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Sue's Reading Corner

where YA books are reviewed

Blog Tour: Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Summary

In a palace of illusions, nothing is what it seems.

Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku in this beautifully written, edge-of-your-seat YA fantasy.

Sourced from Goodreads

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Review

Hey, everyone! So excited to be a part of this blog tour! It was a real treat to read Emiko Jean’s Empress of All Seasons and I can’t wait to talk more about it. 😉

Firstly, I really did appreciate the different POVs in this book. Whether it was how they were woven together to tell a story or just sharing another character’s view, I was all in! You would also see that same character in the eyes of another main character, which would make the former even more developed. My only qualm with the novel character-wise is that by the end, while the plot seemed rushed, the character development couldn’t catch up enough for my liking. I felt that if the story went on for at least another book, then this sudden shift in a particular character could be explored. But all readers get is a jarring change in a particular character rather than the subtle development of others.

Another really great thing I loved about this book was the world it was set in. It was yokai versus humans with Akira in the middle, not really knowing where he should stand. There are the Animal Wives and Mari’s failure to fit in with them. Taro disagreeing with his father’s views but cannot openly oppose them. All these characters have something in common: they all want more. To pair these wants with rich Japanese mythology makes it even better! Plus, if there are any fans of The Selection, you definitely should give this book a read!

Overall, I was really taken by this book, which is kind of weird since I haven’t been into fantasy lately… but if I got into it, it probably says something good about the book! Anyways, for anyone who is interested, Empress of All Seasons is already in stores near you! And if you have any questions about the book, feel free to leave a comment in the section below.

Q & A from the Author

Sumaya: Out of the three different points of view in the novel, did you have a favourite point of view?

Emiko: Yes. This is difficult to admit because as I writer I’d like to say I love all my characters equally but I loved Akira most. He was the character I developed first. I love his origin story. And I also identified with him the most. He feels that he straddles two worlds, yōkai and human, and as a mixed-race person I am very familiar with that feeling.

Well, that’s all for now. Have a wonderful day!

– Sumaya

I received an advance reader’s copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review.

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ARC Review: Love à la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Summary

Take two American teen chefs, add one heaping cup of Paris, toss in a pinch of romance, and stir. . . . Rosie Radeke firmly believes that happiness can be found at the bottom of a mixing bowl. But she never expected that she, a random nobody from East Liberty, Ohio, would be accepted to celebrity chef Denis Laurent’s school in Paris, the most prestigious cooking program for teens in the entire world. Life in Paris, however, isn’t all cream puffs and crepes. Faced with a challenging curriculum and a nightmare professor, Rosie begins to doubt her dishes. Henry Yi grew up in his dad’s restaurant in Chicago, and his lifelong love affair with food landed him a coveted spot in Chef Laurent’s school. He quickly connects with Rosie, but academic pressure from home and his jealousy over Rosie’s growing friendship with gorgeous bad-boy baker Bodie Tal makes Henry lash out and push his dream girl away. Desperate to prove themselves, Rosie and Henry cook like never before while sparks fly between them. But as they reach their breaking points, they wonder whether they have what it takes to become real chefs. Perfect for lovers of Chopped Teen Tournament and Kids Baking Championship, as well as anyone who dreams of a romantic trip to France, Love à la Mode follows Rosie and Henry as they fall in love with food, with Paris, and ultimately, with each other.

Sourced from Goodreads

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Review

Hey, everyone! Today, I’ll be talking about Love à la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm. Now, I remember first hearing about this book and being really excited. Not only was it about a boarding school set in France, this boarding school is actually a prestigious cooking school as well! I was definitely getting Anna and the French Kiss vibes with some competitive drama to boot! And while it was an okay read, I wouldn’t rank it with my favourite contemporary novels.

Firstly, my main concern was with the main characters. Rosie and Henry were pretty nice together, but alone, they’re kind of boring. While I loved those cute moments between Rosie and Henry, I prefer characters that I could root for based on their personality or empathy for them. Don’t get me wrong: in the beginning, I did like both characters. However, that changes when Rosie becomes a bit bland for me (I think she would have been perfectly fine in the early 2010s, though) and Henry begins to take out his frustrations on Rosie.

I did like the school, though, as well as the experience studying in France. I’ve been a big fan of reading boarding schools since forever, and thought that this book had a fun take on boarding school life. Also, the story really goes into detail about backstory of the school as well as characters within the novel, which I really appreciated. It made things easier to imagine and gave more depth to the story.

Overall, while I didn’t get into Love à la Mode as much as I wanted to, I wouldn’t discourage readers from checking it out if they like cooking or baking. By the way, Love à la Mode can be found in bookstores on November 27th, 2018, for those of you who are interested! Do you have any recommendations for great boarding school books, though? If you do, feel free to leave them in the section below.

Take care, everyone! And keep reading! 🙂

–  Sumaya

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

Summary

Introducing an exciting new series! Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this diverting mystery trails a feisty heroine as she takes on a precarious secret assignment.

Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past.

Sourced from Goodreads

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Review

Hey, everyone! Sorry I haven’t been posting lately. You’d think by this point I would learn to give notice for these things, but no! 😀 Hopefully, if I ever decide to take a break again, I’ll be more considerate in the future.

Well, this time around, I want to talk about A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee. Where do I even begin? There’s so much to talk about. First of all, I’d like to say that this is the first historical fiction I’ve read in quite a while; the last one was in 2013 or 2014. I just never got back into it for some reason. But I thought I’d give this one a whirl because of the elusive Agency mentioned in the blurb. I wanted to see how this would fit into the Victorian period. To be honest, I’m a little disappointed with the Agency since it didn’t live up to my standards of what I thought it should be. There was just so much potential for it. But ultimately, I realize that this is the first book and it might set up stuff for the next books instead of giving everything at once, which would just be too much.

While the book was pretty slow in the beginning, it did pick up by about halfway through. Then there were so many different theories about what everyone was up to that I could hardly keep up!

I felt kind of the same way about Mary Quinn. In the beginning, I didn’t really get a sense of character from her; she just seemed flat. Maybe it was her delivery or because she was pretending to be a paid companion at first. Either way, I wasn’t really sure about Mary until much later, like near the end of the book. I’m not saying she isn’t resourceful or clever, because she is. I just didn’t really connect with her as much as I could have, excluding one part in the middle and as the novel was near its end.

Well, that’s all I have to say about A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee. I don’t know if I’ll go on to reading the second book in the series, mainly because of the really slow beginning but also because of the lack of information that was given about the Agency, and now that I think about it, Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. At the moment, they seem more like tools used to explain Mary’s purpose within the story rather than being separate entities with entirely developed functions and histories. But hopefully if I ever do continue reading the series, this will change. If you have any questions about A Spy in the House, feel free to share them in the Comments Section below!

Have a nice day!

– Sumaya

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 45

Hey, everyone! Happy Labour Day to anyone enjoying their long weekend! 😉 It’s always pretty nice to have an extra day, even though by the end of it, you wish you had ten more! But it’s also Monday, which means it’s time for another “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” post, hosted by Kathryn @ Book Date. Good news is I finally finished my first audiobook since fifth grade! It only took two weeks, but it was definitely worth it for the number of things I learned while listening! 😉

What I Read Recently: 

90s

What I’m Currently Reading:

What I’m Planning to Read Next: 

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Well, that’s all for now! I hope to read all of these by the end of the week, but life will probably get in the way! 😀 What’s everyone else reading at the moment?

–  Sumaya

Revamping Which Cover Wednesdays

Hey, everyone! So, today I want to talk about Which Cover Wednesday. Now, for those of you who don’t know, Which Cover Wednesday was a meme I hosted where I would compare two covers of the same book and give my opinion on which one looks better. As of late, I haven’t written a Which Cover Wednesday post, but I want to start again soon.

However, it will be different. Instead of a comparison of book covers, I’m going to share a bunch of gorgeous book covers and give a little more detail as to why I like it. I’m really looking forward to it, as I have seen a lot of new covers that make me stop and stare!

If you have any questions or thoughts, though, feel free to leave them in the Comments Section below.

Have a nice day, everybody!

– Sumaya

Retellings I Would Definitely Recommend

Hey, everyone! Since reading A Blade So Black, I really wanted to share more retellings with you all! I find that a good retelling not only shares a story that had a lot of appeal to carry on over to today, but also adds something new and different, building on the story and making it more than it was before. Here are just some of the books I’ve read over the years that I would 100% recommend!

Well, those are my retelling recommendations! Do you have any retellings you’d like to recommend? Feel free to share them in the Comments Section below!

Have a nice day!

–  Sumaya

ARC Review: Analee, in Real Life by Janelle Milanes

Summary

Ever since her mom died three years ago, Analee Echevarria has had trouble saying out loud the weird thoughts that sit in her head. With a best friend who hates her and a dad who’s marrying a yogi she can’t stand, Analee spends most of her time avoiding reality and role-playing as Kiri, the night elf hunter at the center of her favorite online game.

Through Kiri, Analee is able to express everything real-life Analee cannot: her bravery, her strength, her inner warrior. The one thing both Kiri and Analee can’t do, though, is work up the nerve to confess her romantic feelings for Kiri’s partner-in-crime, Xolkar—aka a teen boy named Harris whom Analee has never actually met in person.

So when high school heartthrob Seb Matias asks Analee to pose as his girlfriend in an attempt to make his ex jealous, Analee agrees. Sure, Seb seems kind of obnoxious, but Analee could use some practice connecting with people in real life. In fact, it’d maybe even help her with Harris.

But the more Seb tries to coax Analee out of her comfort zone, the more she starts to wonder if her anxious, invisible self is even ready for the real world. Can Analee figure it all out without losing herself in the process?

Sourced from Goodreads

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Review

Hey, everyone! It’s been a while since my last review, but I’m back to talk about Analee, in Real Life by Janelle Milanes! From the moment I read the summary, I knew I had to read this book! Not only does it include online gaming, but it also has that fake relationship I love seeing in YA books! But if you think the book met my expectations, I need to tell you something. It didn’t.

It surpassed them!

First of all, I really loved Analee’s perspective. She was honest and relatable, to the point where you could root for her in almost any given scenario, even when you can admit she’s being unreasonable. I think it’s because I knew where she’s coming from since we’re given access to her internal monologue. While she isn’t as open with everyone else, as a reader, you can see the contrast between her personality when she’s more comfortable with people versus when she isn’t as comfortable. To be honest, I liked how this book tackles social anxiety and how it affects both the socially anxious person and the people around them. The book doesn’t magically cure her in the end just because she starts hanging out with a boy, but it does show Analee’s resolve can overcome her anxiety when she really wants to accomplish something, whether it’s reading in front of children to making a toast at her dad’s wedding.

Additionally, I liked the depiction of connections Analee had in the novel, past and present. You see her older relationships through flashbacks while the newer ones are forming within the novel and become more concrete as the novel progresses. Analee doesn’t shy away from the grief she feels since her mother’s funeral, which is a big part of the novel. It did leave me teary a lot of the time, but I also wanted to read those beautiful moments between her and her mother! You could see similar flashbacks in regards to her father and friend as well since the bonds between them changed drastically within two years. It helped convey the tension between them in the present pretty well.

I could say so much more about the novel, like how it was the first RPG book I loved since Gamer Girl, or how I loved that whole fake-boyfriend ordeal, where it really reminded me of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but I’m going to leave it here for now. If anyone wants to talk about it further, feel free to leave a comment in the section below! Ultimately, I admire how Analee handles things, especially at the end of the novel. It wasn’t the ending I expected, but that’s what made it so great! And for those of you who are interested, Analee, in Real Life comes out on September 18th, 2018!

Thanks for reading, everyone!

–  Sumaya

I received an advance reader’s copy from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Toronto Prose Mill’s Second Issue is Available to Read!

Hey there, fellow readers! Just wanted to let you know that Toronto Prose Mill, a literary journal focusing on short stories written by Canadians, just published its second issue! If you’re interested in short stories, then you should definitely check it out since these stories are amazingly compelling from beginning to end!

For more details, follow the link below:

https://torontoprosemill.wordpress.com/2018/08/24/issue-two/

Thanks for reading, everyone!

– Sumaya

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 44

“It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” is hosted by Kathryn @ Book Date.

Hi, everybody! It’s time for another post of “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” I’m actually pretty excited for this week’s books since this is the first time since 2005 that I’m listening to an audiobook! 🙂

What I’ve Read Recently:

Analee, in Real Life

What I’m Currently Reading:

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What I’m Planning to Read Next:

labyrinth-lost

Well, those are my reading plans this week! What is everyone else reading at the moment?

–  Sumaya

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