☄ Sunday, April 26, 2015

DNF Audiobook Review: Unbreakable by Kami Garcia (Never Again)

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

The Legion #1
Author:
Kami Garcia
Narrator: Candice Accola
Length: 6 Hours, 46 Minutes
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Reviewer: Sophia

Supernatural meets The Da Vinci Code in this action-packed paranormal thriller, the first book in a new series from New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia.

I never believed in ghosts. Until one tried to kill me.

When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon — a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon — battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.

Suspense, romance, and the paranormal meet in this chilling urban fantasy, the first book in a new series from Kami Garcia, bestselling coauthor of the Beautiful Creatures novels

Obviously choosing to dissect Kami Garcia's solo series as my next audiobook victim was a bad idea... a very bad idea...

Basically, I'm saying I give up on Kami Garcia. No offense, but after my horrid experience with the first couple of books of her Beautiful Creatures series she wrote with Margaret Stohl and then Unbreakable, I'm not sure I want to read another of her books (aside from maybe reading Dangerous Creatures).

Unbreakable sort of has a good idea – emphasis on sort of. Garcia's first debut solo novel follows Kennedy Waters, a girl who doesn't actually believe in ghosts until she finds her mother dead. Shortly after, a ghost makes an attempt to kill her as well, and is stopped by Lukas and Jared Lockhart, two brothers who are part of a centuries-old secret society made up of five members trying to stop a demon released by their ancestors hundreds of years ago. However, Kennedy isn't entirely too sure about whether or not she really belongs with this secret society called the Legion of the Black Dove.

For a person who doesn't watch Supernatural much, it's really weird when I get though, oh... 33 pages, that I realize a book is almost an exact carbon copy of the few episodes I watched.

For instance, there are two brothers in Supernatural and there are two brothers in Unbreakable. Are Sam and his brother identical? No.... not that I'm aware, which is only a small difference between the two books. Brother Pair 1 (Supernatural) and Brother Pair 2 (Unbreakable) apparently hunt demons for a living. At least, that's what I think Pair 1 did – correct me if I'm wrong, avid fans who are bound to be more accurate than me.

Oh, and there's a demon hunting around for a certain person... or a certain group of people. I'm pretty sure there was a demon hunting Brother Pair 1 for quite awhile in the episodes I actually watched (give me a break. I was bored. Supernatural just seemed interesting). Fun fact: possession involved in both TV show and book.

The mere fact that Unbreakable matched the few episodes (I believe they were reruns) I watched didn't bother me too much – it was a potential love triangle between Kennedy, Jared, and Lukas that eventually drove me up the wall. If Garcia isn't careful enough, the tension between Jared and Lukas could eventually set the book on fire – Lukas spends a good part of his time between fighting vengeful spirits and other things rubbing something that Jared did wrong in his face. It gets bad enough that both brothers reach the point of throttling each other's throats and Kennedy going between them and stopping them.

I felt like I was watching a scene from a Twilight (I'm starting to appreciate this series). Lux (because I totally snuck a few peeks in the third one), and pretty much any other book that has a love triangle in which 66% of them nearly start a brawl while the rest of the 33% pretty much yells, "STOP!"

By then, I was definitely not sticking around for five to go down to four just because of a mistake.

I did, however, like the world of Legion. It's certainly not a life I would want, but I definitely enjoyed the basic idea behind the series, Candice Accola's narration of Unbreakable, and the sound effects used in the audiobook.

2.5 Owls

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☄ Friday, April 24, 2015

Blog Tour: Supervision by Alison Stine - ARC Review + Giveaway

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Supervision by Alison Stine

Supervision
Author:
Alison Stine
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Publication Date: April 9, 2015
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Reviewer: Sophia

Something is wrong with Esmé.

Kicked out of school in New York, she’s sent to live with her grandmother in a small Appalachian town. But something is wrong with the grandmother Ez hasn’t seen for years; she leaves at midnight, carrying a big black bag. Something is wrong with her grandmother’s house, a decrepit mansion full of stray cats, stairs that lead to nowhere, beds that unmake themselves. Something is wrong in the town where a kid disappears every year, where a whistle sounds at night but no train arrives.

And something is wrong with the cute and friendly neighbor Ez’s age with black curls and ice-blue eyes: He’s dead.
Advanced copy provided by HarperVoyager for review on the blog tour – thanks!

Supervision was an interesting read – a very interesting read, and I'm not entirely too sure how I feel about this particular novel. The book definitely promotes diversity – the main character is apparently an Asian American character that doesn't actually follow the typical Asian stereotype (about time!).

In fact, this particular Asian American (her name is Esme) sometimes got to the point of making another Asian American (moi) wonder if she was just plain dumb. Not to be racist (not that I CAN be racist with my own race), but a chick who was smart enough to go to a private school in New York City with a scholarship has got to have come across the word "malicious" sometime throughout her scholarly career. Either that, or Esme was just extremely mind blown after being told she's dead, her brain cells stopped working for a second.

But that doesn't mean I'm saying I want an Asian sprouting textbook language.

There were, however, at times where too much was going on – my mind was running around and backtracking, rereading certain points of the book to attempt to get a better understanding and making connections from point A to point B. We have Esme sort of having a normal life in New York before some sort of subway tunnel scene that results in a flash of white light, which made me wonder if Esme is actually dead or dreaming. It finally results in Esme getting sent straight to a small town that is far from the spectrum of New York with her eccentric grandmother.

In all honesty, that particular scene that seems to be the ultimatum of sending Esme to Wellstone wasn't entirely confusing at first. But then we have a cast of ghosts that try to figure out why Esme can see, hear, and touch ghosts yet still experiences what the living experiences: two say Esme is dead, another says Esme isn't living or dead – she's in between. And between all of that, Esme tries to let her grandmother know she's okay (with fail), figure out why the Stationmaster is interested in her, uncovering the ghosts' pasts, and why at least one kid goes missing from Wellstone every year.

Half the time I feel as though Stine tries to build Wellstone in a supernatural way – it's obvious she seems to do a pretty good job in making the supernatural side of the town be as supernatural as possible. However, the other half of the time I feel as though Supervision would be a lot better explained if it were a movie with all the visual effects that Stine tries to apply at some points in the book.

In the long run though, Supervision was enjoyable and fun to read. While the concept was interesting, the book's movie version (should there ever be one) would probably be a lot more exciting and clearer than the book version.

3.5 Owls

Author Bio

ALISON STINE’s first novel SUPERVISION will be released by Harper Voyager UK in 2015.

Also the author of three books of poetry: WAIT (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011), OHIO VIOLENCE (University of North Texas Press, 2009), and LOT OF MY SISTER (Kent State University Press, 2001), she has worked as an actor, an artist’s model, a high school teacher, and a professor. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Ohio University, and is an avid urban explorer.

Author Links:
Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

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☄ Thursday, April 16, 2015

Audiobook Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu (You Can Be A Productive Napper?!)

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

The Young Elites #1
Author:
Marie Lu
Narrators: Carla Corvo, Lannon Killea
Length: 10 Hours, 9 Minutes
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Reviewer: Sophia

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Legend series.

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen. Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

Well, here's to my first audio book review (because napping on the bus for an hour isn't exactly productive and I'm one of those who gets a bit woozy if I read in motion). Bear with me if I fail, and feel free to criticize me away without actually being Rundus and calling me an ugly or dirty Communist in the process (apparently our friendship/cobloggership is a level 3: insult make fun of each other relentlessly).

The Young Elites, no matter how impressed I am that Marie Lu actually wrote from a villain's point of view instead of a hero's/heroine's point of view, is a book that I'm not too fond of and I'm not too sure why exactly. It's not entirely the narration – there's something amazing having someone else "reading" a book to me instead of me reading it myself (because I'm half asleep and I still manage to know what's being said). Of course... I had the misfortune fortune of actually being able to snag an ebook copy of this particular book on Overdrive, which eventually resulted in me wondering if I should continue on with ebooks... or if I should just stick with being unproductive (as Lupe suggests) for an hour every morning on the bus.

The starking contrast in having an audio book is the mere fact that there were some parts of the book that changed. Completely changed – some were taken out and replaced with something entirely different, or some had a few additions. Sadly, I'm not exactly a big fan of changes between the two. There's something highly annoying with an unabridged audio book not following the book (though I totally understand the audio book is probably a recording of an almost final draft).

I did have other problems though. For some reason, I can't stand Adelina, or the majority of the characters aside from maybe a few side characters. Problem? I don't really know why I can't stand Adelina. There's something about her that I don't like. Adelina seems to be extremely open-minded and dark, too dark.

I also can't stand the plot, no matter how interesting and complicated (because nothing can get more complicated than two or more potential villains) it is – both are absolutely ironic. Spoilers behold, but for an Inquisitor who's not only an Young Elite himself and totally "welcomed" Adelina into a deal/trap/whatever, Teren apparently hates Elites and wants to rid the world of Elites.

Let's just say the mean side of me wants to tell Teren to screw off because that's pretty much saying he wants to get rid of himself as well... after ridding the world of Elites. (Read: Should I find out the plot of future books of the series being anything like this, I'm tucking my tail between my legs and hightailing it straight out of here.)

I just feel as though the main point of the plot is Adelina trying to decide which side is right and being the mole of the Elites. In the long run though... she just chooses to go on a completely different path. Whether it's darker or not I'm not too sure I want to find out.

On a similar note, I don't think I can stand the common people either. The "Young Elites" are people who are survivors of a deadly plague that swept through the nation and have powers that aren't exactly normal. They also have scars, which are called "markings," and they're also called "malfettos." Of course, as soon as someone who can do some mind-blowing healing comes around, the people might actually be on board with the Elites and start kissing their shoes... right?

I liked The Young Elites, but I don't like it as much as I wish I could have liked it.

3 Owls
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☄ Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters (Insanity Much?)

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In the Shadow of Blackbirds
Author:
Cat Winters
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Amulet Books
Reviewer: Sophia

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

I had this random tendency to not write a review, at all, for Cat Winters' In the Shadow of Blackbirds, to which the copy at the library had an extremely sucky synopsis (though the design IS pretty):

In a city filled with the dead and dying,
while a nightmarish war rages halfway across the world,
the grieving look for answers in photographs and séances.

It's 1918. San Diego.
And a girl who doesn't believe in spirits
steps off the train and into a new life...

Apparently the one sentence synopsis provided by the publisher (yes, I read those) is a lot more helpful than this inside jacket cover synopsis, which gives a the book a mysterious aura that separates it from the other 2015-2016 Gateway Award Nominees.

The book, albeit a fantastically creepy concept, apparently goes from one end of the spectrum to the other end of the spectrum by the end of the book.

The so-called beginning of the spectrum I'm speaking of is the absolute, complete paranoia of the time period. Literally all of the characters depicted throughout the book was highly addicted to onions, spirit photography, or shunning the Germans. Of course, the more historical fiction and actual historical texts I read of World War I, I sometimes find it highly hilarious mainly due to the simple fact that Americans actually came from Europe and the majority of them have German blood (okay, a lot of ya'll have European blood). Funny how that actually works.

The only characters that I actually liked was Mary Shelley Black (thankfully the main character) and Stephen Embers (or rather, Live Stephen and not Dead Stephen, who actually spent a good few times squishing Mary Shelley). Both Mary Shelley and Stephen were more "adventurous" (logic and science) and tended to stray from the rest of the pack. On the unfortunate side... dear old Stephen Embers is apparently dead, which eventually results in the book being one of your typical ghost stories/shows where the dead have unfinished business.

However, in Stephen's case, all Mary Shelley seems to get from him is something about blackbirds - blackbirds attacking him.

The other end of the spectrum, as the book continues and Mary Shelley gets closer to finding out Stephen's "unfinished" business, is apparently the book going from the main character being the most logical and unparanoid one to being one of the paranoid ones. She goes from being one of the logical ones who reasons and questions everything to someone who "freaked" out over a cough or "drowning" herself in onions. Onions are apparently the garlic of the book while the vampire is the influenza.

Simply put, In the Shadow of Blackbirds started to become a little bit too "insane" for my taste and for me to handle at certain points until the very end. Cat Winters' debut novel was a chilling read that left me walking away feeling mainly satisfied with how Stephen and Mary Shelley eventually come to terms with their relationship.

4 Owls
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☄ Thursday, April 9, 2015

Review: Gates of Thread & Stone by Lori M. Lee

Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee

Gates of Thread & Stone #1
Author:
Lori M. Lee
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Skyscape
Reviewer: Sophia

In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.
Review Copy provided by Skyscape via Netgalley – thanks!

Much as I actually read the synopsis once when I first saw it months ago on Goodreads and then again before I clicked "Read Now" on Netgalley, I ended up forgetting the synopsis entirely by the time I started.

Except for one word: Labyrinth. Needless to say, I actually thought for awhile that Gates of Thread and Stone would be about a labyrinth. The Labyrinth of the Greek myths, per say, and when I actually read Gates of Thread of Stone, I checked the synopsis again to set myself on the right track (because when there's no one being sent as sacrifice, you know there's something wrong).

Gates of Thread and Stone is really about a girl named Kai living with her "brother," Reev, in a place called the Labyrinth, named so by its maze-like structure, and where the lowest of the lowest in Ninurta live out their daily lives. But one day, Reev disappears – just like many others – and Kai is determined to find her brother.

There's something about Gates of Thread and Stone that I really like. It's definitely not the world, even though I highly enjoyed Lee's world-building – each section (East Quarter, White Court, Void, Outlands, etc.) in Ninurta were set apart from one another and most even had their own nicknames (East Quarter = Labyrinth, North Quarter = Purgatory). It's most certainly not the amount of possible f-bombs in here as well, or what I'll assume as f-bombs, because "drek" by itself is certainly not sounding like crap or hell.

The characters were tolerable – Kai is a determined and persistent character who has an admirable strength and may sometimes be a little feisty. Irra is perhaps one of my favorite characters by far, being a dramatic yet eccentric advisor in assisting Kai and Avan finding Reev. In fact... he's a bit of an oddity compared to the other Infinites, who seem to be similar to gods and goddesses based on their description.

The plot was a little predictable and I was just waiting for a couple of parts to play out (I really should stop being Sherlock Holmes and just enjoy reading the book, but I can't help myself). While the end is similar to the end of Senshi and the beginning of Shinobi and doesn't seem to have a bigger plot that spans over to the sequel or more books.

Now that I actually took the time to write all that down, maybe it's the world-building that I liked the most. With the ending of Gates of Thread and Stone seeming to be a solid ending, I may read the sequel just to for the pure fun of seeing what Ninurta will be like.

4.5 Owls
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☄ Monday, April 6, 2015

Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch (A Gem. An Absolute Gem)

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Snow Like Ashes #1
Author:
Sara Raasch
Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Reviewer: Sophia

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Snow Like Ashes is a gem. An absolute gem.

At least... in a lot of cases.

Raasch's debut reminded me of Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series with the first three books jumbled together into one book - in a good way. The only difference between the two (aside from the fairies obviously) was the mere fact Meira has no memories of the kingdom of Winter aside from what the remaining refugees tell her. It's an interesting situation to devote loyalty towards a kingdom you haven't even seen before.

Meira might be another character I like... but only because she's like Kestral from The Winner's Curse - flaunts the rules and expectations the other refugees have for her (which is basically sit back and let the rest of do the work) and has spunk. She's also ambitious and extremely loyal, which could potentially be a downfall in the long run. In the case of trying to spare my brain from crying, I do hope Meira's loyalty and ambition won't lead to a fantastically tragic ending.

The love triangle is fabulous (no, the world hasn't ended). Both Mather and Theron are equally fantastic and humble - a rarity compared to many books I've come across in awhile, in which the majority of them focus far too much on developing the romance rather than developing everything else (like the plot!). Aside from the fact Mather spends a bit of his time being the next Adrian Ivashkov, I am totally peachy with this particular love triangle. No sarcasm intended.

The world Snow Like Ashes is set in is quite magical - a world with 4 Rhythm and 4 Season kingdoms in supposed balance with intriguing history, background, and conflict. Winter, despite the fact we aren't introduced to the kingdom until very later in the book, is imaginable from the memories of the refugees and Meira's dreams.

In all honesty, I have no regrets whatsoever for getting my hands on a copy of Snow Like Ashes when I saw it at the library - there is rarely a dull moment in this book and I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel when it appears at the library.

5 Owls
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☄ Friday, April 3, 2015

Blog Tour: Stones & Finger Bones - Excerpt + Giveaway

Tour Schedule
Title: Stones and Finger Bones (The Black Towers #1)
Author: Jessica Minyard
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo
Publication Date: February 10, 2015

Aurelia Barone, Jewel of Starry Stone, harbors no illusions about the purpose of her life as heir to the throne. But after two failed betrothals, she starts to feel like nothing more than a pawn being moved aimlessly about a game board.

Until the night she loses everything.

Kidnapped by a wise-cracking mercenary with more than one identity, Aurelia embarks on a mission across land and sea to avenge her father’s death.

But an evil is rising from the ashes of memory. Insidious magic is stirring. The dregs of a once-powerful nation are thirsty for blood and revenge.

They seek to harness Aurelia. To tempt her. To manipulate her.

And if necessary, to destroy her.

Excerpt:
1606
16th Day of Kuldakast

     You only truly know life when you have known death. When you have felt death reach icy hands inside your chest and settle ‘round your heart. When death has knocked on your door, beckoning, “Come, brother.”
     I should have died by now.
     My disease eats away at the body, taking bits and pieces day after day. The Maker’s fever, as they call it, is a curious ailment. Unpredictable. Unfathomable in its destruction. Virtually unheard of. There are only a few known cases of the Maker’s fever in hundreds of years of our race. The same magic that prolongs my meager life, destroyed it. Normally, extreme fatigue or unconsciousness will occur before someone reaches the point I did. But I went beyond the reach of my powers, further than anyone I’ve ever known. Reaching for energy that was not there. So now, I lie dying.
     The healers speculate thirty more days at best. Hopefully I’ll make it ‘til Bolvadur. I would dearly like to see the earth come alive once more. A year would be miraculous. By Maker’s chance I could be dead tomorrow. I’ve decided to write you, my dearest Erylie, as much as I can, for as long as I can. Maybe I can earn your forgiveness. I hope the most for your understanding. Understanding of my decisions. Understanding of how I became this man you claim not to recognize. This husk. Empty shell. A slave to my power and my king.
     I will not start at the beginning; there is little to be achieved by that. Let me start instead, at the beginning of the end.

Author Bio

Jessica wrote and illustrated her first story in the fourth grade. “The Dragon of Grindley Grun” was about an evil wizard, a princess, and a dragon who was actually a prince. She likes to think her writing has evolved since that very first story, even though she still writes about magic and evil wizards...sometimes.

She likes to sing loudly and dance on occasion without being particularly talented at either. Her interests include reading, writing, procrastinating, animal advocacy, musicals, accessories, memes, Harry Potter, and sweet tea.

Jessica lives in Kentucky with a spoiled pitbull.
Author Links:
Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

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