reviews like a machine! And this is on top of her hectic schedule as a senior in high school and all of the extracurriculars she does. I’ve actually read much fewer books this year than usual because of my reading slump and busy work schedule. But I’m on track to meet my goal of 100 books this year.

I’ve actually written a blog post before on why I read contemporary and why it’s my favourite genre. You can check out the post here. But to summarise, I love that contemporary is usually relatable and realistic and I love that I can usually connect with the characters and their stories more than I can when it comes to fantasy.

As much as I would love to say that my one true pairing is me and Draco Malfoy, my #1 OTP is actually Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs. Theirs is just the ultimate bromance and their parabatai bond can never be severed. If you’ve read The Infernal Devices, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

I’ve gotten to do a lot of cool things since I’ve started blogging but my favourite is being able to meet my fellow bloggers in person. I’ve been lucky enough to have met both of my Happy Indulgence co-bloggers, Jeann and Aila last year. I also got to see Aentee a couple of times last year and once this year. I met Jesse @ Books at Dawn and Joey @ Thoughts and Afterthoughts when I was in Toronto last year (and will be hanging out with them for 3 months when I move temporarily to Toronto next month). And later this month, I’ll be seeing CW @ Read Think Ponder when she visits Sydney for a few days. There’s nothing better than getting to hang out with like-minded people and going book shopping together.

This question is literally torture. (For those of you who don’t know, Werner is the lead male character from my favourite novel, All the Light We Cannot See). As much as I love Draco Malfoy, I probably wouldn’t marry him because I’ll be marrying Will Herondale, my ultimate book boyfriend ❤ . Will loves to read and is extremely loyal and loving so it’s gotta be him. Argh I dunno. This is too hard. Okay I’ll kiss Draco and cliff Werner. SORRY, I DIDN’T MEAN TO.

Let’s never speak of this again. Haha, in case you don’t know what this is about… when I stayed with Jeann for a weekend last year, she talked me into doing two booktube videos with her. I was so unnatural and I literally was a bobblehead the entire time.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever done anything that I would consider to be super crazy. But I’ve gone to meet up with bloggers in different cities on my own. The first time I met Aentee, she got mad at me that I didn’t tell anyone where I was going in case she was a serial killer HAHA.

I’m going to be working in Toronto for three months so it’s the first place that comes to mind. But if I could choose any other place right now, I’d probably say Sweden… or just Scandinavia in general. One of my friends is currently holidaying in Europe and her pictures from Sweden look AMAZING.

Haha not at this moment. It’d have to be beyond spectacular to knock All the Light We Cannot See from its spot as my favourite book of all time.

I’ve had a really great blogging journey so far and I don’t think there’s anything that I regret. There are definitely things that I wish I could do better, like posting more regularly and commenting back promptly, but those are just my shortcomings and not really regrets.

Well this is the million dollar question. I’m not sure yet. There is a lot that I can do so I’m trying to keep my options open right now. It would be really cool to be able to work abroad but I’m also really happy to just stay here in Sydney and keep doing the things I love.


GIVEAWAYS

Just like last year, I’m running three giveaways to celebrate my 2 year blogoversary. Two of the giveaways are international and one is for Australian residents only.

Giveaway Rules

  • Giveaways 1 and 2 will end at 11:59pm AEST on 3rd July 2017. Giveaway 3 will end at 11:59pm AEST on 1st July 2017. This is because I will be shipping the prize for Giveaway 3 myself and I need to do that before I fly out to Toronto.
  • Giveaways 1 and 2 are open internationally but Giveaway 3 is open to Australian residents only. I will disqualify you if you enter a giveaway that isn’t open to you.
  • There will be ONE winner for each giveaway and the winners will be chosen at random through Rafflecopter.
  • I will contact the winners for Giveaway 3 on July 2nd and Giveaways 1 and 2 on July 4th and if I don’t receive a reply within 48 hours, I will choose another winner. I will be checking all entries so please don’t cheat!
  • I will require a postage address so please make sure that you have parental permission to give me your address if you’re under 18.
  • Book Depository will be sending out the order for Giveaway 1. For Giveaway 2, I will choose an online retailer depending on the postal address of the winner (e.g. Barnes & Noble if you live in the US, Book Depository if you live in the UK). I take no responsibility for lost or damaged parcels as they will be sent by the retailer. I will send you a shipping confirmation and keep you updated on the process though.

Giveaway 1: $35 for Book Depository (INTL)

Click the image above oR this link to go to the Rafflecopter giveaway page.

Giveaway 2: Your Choice of One of My Favourite 2017 Reads in Hardcover (INTL)

Click the image above or this link to go to the Rafflecopter giveaway page.

For this giveaway, you need to choose one of the five books shown above:

Giveaway 3: Paperback set of Passenger and Wayfarer (Aus Only)

Click the image above or this link to go to the Rafflecopter giveaway page.

Thanks for visiting as always and good luck!

Review: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release date: May 16, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 384
Goodreads || Book Depository

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

MY THOUGHTS

I love supporting Aussie authors and I was so excited to check out The Love Interest because it had an intriguing synopsis and a really stunning cover. But I was left feeling really disappointed because I don’t think the book lived up to its full potential.

The book is told from the perspective of Caden, who is a Love Interest. He grew up in this secret organisation where he was groomed to become a Love Interest to someone important or powerful enough to have an impact on the world. Love Interests are spies who are expected to report back to the organisation with secrets about their partners. However, in order to be in the lives of their partners, they need to first have a fight to the death with another Love Interest who is also vying for the attention and love of that partner. When the partner makes their choice, the Love Interest who has lost is killed. Caden and Dylan are Love Interests fighting for the love of Juliet, who is a genius scientist and inventor. But a friendship between them forms when they realise that nobody else in the world understands them better than each other.

I actually really liked the first 70 or so pages of the novel. I was captivated by the concept and the world of the Love Interest organisation and I found it to be addictive in a reality TV show/The Bachelor kind of way. But as I progressed through the book, I became a little bit bored with the lack of plot and the lack of development in the story. There wasn’t very much that happened and it just came across as a boy trying to get a girl to fall in love with him using very dramatic and unrealistic methods. I couldn’t connect with the story because of how unrealistic and cheesy it was. I struggled a lot of how little of a learning curve Caden needed to fit into the real world when he’s never actually been in the real world. He seemed to know exactly where to go at school and he seemed to have zero problems starting a job at Starbucks. I know Caden fitting into society wasn’t the focus of the book, but I was just extremely disconnected with everything that happened because there was so little realism.

My biggest problem was with the characterisation. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters in the book, though I did really like Dylan. They just weren’t developed very much and they all kind of just came off as the same person to me. I felt no emotional connection to the characters and this was probably due to the fact that the novel didn’t really explore any of the characters’ emotions. We got to briefly see Caden’s doubts about what he was doing and the guilt he felt at being responsible for Dylan’s death if he won. But none of this was explored in very much detail, which again made me feel like there was a wall between myself and the novel and its characters. The character that I felt the most frustrated with was probably Juliet. She was described as a genius who had been inventing things from a young age. But that never really came across to me throughout the book. She came off as a regular girl, sometimes whiny, and there didn’t seem to be anything special about her. The only time her inventions and her ability came into play was in a very deus ex machina kind of way towards the end of the book, and by that time, it was too late for me to change my opinion of her.

Overall, there wasn’t very much that I could latch onto. I did like the first 70 pages and maybe the last 30 or so pages but aside from that, I was kind of bored and disappointed with the novel.

Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Publisher: Simon & Schuster’s Books for Young Readers
Release date: May 2, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 336
Goodreads || Book Depository

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

MY THOUGHTS

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the third and final book in the series so this review may contain spoilers for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

I think my rating for this book is probably closer to a 4.5 stars but it’s inflated just because of sentimental reasons. I’ve been waiting for this book since the first book came out. I really liked P.S. I Still Love You but this was the book that I wished that one was. If you love Lara Jean and Peter together, this is a must-read for you. There are no love triangles, I promise!

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is about the final few months of Lara Jean and Peter’s senior year of high school. Peter’s been accepted to the University of Virginia already and Lara Jean is convinced that she’s going to be accepted too. She’s already planned out her college experience with Peter and is extremely excited about being able to be with Peter, as well as close enough to home to visit regularly. However, things don’t always go to plan and suddenly Lara Jean and Peter find themselves having to alter their plans and learn who they are as individuals away from each other.

I really loved the plot of this book. It’s been a long time since I graduated from high school, but I felt really connected with this story because my co-blogger, Aila just graduated and was going through some similar experiences recently. I really connected with Lara Jean’s struggles when it came to figuring out what she wanted to do after high school, especially after her plans fell through. I enjoyed watching her character development throughout the book as she learned to become more independent and put her own needs and wants before others.

But of course, my favourite aspect of the book was the adorable romance between Lara Jean and Peter. This is the first book in the series where we get to see the two of them together for the entire book and it was so worth the wait. The two of them are so perfect together and I loved how Peter just indulges Lara Jean’s quirks. I enjoyed how they worked through their problems together and I just thought their relationship was sugary sweet and everything I needed.

I’m so glad that Jenny Han decided to come out with this third book in this series. I wasn’t super happy with how P.S. I Still Love You ended because I wanted more of Lara Jean and Peter’s story. I’m extremely happy with what we got in this third novel and I’m going to be binge rereading this on sad and rainy days for a long time to come.

Review: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release date: May 23, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 699
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Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.

MY THOUGHTS

Lord of Shadows is the second book in The Dark Artifices series, which means that this review may contain spoilers if you haven’t read Lady Midnight… or the other 8 books that came before this series.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Cassie Clare book but I was surprised by how quickly I got back into the world. I didn’t really need to be reminded of any details from the other books, which I think is a huge testament to how great of a writer Cassie is. But this book absolutely broke me. The last 50 pages or so of the book were so intense and devastating and I don’t really know how I’m going to recover from it. Couple that with the fact that the third book of the series isn’t going to be out until 2019… I honestly don’t know how I’m going to survive. Having said that, I’m really excited to read about James Herondale’s story (and to maybe see more of Will and Jem) so I’m not that mad that the first book of The Last Hours is coming out next year instead.

It’s a little bit hard to describe the plot of this book because there’s so much that happens in this massive tome! The story picks up a little bit after the events in Lady Midnight. There is suddenly a large presence of sea demons in Los Angeles and it seems like it might be connected with the fact that Malcolm Fade’s body and the Black Volume are still somewhere in the sea. An army of Centurions from the Scholomance are sent to the Los Angeles Institute to recover Malcolm’s body and the Black Volume and the Blackthorns are not happy with the appearance of these strangers that could disrupt their lives and uncover their secrets. As it turns out, they had a right to be antsy because some of the Centurions have ulterior motives that threaten the alliance between the nephilim and the Downworlders. On top of that, it seems like everyone is after the Black Volume and the Blackthorns are determined to be the ones that get to it first.

I love, love, loved the plot of this book… besides the cliffhanger at the end that left me literally breathless and crying. It was so action-packed and intense, and I feel like I need to go back and reread the whole thing in order to catch every single last detail. This is a second book in a series done right. It never felt like a filler book but instead had so much information and development that you just know that the third book is going to be EPIC. I have to admit that I finished the book with a ton of questions but it’s exciting to know that they’re all going to be addressed in the final book of the series. I have a bunch of crackpot theories and I’m so, so excited to see how the story ends.

But it wasn’t just the plot that drew me into the book. It was really the characters and the relationships between them that made me fall in love with the novel. We got to see so much more of the younger Blackthorn siblings in this book, particularly Livvy and Ty, who I both loved. I really liked what they brought to the story and that the series was no longer just about Emma and Julian, as much as I love them. I enjoyed the friendship that is beginning to form between Ty and Kit and I absolutely loved how well Kit understood Ty and was there for him when he needed support. I’m interested to see how this relationship develops further in the next book. I also really loved seeing the developing relationships between Mark and Cristina, Kieran and Cristina and I’m super curious about how that weird potential threesome is going to turn out. And of course, I loved seeing more of Emma and Julian’s story.

We got to see a glimpse of Julian’s dark side in Lady Midnight but it was so much more pronounced in Lord of Shadows. I like that his character is a little bit morally grey and that he prioritises his family over everything else. It’s a nice change from Cassie Clare’s other male lead characters who are extremely heroic and pure-hearted for the most part. Emma was also great in this book but I didn’t feel particularly connected with her in this novel because there were so many other fantastic characters who I wanted to get to know. I loved so many of the side characters, including Diana Wrayburn and Gwyn from the Wild Hunt. They were absolutely fantastic and I enjoyed the part that they played in the story. And finally, for fans of the previous Shadowhunter books, Magnus and Alec are in a significant chunk of this book and I really, really enjoyed getting to see them again. As always, I enjoyed the diversity in these books and I was really happy to see the inclusion of a transgender character in this novel too.

This is becoming a long review so I’m going to cut myself off here but I have so many more thoughts about the book. I enjoyed it just as much as I did Lady Midnight, though The Infernal Devices still remains my favourite of Cassie’s series. I cannot wait to see how The Dark Artifices ends!

Review: Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release date: April 26, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
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Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

MY THOUGHTS

I received a review copy from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I have read and loved all of Jennifer E. Smith’s novels and Windfall was definitely no exception. It was beautifully written and had such a captivating story that I sprinted through the book. I thought it was cute and uplifting and definitely one of my favourite contemporaries that I’ve read so far this year.

The book starts with Alice buying a lottery ticket for her best friend, Teddy’s, 18th birthday. They’ve been best friends for 9 years and Alice has been secretly in love with Teddy for almost the entire time. They’ve bonded over their bad luck for years and years but things change when the lottery ticket turns out to be the winning ticket. Teddy’s life changes in the blink of an eye and Alice finds herself slowly losing Teddy and the friendship that they used to have. What I loved most about this novel was that it wasn’t just about the romance. At the forefront of the novel is a coming of age story and I highly enjoyed it. We got to learn a lot about Alice’s past and what happened to her parents 9 years ago that left her an orphan. We got to see Alice embrace who she is and who she wants to become and step out from her parents’ shadows. At the same time, we also get to see Teddy become a more responsible person as his life rapidly changes.

I adored the characters in this novel. I connected with Alice almost instantly and was really able to understand all of her fears and concerns, not only about her future but about her deteriorating relationship with Teddy. I really enjoyed her character growth throughout the novel and admired her strength at the end of the book. I also really loved Leo, Alice’s cousin, and the way that he was there for her and has been there for her the entire time that she’s lived with his family. I love seeing close relationships between siblings/family in YA novels and I found their relationship and bond to be really heartwarming. I also loved Leo’s personal story and his romantic with his boyfriend, Max. Teddy was a character that took me a little while to like but he grew on me throughout the story when he started to grow as a person.

The romance was probably my least favourite part of this novel, not because it wasn’t adorable, but because I couldn’t really connect with it. I felt that it needed a little bit more development and that everything progressed really quickly, which is probably understandable considering Alice and Teddy have been friends and probably harbouring feelings for each other for years. It just wasn’t really my favourite of all the friends to lovers romance that I’ve read. I felt like their friendship together was a much stronger bond and I enjoyed reading about that aspect a little bit more.

Overall, there wasn’t really much that I didn’t love about Windfall. Jennifer E. Smith never ceases to wow me with her contemporary novels and I loved all of the different themes that were explored in this book, especially the coming-of-age elements.

Review: Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release date: February 27, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 352
Goodreads || Book Depository

Kate O’Brien has always been known as the scholarship kid, running away from a terrible past and overcoming obstacles, some more sinister than others. She’s determined to make a better life for herself. She deserves it. And at the elite Waverly school, Kate is willing to do whatever it takes to climb the social ladder and land her spot at Yale.

There’s one girl in particular that catches Kate’s eye. Olivia Michelle Sumner, all born blonde and rich and just messed up enough for Kate to latch on to. As for Olivia, she’s a damaged girl, looking to be mended. She finds something promising in Kate. A study buddy. A best friend. A sister she never had. But even a vulnerable girl like Olivia has her own dark past to contend with.

When the handsome and whip-smart Mark Redkin joins the Waverly administration, he manages to woo the whole student body, paying particular attention to Olivia – an affair she very much wants to keep to herself, especially from Kate. And as a man who knows just how to get what he wants, Kate realises that Mark poses a huge threat, in more ways than she is willing to admit.

MY THOUGHTS

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Teresa Toten’s The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B is one of my all-time favourite books and I was extremely excited to check out Beware That Girl, even though it falls in a genre that I don’t typically gravitate towards. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with Beware That Girl. I found it to be a bit confusing and wasn’t really what I expected.

The book starts off with two girls in hospital – one as patient and one as a visitor- and it’s unclear who is who or what happened. If it wasn’t for this mystery aspect of the book, I’m not sure that I would’ve stuck with it until the end. But it kept me intrigued as I pushed through the novel and I’m glad that I finished it but I do have to say that the ending felt a little bit unresolved for my liking. Beware That Girl is about Kate, a scholarship kid, social climber and master manipulator, who has zeroed in on Oliver Sumner as her new target to take her to the top of the social ladder and to her end goal of attending Yale. Olivia, who has battled with some demons and secrets in the past year, is happy to rely on Kate for friendship and company. But when an older man comes between them and becomes involved with Olivia, things turn dark and the two have to rely on their friendship and honesty to get out of trouble.

My main problem with the book was that for the majority of it, I didn’t really know where it was going. It wasn’t until I got past the 200 page mark that I was able to get into the book and stick with it until the end. The first two-thirds of the novel was a little bit boring and I felt like nothing was really happening. I expected a little bit more build up and suspense to keep me intrigued and invested in the story and it was kind of lacking for me. The plot itself was slightly predictable, in my opinion, and some of the things that happened in the novel made me feel quite uncomfortable. I did like that there was a focus on psychopathy, which is something that I personally don’t see a lot of in YA, and I found it to be quite accurately represented in the book. But as a whole, the narrative left me uncomfortable and disappointed.

The novel jumps between Kate and Olivia’s perspectives and I can’t say that I really enjoyed either of them at the start. I found Kate to be very manipulative and dislikable at the start of the novel and it took quite a while to get used to her character. I did start to enjoy her a little bit more as the book progressed and we got to learn about her past and who she is as a person. Olivia was a bit of an enigma throughout the novel and I felt like I still didn’t really know her by the time I reached the end. This might have been because her chapters were written in third person narration, instead of first person like Kate’s. It was just a bit hard to relate to her and understand where she was coming from. Overall, I felt like the characters in the novel were kind of stereotypical rich girls and I would’ve liked a bit more depth in their characters.

Beware That Girl wasn’t the thrilling and engaging story that I expected but there were some great mental health elements in the book. I just found the plot to be slightly confusing and uncomfortable to read and I couldn’t really latch on to the story or the characters.

Beware that Girl was released on 27th February, 2017 and is available at all Australian retailers for $19.99.

Review: The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release date: January 26, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 373
Goodreads || Book Depository

Love chose me, and I tried, but I couldn’t stop the arrow in its flight.

As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, fifteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of using her extraordinary sense of smell to mix base notes, top notes, and heart notes into elixirs that help others fall in love.

All while remaining incurably alone.

For Mim, the rules are clear—falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school existence—taking up a sport and limping away flush from victory, joining the debate club and saying things like “That’s a logical fallacy!” Having a boyfriend.

When she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the school soccer star to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that when it comes to falling in love, the choice isn’t always hers to make.

MY THOUGHTS

I have a few Stacey Lee books at home on my shelf but The Secret of a Heart Note is the first one that I’ve picked up, and it absolutely blew me away. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately and this was just what I needed. It was not only cute and a feel-good read, but also a really refreshing contemporary story with a sprinkle of magical realism.

This book follows Mimosa, who is one of two aromateurs left on the planet. Her role as an aromateur involves making love elixirs and playing matchmakers for the clients who visit her and her mother for help. These elixirs are based on the scents or notes of her clients and there are lots of intricacies involved. Mim has a superior sense of smell because of her being an aromateur, which brings a lot of pros but a few cons as well. There are lots of rules involved and not all of the rules are agreeable to Mim, especially the one dictating that she must never find love in her own life, or she’ll cease to be an aromateur due to her superior olfactory senses fading away. Having just recently gotten her reluctant mother to allow her to attend high school, rather than continuing to be home-schooled, Mim finds her time as a student in jeopardy when she accidentally gives the wrong target a love elixir. In order to fix this problem, she requires the help of Court, the rich boy and school soccer star, but quickly finds herself falling for him.

I thought this story was so adorable. It was whimsical and fun and I have to say that the magical realism really added to the story here. It made it a really unique and refreshing read and I fell in love with it from page one. But that wasn’t the only thing that I loved about the story. I really enjoyed all of the relationships that were explored in this book and I loved that it wasn’t only about romance but was also about familial love and the relationship between Mim and her mother. With the weight of the world and the family aromateur legacy on her shoulders, Mim has always felt that she needed to be exceptional in order to not disappoint her mother and to uphold the legacy of her family, even though she longs to just be an ordinary girl. It was really great to see Stacey Lee explore that in detail and to focus on those family elements in the novel. But that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the romance between Court and Mim. I found it to be really endearing and sweet, and I looked forward to every scene with the two of them. I liked the dynamics of the relationship, especially the forbidden love aspects, and it’s one of my favourite romance stories that I’ve read so far this year.

I also loved almost every single character in the book but Mim was definitely my favourite. She was an extremely relatable character because, while she had an extraordinary gift, her wants, desires and though processes were really ordinary and relatable. I admired her tenacity and her wanting to set things right whenever she made mistakes and I loved following her on her journey. I also absolutely loved Court, even though sometimes he made rash decisions that frustrated me. The other side characters in the book were all a lot of fun to read about and I really loved the reading experience because of how much fun I had reading about the characters and their antics.

Overall, I absolutely loved The Secret of a Heart Note. It was an extremely unique read and I finished it in two sittings because I was so captivated by the story. It’s one of my favourite books that I’ve read so far this year and I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a light read that will leave you with all the warm and fuzzies.

Review: Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Release date: January 1, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 464
Goodreads || Book Depository || Booktopia

After the scandalous events at her presentation ball in London, Lady Helen has taken refuge at the fashionable seaside resort of Brighton, where she is training to be a Reclaimer with the covert Dark Days Club.

As she struggles to put aside her genteel upbringing and take up the weapons of a warrior, Helen realizes that her mentor, Lord Carlston, is fighting his own inner battle. Has the foul Deceiver energy poisoned his soul, or is something else driving him towards violent bouts of madness? Either way, Helen is desperate to help the man with whom she shares a deep but forbidden connection.

When Mr Pike, the hard bureaucratic heart of the Dark Days Club, arrives in Brighton, no one is prepared for the ordinary evil he brings in his wake. He has a secret task for Helen and Mr Hammond, and the authority of the Prince Regent. They have no choice but to do as he orders, knowing that the mission will betray everyone around them and possibly bring about Lord Carlston’s annihilation.

MY THOUGHTS

This is the sequel to Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, which means that this review may contain spoilers for the first book.

Thank you to HarperCollins Australia for providing a review copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I read and really enjoyed Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club last year and was extremely excited for the release of its sequel this year. I loved Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact even more than the first book and it’s made me even more excited for the last book in the trilogy.

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact picks up a few weeks after the end of the first book and we follow Lady Helen as she starts her training. Meanwhile, Lord Carlston is acting increasingly strange and Lady Helen, as well as the members of the Dark Days Club, are concerned about Lord Carlson’s motives and his future. When Lady Helen is approached with a dangerous task that will betray the people she has grown to love, especially Lord Carlston, she struggles with what the right decision is. I really loved the entire plot of this book. I thought it was exciting and I didn’t find any of it to be predictable. I was kept on my toes for a lot of the book and I found the last third of the novel to be really exciting. The pace of the novel was quite slow for the first two-thirds but I didn’t mind it too much because I thought it set up the climax brilliantly. The ending of this novel really left me wanting more and I’m highly anticipating the third book in this trilogy.

I really, really enjoyed all of the characters in this installment and I really liked learning more about each of the characters and their backstories. I loved Lady Helen’s strength and intelligence. I loved reading about her journey and the way she approached the troubles she was facing. I also really liked some of the side characters and the role that they played in the novel. I’m not entirely sure how I felt about Lord Carlston in this book because he was kind of moody and wasn’t really himself. I’m looking forward to learning more about him in the next book. The only character who I wasn’t a big fan of in this book was Duke Selburn. I absolutely loved him in the first book but I found him to be extremely annoying and clingy in this novel. I honestly cannot wait to see how the trilogy is going to end.

As a whole, I was extremely happy with Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact. I thought it was a wonderful continuation to the story and I can already see a really exciting finale in store for us. I’m looking forward to learning more about the characters and the world, and I can’t wait to see how the story wraps up.