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Sue's Reading Corner

where YA books are reviewed

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Contemporary YA

Review: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis

Summary

I’ve got seven days to come clean to my new dad. Seven days to tell the truth…

For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.

Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded.

But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks.

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Review

Hi, wonderful readers! Today, I would like to talk about Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis. Now I knew I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it. The only problem is I was so hesitant about starting it. What if it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be? Lately, I’ve been having more of these thoughts when I start a book, so now I give myself full authority to read five chapters and if it isn’t going well, I can put the book down. Obviously I didn’t put this book down since I loved it!

Another reason I was apprehensive about Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now is that I didn’t know what to expect when reading this book. Tiffany’s personality isn’t discernible from the book jacket, so I didn’t have any inkling on if I would like reading in her perspective. But right from the getgo, I loved Tiffany Sly. It was really easy to relate to her as well as side with her opinion. I just got sucked into the story to the point where I audibly gasped on the subway. 😀

Since this was more of a character-driven novel, plot wasn’t as much of a concern in comparison. However, there was the deadline that was given at the start of the novel of a week before Tiffany’s other potential father shows up demanding a paternity test. Other than helping readers determine the chronology of the novel, it sets a tone and creates a tension that keeps both Tiffany and the reader in suspense. This deadline as well as the backstory of Tiffany Sly clashing with her current situation of living with a huge family means a lot to cover in one novel. This is the main reason I’m sympathetic that the author had some loose ends, which she didn’t pursue. All I can say is that the book is well worth the read!

Well, that’s all I have to say for now! I really recommend everyone who likes contemporary to read Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis. If you have any questions or thoughts though, feel free to share in the Comments Section below.

Take care and keep reading!

–  Sumaya

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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.

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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.

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?

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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.

Review: Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka

Summary

Megan Harper is the girl before. All her exes find their one true love right after dating her. It’s not a curse or anything, it’s just the way things are, and Megan refuses to waste time feeling sorry for herself. Instead, she focuses on pursuing her next fling, directing theatre, and fulfilling her dream school’s acting requirement in the smallest role possible.

But her plans quickly crumble when she’s cast as none other than Juliet–yes, that Juliet–in her high school’s production. It’s a nightmare. No–a disaster. Megan’s not an actress and she’s certainly not a Juliet. Then she meets Owen Okita, an aspiring playwright who agrees to help Megan catch the eye of a sexy stagehand in exchange for help writing his new script.

Between rehearsals and contending with her divided family, Megan begins to notice Owen–thoughtful, unconventional, and utterly unlike her exes, and wonders: shouldn’t a girl get to play the lead in her own love story?

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Review

My rating:

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Hey there, fellow readers! Today, I’ll be reviewing  Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka. Now, I remember seeing this book on Goodreads last year and knew I had to read it! The premise just sounded so intriguing! And I loved the fact that it covered theatre, since I love reading about the performing arts. Luckily, this book didn’t get lost in my TBR pile!

One thing I could say about this book is that I really sympathized with the protagonist. Megan wants love, but at the same time, believes herself to be “the girl before”, never to fall in love herself, but help others fall in love. Even though this “curse” seemed a bit of a stretch for a contemporary novel (it could honestly be a legitimate thing in fantasy, though), I imagine that this sort of thinking might help her cope with the fact that she’s getting dumped for true love’s sake. At least, that’s what I saw in the case of her best friend, Madeleine, who got together with one of Megan’s exes. It kind of sucked that she didn’t stick up for herself until near the end of the novel; that she actually does deserve to be happy, whether in a romantic relationship or with her family ties. But this is where her core development lied, so it’s understandable.

Also, I liked that, for the most part, the novel portrayed positive relationships between Megan and her family members. In the beginning, she feels out of sorts with where she belongs, and throughout the novel, she tries to figure out her place in her ever-expanding family. But no one tries to shut her out or make her feel less important intentionally. In fact, it’s the opposite, which I felt was a nice change to some of the dynamics I’ve seen in the past when it came to divorce, family, new partners, and children.

Overall, this novel was a good read, although it did leave me with a few loose ends. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a sweet contemporary novel! And if you have any thoughts on Always Never Yours, I’d be happy to hear them!

Take care, everyone!

– Sumaya

ARC Review: Scream All Night by Derek Milman

Summary

A darkly hilarious contemporary realistic young adult novel about growing up and finding your place in the world, perfect for fans of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Running With Scissors.

Dario Heyward knows one thing: He’s never going back to Moldavia Studios, the iconic castle that served as the set, studio, and home to the cast and crew of dozens of cult classic B-horror movies. It’s been three years since Dario’s even seen the place, after getting legally emancipated from his father, the infamous director of Moldavia’s creature features.

But then Dario’s brother invites him home to a mysterious ceremony involving his father and a tribute to his first film—The Curse of the Mummy’s Tongue. Dario swears his homecoming will be a one-time visit. A way for him to get closure on his past—and reunite with Hayley, his first love and costar of Zombie Children of the Harvest Sun, a production fraught with real-life tragedy—and say good-bye for good. But the unthinkable happens—Dario gets sucked back into the twisted world of Moldavia and the horrors, both real and imagined, he’s left there.

With only months to rescue the sinking studio and everyone who has built their lives there, Dario must confront the demons of his past—and the uncertainties of his future. But can he escape the place that’s haunted him his whole life?

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Review

My rating:

Hey there, fellow readers! I recently read Scream All Night by Derek Milman and I’ve got to say that I really enjoyed it! At first, I was a tiny bit skeptical that I would like it, what with it being compared to Nice Try, Jane Sinner and all. I loved Nice Try, Jane Sinner right off the bat, so when I didn’t like this one right away, I thought it was a sign that I wouldn’t like the book as well. But it’s just that Dario is definitely his own character and comparing him to Jane Sinner wasn’t really fair of me. Thankfully, I kept on reading to see what happened next and I’m glad that I did!

What did I like about this book? Where do I begin? Other than it obviously being in the realm of the entertainment industry and Moldavia Studios itself having an elusive history, I really liked the relationships represented in this book. From Dario and his family, to Hayley and Moldavia as well, this book explores all Dario has left behind when he was forced to leave home as a child. All these connections made him the person he is today, whether he wants to admit that or not. In the end, Dario has to figure out how to accept his past if he wants to start the next chapter of his life.

I really liked the pacing of the story as well. Even though a lot of time has passed, that can easily be explained away by how oddly time can move being secluded in Moldavia. This made the story more fast-paced and less involved in the details. It also contained little articles that helped push the story along, whether it was about Moldavia Studio’s founding, Dario’s parents, or Zombie Children of the Harvest Sun, the movie Dario and Hayley starred in when he was young. Honestly, it was kind of hard to finish this book since that meant leaving the characters and their compelling stories.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book by Derek Milman and glad it was recommended to me. If you like reading about B-rated horror movies, the ongoings of the entertainment industry and people trying to figure out their place in the world, you should definitely check out Scream All Night. It comes out on July 24th, 2018. Also, if you have any questions about Scream All Night or any recommendations on books like Scream All Night, feel free to comment in the section below.

Have a nice day, everyone!

– Sumaya

I received this copy from a publicity agency via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Review: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say by Leila Sales

Summary

Before we go any further, I want you to understand this: I am not a good person.

We all want to be seen. We all want to be heard. But what happens when we’re seen and heard saying or doing the wrong things? What then?

When Winter Halperin—former spelling bee champion, aspiring writer, and daughter of a parenting expert—gets caught saying the wrong thing online, her life explodes. All across the world, people knows what she’s done, and none of them will forgive her.

With her friends gone, her future plans cut short, and her identity in shambles, Winter is just trying to pick up the pieces without hurting anyone else. She knows she messed up, but does that mean it’s okay for people to send her hate mail and death threats? Does she deserve to lose all that she’s lost? And is “I’m sorry” ever good enough?

First and foremost a novel about public shaming in the internet age, If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say is also an exploration of the power of words, the cumulative destructiveness of microaggressions, and the pressing need for empathy.

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My rating:

Hi, everyone! I’m back with another review, this one being on Leila Sales’ latest book, If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say. I, for one, more think that this book could be great for book clubs, at least the discussion part. At least, I felt the need to talk about it with whoever would listen, even to people who didn’t read the book. Especially to people who didn’t read the book. I wanted to hear their opinion on the hypothetical situation of someone saying the wrong thing on the internet. Do they deserve empathy? Or do they deserve being stripped of everything they’ve achieved so far in their life?

One thing I can say is that Winter’s a pretty interesting character. She may be a little naive and grasping at straws sometimes, but at least she tries to be a good person. She’s just someone whose mistake was plastered over the worldwide web trying to get her life back. Not only that, but this book shows how it affects others in Winter’s life, from her parenting expert mother to her sister at college, even her friends and their tightly-knit group.

While I did like the character development, the plot was a bit slow for me. Some places, I just skimmed through to get to the parts that dealt with character development. Don’t get me wrong; the book was engaging to a certain degree. It just didn’t keep my attention when it got to the slower paced parts.

Well, that’s all I have to say about If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say for now! While I did like This Song Will Save Your Life a lot more than this book, it was pretty solid character-wise. Have you read Leila Sales’ latest novel yet? Or any of her previous ones? Feel free to talk about them in the Comments Section below!

Thanks for reading, everyone! And happy Canada Day to all the Canadian bloggers and readers out there!

– Sumaya

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

Review: Final Draft by Riley Redgate

Summary

The only sort of risk 18-year-old Laila Piedra enjoys is the peril she writes for the characters in her stories: epic sci-fi worlds full of quests, forbidden love, and robots. Her creative writing teacher has always told her she has a special talent. But three months before her graduation, he’s suddenly replaced—by Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist who is sadistically critical and perpetually unimpressed.

At first, Nazarenko’s eccentric assignments seem absurd. But before long, Laila grows obsessed with gaining the woman’s approval. Soon Laila is pushing herself far from her comfort zone, discovering the psychedelic highs and perilous lows of nightlife, temporary flings, and instability. Dr. Nazarenko has led Laila to believe that she must choose between perfection and sanity—but rejecting her all-powerful mentor may be the only way for Laila to thrive.

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Review

My rating:

Hi, everyone! I’ve recently finished reading Riley Redgate’s newest novel, Final Draft! I think I liked this one even better than Noteworthy, the other novel I’ve read by her! At first, I was a bit apprehensive about the story not being as good, and didn’t want to read it as much when I thought about it. But I’m glad I did, because I liked it a lot!

If I had to pin down what I liked most about this book, it would be the character development. Our protagonist Laila starts off as unsure and scared to show other people her work. But throughout the novel, we are constantly being shown ways she is taken out of her comfort zone, which definitely helps her grow. Not to say that she didn’t go down a dark path for a bit, but overall, it benefited her to hear criticism about her work and how she should strengthen it.

I did like reading about the other characters as well! I’m liking what I see lately in the books I read where the book isn’t solely focused on the main character and everyone fades into the background. I loved learning more about Hannah, Leo, and Felix. I even got to learn more about Laila’s family and its history. I hope I can read more books like that in the future.

Well, that’s all for now! Overall, I really liked reading this book – way more than I expected, in fact! Have you read Riley Redgate’s other novels? Did you like them? Feel free to answer in the Comments Section below! And any questions you may have are welcome as well!

Have a nice day, everyone!

– Sumaya

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

ARC Review: Love Scene, Take Two by Alex Evansley

Summary

Debut author Alex Evansley delivers a sweet summer romance in this inventive novel about a young heartthrob and teen author falling in love.

Teddy Sharpe is kind of famous. He might actually be on his way to being really famous, especially if he’d nailed an audition for the lead role in the movie adaption of the newest bestselling young adult book series. There’s just one problem: He totally blew the audition. And he’s stuck in a tiny North Carolina airport. And his maybe-ex-girlfriend kind of just broke up with him.

The weekend isn’t exactly looking good until Bennett Caldwell, author of the very book series he just auditioned for, takes pity on him and invites him to her family’s lake house. Away from the glitz and glam of Hollywood for a few days, Teddy starts to relax . . . and somehow he and Bennett just click. But dating is hard enough when you aren’t the subject of several dozen fanblogs, and the Internet is full of juicy gossip about Teddy and Bennett . . . gossip that Bennett might not be prepared to handle.

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My rating:

blue3

Hello, fellow readers! I’m back with another review! Today’s review is on Love Scene, Take Two by Alex Evansley. From the blurb alone, I knew I wanted to read the book. It had all the things I liked: movies, acting, writing, YA novels, a romantic relationship between the actor and writer. But even with all these factors going for the book, I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

Don’t get me wrong; the beginning was pretty great. I loved reading Teddy’s perspective and seeing how nervous he was with things that mattered to him. Also, it allowed readers to delve a bit more into his character to understand the motivations behind his actions. And yeah, I didn’t always agree with his choices, but most of the time, I understood where he was coming from (except this one part where, for the life of me, I can’t wrap my head around).

And then the POV switch happened and Bennet became the protagonist. This is when things started to go downhill for me. I just felt as if Bennett’s POV was too much for me sometimes, because I didn’t understand the reason why she pushed Teddy away. Maybe it was because of trust issues or just because she’s a private person. Either way, it doesn’t explain why acted the way she did after knowing someone for two days! And what’s worse is that we know she can be witty and a joy to talk to, seeing how she was in the first half of the novel through Teddy’s POV, but by the second half, she’s pretty reclusive and is prone to biting people’s heads off. I’m not saying that protagonists shouldn’t have an off day or feel angry or lash out, because that’s the whole point to them being relatable. What I don’t like is the fact that her feelings seem too strong for barely knowing someone. But that’s just my opinion; feel free to disagree!

Well, that’s all I have to say about Love Scene, Take Two by Alex Evansley. It wasn’t as great as I thought it would be, but overall, it was okay. If anyone wants to read it though, the book is coming out this Tuesday June 12th!

Have a nice day, everyone!

– Sumaya

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

Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Summary

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

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My rating:

Hi, everyone! I’m back with another book review, this one being on The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. Now, while the book’s summary did entice me when I first heard about it, I soon realized that this was a book written in verse, which I’m not really used it. But I gave it a chance nonetheless, and I’m glad that I did, because this book was amazing!

In the past, whenever I have read poetry. it usually got me in this confused state where I felt I had to interpret every single line and I still wouldn’t get it. This book is probably a bit different, being narrative poetry, but I found myself racing through the pages, wanting to read more. Not only did I appreciate the way the story developed, but I also appreciated how it was written. It made me reconsider reading poetry and and got me to read The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace (which is a pretty good book, btw).

As for the characters, I really appreciated how complex they were in this book. Before reading The Poet X, I would assume that poetry wouldn’t have been able to delve into someone’s personality, at least enough for me to be satisfied. But I love how this book proved me wrong, describing a lot of Xiomara’s experiences and how they defined her. The relationships she has with her friends and family as well as what they mean to her are fully in view, even the messy contradicting bits.

Overall, The Poet X is a fantastically written book that I would recommend to anyone, even people who say they don’t like poetry! 😉 Have any of you read The Poet X? If so, what did you think of it? Let me know in the Comments below!

Thanks for reading, everyone!

– Sumaya

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