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.

Book Haul: February 2017

I did pretty well this month when it came to book buying. And this can probably be attributed to my reading slump. But I did receive a lot of books this month so let’s get into the haul.

BOOK DEPOSITORY

Some of these were preorders and others were just books that I’ve had my eye on for a while. I can’t wait to get into them and hopefully they’ll be able to get me out of my massive reading slump.

RECEIVED

I received a few books from publishers this month. Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for Windfall, Bloomsbury for The Edge of Everything, Allen & Unwin for Defy the Stars and Hardie Grant Egmont for The Secret Science of Magic. Looking forward to reading and reviewing all of those books. I also received a pile of books from Jeann that I’ll be reviewing on Happy Indulgence at some point. Love, Ghosts & Nose Hair and A Place Like This were from University of Queensland Press. Thanks to Bloomsbury for Letters to the Lost and Walker Books for Wing Jones. Jeann also sent me Before I Fall, which I want to read before I see the movie.

In February I also won a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology in a giveaway. And I picked up  two books from ‘pay for postage’ sales on the Aussie YA Readers and Bloggers group: We Were on a Break and Love May Fail. I also included the two books that came in the February Fairyloot in this section, even though they were purchased and not received. The box came with Caraval and How to Think Like Sherlock.

Wrap Up: February 2017

My February wrap up is coming a little bit late this month because I’ve been in a huge reading and blogging slump recently. Even though I’m still ahead on my Goodreads reading challenge, I’ve definitely read much fewer books in the past two months than I usually do. But I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things soon!

1. Good Boy – Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy  

I’ve been really enjoying Sarina Bowen’s books lately and Good Boy was another great new adult romance story. The main characters were side characters in the Him Us duology and I really enjoyed learning more about them and seeing their relationship develop.

2. Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy – Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson & Robin Wasserman  

I love the Shadowhunter books. I could never get sick of this world and I highly enjoyed this short story collection. What I loved about it was that it was more than just a collection of short stories. They were all tied together by Simon Lewis’s experiences at the Academy and I liked this overarching storyline. I also really loved being about to read about some of the other beloved characters from this world. Highly recommend!

3. Love, Hate, and Other Lies We Told – Deirdre Riordan Hall  

It’s been a while since I’ve read any women’s lit and I thought Love, Hate and Other Lies We Told was a really great read for Valentine’s Day. It had a really cute and interesting premise and I thought the characters were really relatable.

4. How Not to Fall in Love – Deirdre Riordan Hall  

This is a companion novella to Love, Hate, and Other Lies We Told. It was short and sweet and I really loved the romance in this book. The main characters had great chemistry and I enjoyed reading about them separately as well as together as a couple. Plus, the male lead bakes chocolate chip cookies so what’s not to love?

5. Wires and Nerve – Marissa Meyer & Douglas Holgate  

I love love loved this graphic novel soooo much! It’s a brilliant continuation to The Lunar Chronicles quartet and I was just so happy to be reunited with all my favourite characters. The book is mostly about Iko but it featured a lot of Cress and Thorne, as well as Cinder. I’m super excited for the second volume to come out next year!

6. The One Memory of Flora Banks – Emily Barr  

This was a contemporary that I was really, really looking forward to but I was left feeling quite disappointed with it. While I appreciated the coming of age story, there weren’t very many elements that I actually enjoyed. I found the main character to be frustrating and the premise of the book, while interesting to me at the start, left me feeling cold.

7. Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact – Alison Goodman  

This is the sequel to Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club and I enjoyed it just as much as the first book. While it was a bit slow-paced, I loved how the story developed and all the action that was in the book. There was also a lot of great character development and I’m excited to see how it all ends.

8. Love, Ghosts & Nose Hair – Steven Herrick  

This is an Aussie book that is written in verse and I found it to be charming and emotional. It’s a story about grief and follows sixteen-year-old Jack and his family. I loved the format of the book and how the story was so profound even though the book was quite short. And I also really loved the characters and how they all dealt with the loss in different ways.


What was your favourite book that you read in February? I need recommendations to get me out of this reading slump!

AUS GIVEAWAY: We Come Apart, One, & The Bombs That Brought Us Together

sarah-crossan-brian-conaghan-giveaway

We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan was released in Australia a few days ago and I have a full review of the book here. It’s a book about immigration, racism and bullying and I absolutely fell in love with it.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia, I am giving away a copy of We Come Apart, along with One by Sarah Crossan and The Bombs That Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan to one lucky Australia-based winner. One is the winner of the 2016 Carnegie Medal and is a story written in verse about conjoined twins. It was a highly emotional book and I have a full review of it hereThe Bombs That Brought Us Together is the winner of the 2016 Costa Children’s Book Award and is a sci-fi dystopian novel about war and friendship.

GIVEAWAY RULES

  • This giveaway is only open to Australian residents.
  • The giveaway will until Sunday 19th March at 11:59pm AEDT.
  • There will be ONE winner who will win all three books listed above. The winner will be randomly drawn and contacted through email. If I don’t receive a reply within 48 hours, I will randomly draw a new winner.
  • You will be required to provide me with a shipping address if you win and Bloomsbury Australia will be shipping the prize to you. If you are under 18, please make sure you have parental permission to share your address.
  • I will be checking all entries so no cheating please.
please click this link to enter through Rafflecopter.

 

Review: We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan

we-come-apartPublisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Release date: March 1, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
Goodreads || Book Depository

Nicu has emigrated from Romania and is struggling to find his place in his new home. Meanwhile, Jess’s home life is overshadowed by violence. When Nicu and Jess meet, what starts out as friendship grows into romance as the two bond over their painful pasts and hopeful futures. But will they be able to save each other, let alone themselves?

For fans of Una LaMarche’s Like No Other, this illuminating story told in dual points of view through vibrant verse will stay with readers long after they’ve turned the last page.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for sending me a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I have no words for how much I love this book. It was raw and honest and I could not have asked for anything more from it. I loved the themes of racism, immigration and love in the novel and it was just one of the most poignant stories I’ve read in a while.

We Come Apart is a story that is written in verse and from dual perspectives. If you’ve never read anything by Sarah Crossan, you must because her ability to tell stories in verse is out of this world. I’ve previously read One and The Weight of Water and they were both amazing. I haven’t read anything by Brian Conaghan but this book made me really excited to check out his solo work. I really loved the two perspectives in this book and I thought they worked wonderfully together. The book alternates perspectives every few pages and I really enjoyed this because it gave me a really good idea of what they were both thinking about a certain situation or event. The book doesn’t have headers telling us whose perspective we’re reading from but it’s completely clear who is speaking because the voices were so different.

Nicu, our male lead, is an immigrant from Romania and speaks in very disjointed English. I particularly loved his voice and never found it to be difficult to understand. The reason why I loved his voice so much was because he expressed every thought and feeling in a pure and honest manner because of his inability to speak English fluently. The way that he tried to describe his thoughts was just so unflinching and relatable that it was impossible not to love his voice and his character. I also highly enjoyed Jess. Her voice wasn’t as ‘meaningful’ to me as Nicu’s but I thought she was still a very relatable character and even though, she’s very different to who I am as a person, I still connected with her story and empathised deeply.

i was extremely taken by the story of We Come Apart. Jess and Nicu meet at a Reparation Scheme for juvenile offenders. They are both having trouble with their families and this draws the two of them together. Nicu’s family is staying temporarily in North London so that they can earn enough money to pay for teenage Nicu to take a wife back in his village in Romania. Despite his repeated protests, Nicu’s family has no interest in what Nicu wants and are determined for him to return to Romania and get married as soon as possible. Nicu wants badly to stay in London and get an education, but at school, he is severely bullied by his classmates and teachers for being different and a person of colour. Jess lives with her mother and abusive stepfather, who regularly forces Jess to video record while he beats up her mother. Jess’s mum doesn’t seem to have any intention of leaving and Jess isn’t strong enough to do anything about it either. She spends her days lashing out by stealing and engaging in behaviours that would be frowned upon. But when she meets Nicu, the two of them open up to each other and are there for each other. What I appreciated about this friendship and relationship was that there was a very natural and gradual development. The two don’t start off as fast friends but gradually develop into two people who understand each other. I loved the development in their characters and Jess’s change from being a prejudiced teen like her schoolmates to being a more tender and empathetic person.

If I had one small criticism, it would be that the ending of the book was a little bit rushed and not very resolved. I finished the book feeling like the authors left me hanging a little and would’ve liked more resolution. However, I was still extremely satisfied with how the book played out and how relevant the issues it explores are to society today. It’s an important story that needs to be read!

We Come Apart is released on March 1st, 2017 by Bloomsbury Australia. It is available at Australian retailers for $17.99.