Monday, November 5, 2018

Blog Tour | Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean


Empress of All Seasons
by Emiko Jean
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 6th, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, 
Format: ARC
Source: Kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review 

Summary from Goodreads: 
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.
 
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Review

Empress of All Seasons is a young adult fantasy novel that has a Japanese folklore background. 

A contest to choose who the next empress of Honoku will be has three characters making life altering decisions that will not only change them but also shape an entire empire and the fate of its people. Told from the alternating perspectives of Mari, Taro, and Akira. 

Mari is a yōkai, she may appear to look human but hiding behind her face is a monstrous yōkai form. Feared by Honoku, Mari hides who she really is alongside with her village, a clan of Animal Wives yōkai. Animal Wives are strikingly beautiful woman expected to marry, get pregnant, and steal their husband's wealth in order to help support their clan who live in the mountains where yōkai are uncollared and free. However, Mari's mother has a greater goal for her daughter: to marry the prince of Honoku.

Since Mari was born plain, her mother has trained her in combat from an early age, often sending her off to kill others, in order for her daughter to enter the competition to become empress and steal the Imperial fortune. The empress of Honoku has always been chosen among women through a contest, which yōkai are forbidden to enter. If a woman can survive the elements of the four seasonal rooms of the Imperial Palace as well as the yokai contained inside them, then she will gain the title of empress. 

With great rewards comes great risk. In order to possibly win the hand of the Imperial Prince, Mari would have to risk having her true identity possibly being discovered alongside with certain death that would follow. Yokai have been hunted down, killed, and enslaved for years. 

Taro, the prince of Honoku, does not want to become prize to be won nor does he agree with the way his father treats the yōkai or the way he runs Honoku. Happiest left on his own to create unique inventions, Taro can't help but crave and yearn for a semblance of freedom. But even he can't deny the Mari's draw. 

Akira, son of both human and a ghost-yōkai, is Mari's friend who lives just outside of her village. In love with Mari, he follows her into the city where he finds himself learning how to fight and kill, in order to prove himself in hopes of winning her affections. While he is there training, he not only begins to make friends but also finds out information about others that can change the fate of everyone lives.


Empress of All Seasons blew me away! With an amazing plot, relatable characters, engaging narrative, and a wonderfully well-developed world rich with culture, this has got to be one of my top picks for 2018.

I absolutely adored this entire book! I began reading Empress of All Seasons completely overwhelmed with my excitement to be reading but also a sense of curiosity to see how it all will play out. There were many moments that left me dumbfounded by how Jean can capture the character's story, in their point-of-view, and make you feel so many staggering emotions. This book was an rollercoaster to say the least, but one that I definitely didn't want to hop off of. 

The writing was atmospheric and immersive, the world captivates you and the characters draw your attention with every decision and action they make. Jean's ability to give each character their own distinct voice was not only beautifully done but also very necessary in order to avoid any confusion as to who's perspective I was currently reading.

Mari was such an awesome character to read, and also my favourite throughout the book. I enjoyed reading her struggles with hiding the yōkai part of herself as well as the fact that she grew to fully embrace her identity as well as her people. I enjoyed reading Mari's character development, especially when she learned to embrace herself. It truly showed how much she shined and how fierce she is. 

This is a powerful story with such strong aspects such as duty, love, loyalty, family, discrimination, and facing life altering decisions. I highly recommend you pick this book up and give it a shot! 



Rating



About the Author

When Emiko is not writing, she is reading. Most of her friends are imaginary. Before she became a writer she was an entomologist (fancy name for bug catcher), a candle maker, a florist, and most recently a teacher. She lives in Washington with her husband and children (unruly twins). She loves the rain. 

Author Links:
Q & A

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

Emiko: I started writing in middle school as a hobby after reading so many fantastic fantasy novels. It wasn't until I was much older and out of college that I decided to seriously pursue writing. The second book I wrote landed me an agent and the rest is history ... sort of.




Monday, October 8, 2018

Review | The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The Darkest Star
by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published by Tor Teen
Expected Publication: October 30th, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance
Series: Origin - Book 1
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Provided by Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads: 
When seventeen-year-old Evie Dasher is caught up in a raid at a notorious club known as one of the few places where humans and the surviving Luxen can mingle freely, she meets Luc, an unnaturally beautiful guy she initially assumes is a Luxen...but he is in fact something much more powerful. Her growing attraction for Luc will lead her deeper and deeper into a world she'd only heard about, a world where everything she thought she knew will be turned on its head...

#1 New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout returns to the universe of the Lux in this brand new series, featuring beloved characters both new and old.

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Review:

Suspenseful and swoon-worthy all at once!


The Darkest Star centres around Evie, a seventeen-year-old girl, who is living in a tentatively calm world four years after an alien invasion that nearly conquered Earth and eliminated all of humanity. Becoming intrigued after meeting Luc, a hot and dangerous boy with purple eyes, Evie unknowingly gets drawn into a world of secrets that will change the entirety of her life.

Can I first and foremost say that The Darkest Star is an absolute binge worthy read. I have been craving more from the Lux world and can honestly say that this did not disappoint. It took me on a wild ride filled with awesome sci-fi with bits of romance and suspense. 

I absolutely adored the chemistry between Evie and Luc. The sparks between them was undeniable, it also didn't hurt that their banter was absolutely hilarious to read. Luc is as snarky as ever. With that being said, it is undeniable that The Darkest Star is an interesting and fun book to pick up and read. Even when I was sitting on the edge of my seat wanting to know what was going to happen next or bracing myself for the unavoidable conflict, I would often find myself smiling. It's because the  characters felt so authentic and relatable even when one is presented with a world where humans and aliens coexist. 




"And why aren't you wearing a shirt? Did you forget to put one on?"
"Putting on clothes is hard."
"Apparently buttoning your pants is too."




Armentrout creates such a beautifully woven world that keeps you endlessly wanting more. The Darkest Star is a page-turner that is really well-written with intriguing characters and a plot that will leave you reeling in shock. It also brought up some serious questions, especially in regards to what is going on in the world, about how we treat those that are different and are possibly dangerous. I don't want to spoil too much but, regarding the politics involving the Luxen, it does bring to mind inhumane behaviour that has occurred in real life (i.e. segregation). 


Something that should be addressed is that if you have not read the Lux series, there is no need to worry. Some characters from the Lux series are mentioned but overall this book can stand apart from the others. This is a thrilling and exciting book that will leave you waiting for more. 

Overall, I highly enjoyed reading The Darkest Star and can only hope that the sequel will come out soon! If you love action-packed books filled with aliens, suspense, drama, and romance then I highly recommend picking this book up. 




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About The Author:

# 1 New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jennifer L. Armentrout Lives in West Virginia. 

All the rumors you heard about her state aren’t true. 

Well, mostly. When she's not hard at work writing, she spends her time, reading, working out, watching zombie movies, and pretending to write.

She is the author of the Covenant Series (Spencer Hill Press), the Lux Series (Entangled Teen), Don't Look Back (Disney/Hyperion) and a yet untitled novel (Disney/Hyperion), and new YA paranormal series with Harlequin Teen. 

Jennifer also writes New Adult and Adult romance under the pen name J. Lynn. The Gamble Brothers Series (Tempting the Best Man/Tempting the Player) and Wait for You. Under her pen name, she is published with Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Review | Dare You to Lie by Amber Lynn Natusch

Dare You to Lie
by Amber Lynn Natusch
Published by Tor Teen on September 4th, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Series: Hometown Antihero - Book 1
Pages: 351
Format: ARC
Source: Provided by Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads: 
When her FBI agent father is framed for murder, Kylene is forced to move in with her grandfather, back to the small town that turned its back on her, and the boy who betrayed her.

All Ky cares about is clearing her father’s name, but someone won’t let her forget the photo scandal that drove her away two years ago. As the threats gain momentum, Ky finds an unlikely ally in the rookie FBI agent sent to keep an eye on her.

Determined to expose the town's hidden skeletons, Ky unwittingly thrusts herself into a much bigger plot. They thought she’d forgive and forget. They’re about to learn they messed with the wrong girl.

Buy Links:




Review:

DNF @34%


The first chapter was promising, it was well-written and had a plot that was not only set up well but seemed capable of holding a reader's attention. However, my opinion of this book quickly changed as I continued to read (and later skim) it. 

The MC, Kylene, is a juvenile at best, aggressive at worst. She has negative interactions with almost every person she comes across, including her friends, as well as trade insults with many more. If her behaviour and attitude don't annoy you enough then her hero complex/syndrome will be sure to do it. For example, during lunch hour Kylene happens to hear someone crying, comes across a car rocking, approaches it and finds a guy trapping a girl inside it. A fight then ensues between said guy and Kylene, who ends up rescuing the girl trapped in the car. 

I do not take domestic violence lightly, whether it be any type of violence (ex. physical, sexual, emotional, etc.). These are serious and dangerous situations that should not be taken lightly or made to make others laugh. With that being said, I do not believe that Natusch put this scene in to make a joke out of any of these situations. However, I felt like the whole situation was made light because of the rather idiotic fight. 

With that being said, Kylene does end coming across Amy, the girl she rescued from the abusive boyfriend, again. Due to Kylene's hero complex/syndrome, she believes that she is all-knowing when it comes to abuse. Amy, being an adolescent teen in high school, does not know how to help herself out of this situation, especially in a town that turns against victims and protects abusers.

Another scene was how her and her grandfather talked about the women and girls who go through abuse and stay with abusers. No one knows a person's circumstances, what they may be going through, or how they may feel. I think Natusch could have handled that scene a lot better and at a more respectful, mature, and educational manner. Honestly, I think that whole aspect, domestic violence, was unnecessary in this book and was written in a way that did not do justice to those who are or have gone through it. Any seriousness of this heavy situation was ultimately rushed around and pushed aside as the bigger aspect of the plot took centre stage. 

Almost every chapter depicts Kylene like a bully/mean girl, insulting those who disagree with her, shows her getting physical with others, or acting obnoxious and aggressive. I could not agree with her decisions, behaviour, attitude, and general lack of maturity. 


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About The Author:

AMBER LYNN NATUSCH is the author of the bestselling Caged series for adults. She was born and raised in Winnipeg, and is still deeply attached to her Canadian roots. She loves to dance and practice Muay Thai―but spends most of her time running a chiropractic practice with her husband, raising two young children, and attempting to write when she can lock herself in the bathroom for ten minutes of peace. Dare You to Lie is her debut YA novel with Tor Teen.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Review | The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting

The Good Luck Charm
by Helena Hunting
Published by Forever on August 7th, 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Kindly provided by Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads: 
Is it love, or is she just his good luck charm? New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Helena Hunting brilliantly captures the hilarity and heartache of first love and second chances in her sexy new romantic comedy.

Lilah isn't sure what hurt worse: the day Ethan left her to focus on his hockey career or the day he came back eight years later. He might think they can pick up just where they left off, but she's no longer that same girl and never wants to be again.

Ethan wants his glory days back. And that includes having Lilah by his side. With her, he was magic. They were magic. All he has to do is make her see that.

Just when Lilah might finally be ready to let Ethan in, though, she finds out their reunion might have nothing to do with love and everything to do with improving his game. But Ethan's already lost her once, and even if it costs him his career, he'll do anything to keep from losing her again.

Buy Links:




Review:

Hilarious, steamy, and heartwarming  from beginning to end. Helena Hunting has definitely scored with this one. 

The Good Luck Charm focuses on Ethan, a pro-NHL player whose career is on the brink of ending, and Lilah, a nurse who is changing her life for the better. When Ethan is traded from Chicago to Minnesota, he knows he needs to figure out why his performance has been declining and ultimately how to turn his game around so he can keep playing for the NHL. However, when he arrives back home he finds that his father has suffered from a stroke. It is there in Minnesota, sitting in his father's hospital room that he comes face-to-face with his first and only love, Lilah. For Ethan being back home has a whole bigger meaning that simply playing hockey, maybe this trade happened for a reason. 

Lilah's day has been miserable to say the least. From someone stealing her caffeinated beverage, to getting soaked out in the rain, to having her husband's lawyer showing up outside her morning meeting to serve her the final divorce papers so she can sign them,  and attempting not to cry during said meeting. She thought that signing the divorce papers ending her six-year marriage was the icing on the cake but a cherry was about to be added onto it in the form of the man who she looked up to since she was little being admitted to the hospital she works at and his son, her oldest friend and first love, sitting in the very room. Though Lilah has stayed in close contact with Ethan's parents, Martin and Jeannie, these childhood friends turned first loves have had nothing to do with each other since their break up 8 years ago.

Ethan, in hopes that he can explain why he broke up with Lilah 8 years ago and even possibly having a friendship, is undeterred by the walls she has built around herself. But as they begin to see more of and get to know each other all over again, old desires and attraction take over the two in the most steamy ways  possible. Soon Ethan's happiness of their reconnection is reflected in the way he plays but because of his superstitions he believes that it's all because of Lilah. Believing that she is the reason for his new found success, he makes her a part of his pre-game rituals and begins to see her more and more throughout the week. 

Lilah is determined to make and live a life for herself, starting off by going by to school in hopes of getting accepted into her dream school, University of Minnesota's master's program. Having spent eight years trying to get over Ethan's abandonment, she questions if letting him back into her life was the right call. Lilah, in fear of him leaving her again, becomes dependent on Ethan's need for her. Even when she knows that it becomes too much, when she has assignments due or tests to study for, she lets him lean on her in fear of what would happen if she should turn him away. If he lost a game because he couldn't see her, would he blame her? 


I was captivated by Lilah and Ethan's story from the very first page. Their connection and intricately woven history made it that much more entertaining to read. Neither one truly forgot one another, no matter the amount of years thats past, and as the secrets from their past were revealed and laid bare before each other I truly felt for the characters and what they had to overcome in order to be together. 

Honestly, it did take a some time to warm up to Ethan's character - he seemed rather selfish. It was like he truly believed that he could show up unannounced into Lilah's life and be welcomed back like all he said and done would be forgiven because he had a smirk on his face and a bag candy in his hand. Ugh! Lilah did play a small role in letting Ethan get away with this, due to her insecurities, by enabling his behaviour and allowing him to walk all over her life with little to no resistance but that changes as the story continues to unravel. She begins to see that in giving up her priorities that she is not only giving up the path she wants but also a part of herself. 

As the story progresses, I got to see a whole other side of both characters from how they matured from young teens to adults who know what they want from life and what their willing to do in order to get it as well as how they reconnect and build through all the pain from their past and also take the time to hear what the other person needs. The way Helena Hunting portrayed this honest and true depiction of young love was truly awe-inspiring. 

I absolutely adored the second chance romance aspect of this book. I think it was portrayed realistically and stayed true to the pain and vulnerability each character was going through and yet how compassionate, strong, and determined they became in their love for each other. Their chemistry sparked with each page they shared. Hunting knew how to write it so you can tell that they were meant to be together. 

In the end, I have to give The Good Luck Charm is one of those books that will stick with you not just because of how hilarious and cute it is but also because of the raw and powerful moments that just make you sit there for a minute and take in what they must have felt. I would definitely love a sequel or even a spin-off on some of the awesome secondary characters like Carmen or Emery. 

I recommend you pick up this book immediately if you love second chance romances, realistic stories, or simply contemporary books.






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About The Author:

Helena Hunting is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She lives outside of Toronto with her her amazing family and her two awesome cats, who think theist place to sleep is her keyboard. She writes all things romance - contemporary, romantic comedy, sports, and angsty new adult. Helena loves to bake cupcakes, has been known to listen to a song on repeat 1,512 times while writing a book, and if she has to be away from her family, she pretends to be in warm weather with her friends.