Archive | November 2016

Review: The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

the-secret-of-a-heart-note-stacey-leeAn evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs

Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—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 experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.

At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.


4 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**The Secret of a Heart Note comes out December 27, 2016**

If you want a story filled with a diverse cast of characters and a little bit of magic thrown into your every day lives, then The Secret of a Heart Note is the book for you.

Mimosa, or Mim as she liked to be called, was a very intriguing protagonist. She was different (obviously, what with her special nose that could scent practically as well as a bloodhound), but she still held those same desires of any teenage girl her age. I liked that she was relatable yet still so interesting to read about due to her unique abilities that run through her family.

The world building, including the history of aromateurs and their ways, was fascinating and I very thoroughly enjoyed the quotes from aromateurs past at the beginning of each chapter. Even though she lived in California, a very familiar location that should not come as a surprise to anyone for the setting of a contemporary novel, the whole world felt so different when described through Mim’s eyes (or should I say, through her nose?). Stacey Lee really went into detail about the different scents for different emotions, and the ingredients that go into the makings of their love potions. The in-depth details of how their concoctions even work, and the rigorous rules they must follow in their line of duty to their special olfactory abilities was fascinating. I was thoroughly pleased to gain such insight into how it looked like being in Mim’s life.

Because, after all, it wasn’t all so easy being her. ‘Cause apparently, an ancestor cursed them from falling in love at the risk of losing their noses.

Beyond the world building that was superb, I really enjoyed the diverse ethnicities and cultures that were represented in the characters. Mim’s best friend was Samoan, one of their main clients was African American, and a star soccer player was Asian. It was great. I have never seen such representation in the YA genre before in one book. I normally don’t mind so much, but being Asian myself, I’m very proud of Stacey Lee trying to be so inclusive in her writings. I look forward to reading some of her other works because they seem to follow this same pattern. If you like seeing diversity in your books, I’d definitely think this story (and author) is for you!

The only problem I had with the story was, oddly enough, the romance. I did not enjoy it as much as I had hoped. Frankly, I didn’t care much for the love interest, to the point that I’ve even forgotten his name. Sure, I felt bad for Mim when there were misunderstandings because high schoolers of course would not understand what it means to empathize with those who are different. When their relationship got rocky (’cause of course it would), I just felt really sad for her, but I couldn’t bring myself to care as much as I would if I had thoroughly enjoyed the two of them together. Don’t get me wrong, this book was lots of fun and portrayed themes that were important. The romance was obviously a huge glue in the story as it’s a story about falling in love, after all. I just wish the love interest had a bigger personality that didn’t bore me.

Needless to say, I am very glad to have found this story. Lee is being added onto my list of authors to read more from, and I think you should give her a try too. Be sure to check this book out when it hits stores!

Overall Recommendation:
The Secret of a Heart Note was my first Stacey Lee book, and it’s opened my eyes to how a well-done story about falling in love, with a diverse cast and a hint of magic and fun, should look like. With every person holding a unique scent made up of many different scent notes, Mim and her family hold the unique ability to hone in on these to make potions to guide people to love. A very unique idea that was marvellously written with a witty and humorous voice, this novel is sure to entertain. If only the central romance had held more of my interest, this book would honestly have been one of the best of the year for me.

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Review: By Your Side by Kasie West

by-your-side-kasie-westIn this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?


4.5 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**By Your Side comes out January 31, 2017**

Rating: 4.5 stars

You know a story is amazing when you zip through it so fast that you don’t even realize you’re almost to the end until you’re practically there. I thought By Your Side would take me longer to finish, but oh boy, was I in for a surprise! This is a contemporary novel that you should definitely pick up in the new year.

Autumn is the most relatable girl I’ve had the pleasure of reading about this year. Yes, I may love strong characters and those girls who do things I wish I could do as well as they do, but sometimes, you just need one of those girls who seem to understand you intrinsically.

Autumn is that girl for me.

She has anxiety attacks and that is really relatable to many young women, me included. But she is strong and tries her best to not let it deter her from living life. Being trapped in a library by herself that is barely staying warm over a long weekend, I’m sure most people would find it hard to remain calm too. (Of course, being that the building IS a library….it might be the best place to be in if I were to choose a building to be stuck in)

The boy she ends up being trapped with is a bit stereotypical. A hardened young man who is going through the foster system and a rough childhood, Dax is the picture of seriousness. But Autumn’s witty (and sometimes sarcastic) comments are like minor victories when they bring out a tiny smile or amused look on his face.

Their romance was beautiful. It was never rushed and totally done right. Kasie West is a genius when it comes to writing romances that make you wish the characters get together faster, but pull you in anyway as you anticipate nervously. This one was no exception. It was a glorious slow-burn process that had you hooked from the beginning. Their friendship was slow too, as Dax didn’t do commitments or attachments. He wanted freedom over anything else. He was just waiting for that time to come. Meanwhile, Autumn was hoping for a relationship to come about, although maybe with the wrong guy.

This story is beyond the simple plot of a girl and a boy being trapped in a library together and falling in love. It’s about falling for someone even when you least expected it. It’s about learning more about yourself, taking care of yourself sometimes even when others need you as well. It’s about courage in sharing our hardest secrets and hoping others will still look at you the same.

By Your Side is one story you don’t wanna miss in 2017. It’s the best yet of Kasie West’s stories. I can’t wait to see more.

Overall Recommendation:
I’m a huge fan of Kasie West’s works, but By Your Side blew me away. With a seemingly simplistic plot revolving around two very different teens stuck in a library together for a long weekend, this story is so much more than that. Autumn is such a relatable protagonist and her friendship (and later, romance) with Dax is honest and full of trust. This is what a relationship should look like in real life and in stories! How can you not root for these two through their journeys of self-reflection and love? You definitely must add this to your 2017 to-read list!

Review: The Wish Granter by C.J. Redwine

Series: Ravenspire #2

the-wish-granter-cj-redwineAn epic, romantic, and action-packed fantasy inspired by the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, about a bastard princess who must take on an evil fae to save her brother’s soul, from C. J. Redwine, the New York Times bestselling author of The Shadow Queen. Perfect for fans of Graceling and the Lunar Chronicles.

The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop.

Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.

So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.

But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul.


3 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperColins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**The Wish Granter comes out February 14, 2017**

The premise of this story was a unique spin on a less common fairy tale that C.J. Redwine opted for, that being Rumpelstiltskin. Let me start off by saying that our protagonist, Ari, was a breath of fresh air. What do I mean by that?

Well, 1) she wasn’t a thin rod to start off with, where time and time again she was described as having “generous curves”. 2) She wasn’t a true princess by birth, but rather a bastard one. Like, how often do you have the main character as the bastard offspring? She and her brother Thad made the story more interesting with this angle of animosity against them by the kingdom they ended up leading. 3) She has this undying love for all things baked – pies, cakes, you name it. I dunno why this point had to be construed so many times to the reader, but I suppose it made Ari different too.

The choice of fairy tale was entertaining as it’s not as overdone as other ones, ahem *Snow White like in The Shadow Queen*. The Wish Granter and his (literally) bloody contracts threatened peace in the kingdom of Sundraille. After reading Redwine’s previous Ravenspire novel not so long ago, it was nice to get to know another kingdom in this world she had created. There was creativity put into spinning this tale in her own way, including Ari’s path of discovery to destroying The Wish Granter, Alistair Teague.

I enjoyed the tense emotions running seeing the ruthless underground network of Teague’s employees in the city of Kosim Thalas. I loved the excitement pumping when reading about the sneaky ways people were ensnared in Teague’s fine print contracts (because of course, I knew they’d be saved somehow – not a fairy tale for no reason). And I loved that there were guest appearances from other sources. For example, near the beginning of the book, some of you may be delighted to see the reference to Lorelai and her dragon prince. I sure was. But I almost fan-girled to see a badass version of Hansel and Gretel pop into the plot as well. I kinda wish there would be a separate story on these twins in the future. Maybe in the story for the fae kingdom of Llorenyae? *Here’s to hoping*.

So why doesn’t this have a higher rating?

Well, for starters, my heart just wasn’t into the romance. Gasp! I know, right? The romance is everything.

Here’s why. The chemistry between Ari and Sebastian was okay, at best. It didn’t light any fires in my heart. It didn’t make me rush through the pages in hopes that they’d get their happily ever after. No, I just felt…indifferent. I may have liked Ari’s fiery personality and quick thinking, but Sebastian felt too clichéd to me.

Now, don’t go hating on me but his broken family situation and physical abuse in childhood made him into a very quiet man with many issues to overcome. That’s to be expected. But sometimes reading from his POV, it just brought down any romantic mood. I liked him enough, I suppose, on his own. He tried to do his best by the princess he thought he didn’t deserve to be friends with, but he’s just a broken hero at the end of the day. Maybe in fairy tales a princess’ love can change a man and overcome any problem, but it just seemed to be a little clichéd. And I just didn’t feel true chemistry beyond falling for each other due to intense circumstances.

Although the plot of the story was unique, it also was a little predictable towards the end. The climax really picked up, but for the most part, it dragged. It took me a while to finish this book. Yes, I was busy, but if it was really exciting, I’d have set time to finish it no matter what. And the conclusion to the big question, how do you destroy the Wish Granter and his binding contracts?, just felt too simple. And predictable. And frankly confusing. I can’t give away any answers without ruining it, but honestly, her final plan in play (that related to the original tale) felt unnecessary in getting rid of Teague.

So I have good points and not-so-good points to make. At the end of the day, it was still an interesting enough read. Would I recommend it? Maybe not. Unless you really enjoyed book 1 in the Ravenspire series, The Wish Granter might just be a pleasant afternoon read that doesn’t quite stir your blood pressure.

Overall Recommendation:
The Wish Granter was a different take on the Rumpelstiltskin story with a leading character that had a fiery personality and might be more relatable to some readers. The story continues as a companion novel to the Ravenspire series by Redwine and it’s up to standard with her previous work. However, lack of true chemistry between the leads, slower pacing throughout and somewhat predictable ending after all that buildup left a bit of disappointment behind. I will probably only recommend it to those who loved The Shadow Queen and to those who aren’t expecting a grand spin on this fairy tale.