March Mini-Review Madness

Did anyone else do a bracket for March Madness this year? My husband’s family is super into sports so we do a family competition every year. This year, I really didn’t put much thought into it and ended up barely beating my nephew (who is 4). I know games are still being played, but at this point I don’t have any of the top 4 so…I’m out. But on to the reviews!

mini-reviews

A Darker Shade of MagicA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I’d been meaning to read this series for forever and I’m so glad that I finally picked it up! I love the covers and am looking forward to one day having the whole series on my shelf. I thought the initial world explanation all happened really smoothly. Schwab also did a great job of making Kell (and Lila) super likable right from the start. She’s obviously put a ton of thought into this world with the magic system and languages. I appreciate that she doesn’t shy away from hard decisions (i.e. killing characters, no spoilers). Where I was most amazed, though, was how she managed to create a sympathetic character out of Holland (at least, for me). I get the sense that he isn’t as evil as he portrays himself. Don’t get me wrong, he did some truly evil things in this book, but I still sympathize with him for some reason? And she doesn’t even tell us that much about him! That’s what’s truly amazing. 4.5/5

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

VoicesVoices by David Elliott [ARC]

I’ll premise this review by saying I know almost nothing about Joan of Arc. I wasn’t going to pick up this book, but then I read an excerpt and found it really compelling. I’ll also say real quick that I know pretty much nothing about poetry and what makes good poetry. So take my comments with a grain of salt, I guess. With that being said, I thought the poems were interesting and beautiful at times. I really liked the perspectives from the different objects and I found the fire to be especially impactful for some reason (though I do feel like the fire’s last poem was missing, but maybe that was just because I had an ARC?). I also really liked the short sections that were quotes from her actual trial. In the end, I used to know nothing about Joan of Arc, and now I feel like I know a little bit about her. 4/5

Note: An ARC of this book was provided to the library where I work.

eBook | Hardcover

The Girl Who Drank the MoonThe Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Trigger warning: Intended infanticide

Ever since having a baby myself, I’ve found mentions of babies dying to be really hard. So the beginning of this book was difficult for me. But then we get into it and Xan is amazing and I love her for saving all the babies. I really enjoyed all of the (good) characters in this book and the found family aspect was really fun to see. Luna, in particular, was a great character though I wish we’d gotten to know her and her personality a little bit better. I thought the ending was fantastic and tender and so much more than I had even realized I wanted it to be. The only thing about this book is that I question its middle grade-ness. I feel like if I was middle grade age, so much of this book would just go straight over my head. Only as an adult do I feel like I can even scratch the surface of what this book is about. 5/5

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

The Other EinsteinThe Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

This book was not my cup of tea. First of all, it’s never clear throughout the whole book which parts are completely fictionalized and which parts are true or partially true. I think I needed an author’s note in the beginning or something because I felt pretty confused throughout most of the book. I didn’t like any of the characters and found most relationships between characters to be stifling. I felt like Mileva was an extremely weak character and I just wanted her to stand up for herself. I also came out of this book completely hating Einstein which is kind of a weird feeling… 2.5/5

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A country music love story | You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn [ARC]

You'd Be MineAnnie Mathers is country royalty. Her parents were both popular country singers and songwriters, but due to their tragic deaths, Annie is wary of following them into the spotlight. Clay Coolidge is currently country music’s hottest up-and-coming bad boy and when he asks Annie to join him on tour, she reluctantly accepts. As the tour and the summer progresses, Annie will have to decide just how far she wants to follow in her parent’s footsteps and whether her journey might have the same ending.

TL;DR – Flawed main characters have a surprising amount of depth. The author did a great job of creating emotion when I wasn’t expecting it.

Preorder: eBook | Hardcover

First, I’m just going to say that I really don’t like this cover. When I saw it on my Netgalley list I was like, “Man, why did I request this?” But then I read the synopsis and remembered. I’m always down for a good celebrity romance book, but I was actually really surprised by how into this book I was. I could not put it down! As a new mom, I don’t really have time to read for hours at a time and I don’t always feel like picking up a book when I’ve got a spare 15 minutes, but I just kept coming back to this book. I wanted to know what would happen, but I also just really liked the characters–especially Annie.

The overall plot is nothing special, but I thought Annie’s conflict was really compelling. She kept seeing herself and Clay as an echo of her parents and she (obviously) didn’t want to end up like them. I thought she was realistically hesitant about getting into a relationship with Clay.  Hahn also did a good job creating this tragic backstory for Clay without it being too much. Secondary characters were pretty good, but they didn’t have a ton of depth. They were mostly around to support the main characters, but they were still enjoyable.

I also liked that for once we’re given a Christian character in YA who isn’t holier than thou or super prude–Annie is just normal! She mentions her faith a few times, but it isn’t overdone and this isn’t a Christian fic book. I also loved how Annie told Fitz that she doesn’t drink and he was super respectful of that. He just said, “I won’t ask again”. I love that!

I did have a few issues with the book, but they were super minor compared to everything else. First, I couldn’t tell if the author is a fan of country music or not? It mostly reads like a love letter to country, but every once in a while I felt like there was a little dig at the genre. Second, books about/with music are always hard for me because inevitably we get some lyrics, but there’s no melody so it just feels like something’s missing–I’m not getting the full effect. And sometimes I just really want to hear these songs! Lastly, when Annie writes and sings her song “You’d be Mine”, I feel like the first half of it is obviously about her parents while the second half is about her and Clay. But the characters only ever focus on the Clay section–I wish that Annie and the other characters had discussed that this is the first song she’s writing about her parents. It just felt really significant but it’s literally never addressed.

Overall, I was very surprised by how deep this book was. I thought it would be a light, summery celebrity romance, but there was so much more emotion than that. Hahn does a fantastic job exploring grief and how different people choose to deal with it. There were several parts in the book where I legit cried and I just wasn’t expecting that from this book. It was very close to a five star book for me, but not quite.

Overall Rating: 4.5
Language: Heavy
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday Minis [Mini-Reviews]

This month has been great for me so far reading-wise. I’ve gotten super into the Lumberjanes comics lately (I’m planning on writing a full review on the series when I’m finished). I’ve also been reading some non-fiction and book club picks. Here are some mini-reviews for you on some books that I’ve finished the last couple of months.

mini-reviews

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

Dividing EdenRight off the bat, I’m super aggravated by the way that Andreus’ curse is dangled in front of our faces. They literally never explain what his “curse” is and it sounds like he just as asthma maybe? Which doesn’t actually seem like a big deal…but maybe I’m wrong because, again, THEY NEVER EXPLAIN. Overall, Andreus was such an annoying character. He was just so stupid and I literally don’t think he made a single good choice. Carys was better, but both she and Andreus mentioned how Carys is really good at making deductions and seeing things that others wouldn’t, but we never really see that happen either. Lastly, I would think that the bond between twins is stronger than it’s made out to be in this book. Carys obviously still cares about her twin, but Andreus drops her as soon as humanly possible once the competition starts. Again, he is so stupid. 2/5

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

On a SunbeamThis is a book that I picked up on a whim at the end of my shift one day. I don’t have a ton to say about it, but I thought it was really interesting and the artwork was beautiful. It’s really amazing how graphic novels can convey so much in one panel when it would take pages in a novel. I liked how the beginning of the book really stuck to the different color schemes to help the reader tell the two timelines apart. As the stories came together, the color schemes did as well and I thought that was really cool. I also really liked the fish ships and the world building in general was just really interesting. From what I could tell, it seems like this world (galaxy? universe?) is only populated by women, so if you’re looking for queer romance, this book is saturated with it. Lastly, I really enjoyed how much depth the secondary and minor characters had. It was surprising, to be honest, I mean even the school bully had this depth that didn’t get totally explored, but was touched on. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Paperback

Bonnie & Clyde: The Making of a Legend by Karen Blumenthal

Bonnie and ClydeI didn’t know very much about Bonnie and Clyde before reading this book. The author does a really good job throughout helping the reader to see what parts of their story is known as fact, what is believed to be true, and what is complete myth. Newspapers at the time weren’t super concerned with reporting that absolute truth and were more interested in the drama that was inherent with Bonnie and Clyde. A lot of times if something went down and the cops couldn’t figure out who it was, the newspapers would blame Bonnie and Clyde. Another thing I found interesting was that the cops at the time seemed to be SUPER incompetent. There wasn’t really any training. A lot of people just joined the force because they needed a little extra money and their regular work wasn’t cutting it. That’s part of the reason why Bonnie and Clyde were able to evade capture for so long. The last thing I really liked about this book was that the author had panels on each person that Bonnie and Clyde killed. Over time, Bonnie and Clyde have become wildly glamorized, but it’s important to remember that they killed A LOT of people. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

CoralineI saw a few clips from the movie a while back when it came out, and that kind of turned me off to reading the book. It was just kind of…weird. And I think I remember the other Miss Spink and Miss Forcible were wearing some pretty scandalous outfits? Anyway, I wasn’t really planning on reading this book, but then I did and I’m glad I decided to! This book was creepy and weird in all the best ways. I loved the cat–he was probably my favorite character–and Coraline was not far behind. She was super spunky and also a believable child. I think she had some intelligence and seriousness that made her feel more mature, but it wasn’t unbelievable that a child would act like that. I would have liked a little bit more of a hunt with Coraline looking for the marbles, but the story also felt really tight as it was. I just think it would have made it a little more fun, but I guess it wasn’t really a fun situation to be in. I liked how the story ended too, with part of the other mother making it into Coraline’s world. I think there’s some symbolism there (and throughout the book) that I’m probably missing, but I enjoyed it. I just need to figure out how to get my husband to like the name Coraline now… 4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Paperback

A book in which I anticipate a love triangle forming pretty much the whole time | Windwitch by Susan Dennard

Note: This is the second book in the Witchlands series and may contain spoilers for the first book. Click here for my Truthwitch review.

WindwitchSafi and Iseult are now separated. Safi has given herself up to the Empress of Marstok and Iseult is left waiting for word from Mathew and Habim. When word doesn’t come, she finds herself making a tentative truce with Aeduan, the Bloodwitch. If he can help her find Safi, she will tell him where his silver talers ended up. Can the bond between Safi and Iseult withstand the miles and trials between them?

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

TL;DR – A solid follow-up to the first book. Characters are diverse in a natural way and the author does a great job making all of our narrators sympathetic.

This book started off a little bit slow for my taste, but it picks up momentum rather quickly. I think it would have been fine for readers who are reading the series one book at a time, but not so much for those of us who are bingeing the first three books in the series. These books feel really thoughtfully written to me. I really liked how Dennard is able to use things like a storm or an earthquake to help the reader to know when things are happening. Since virtually all of our characters are separated, it helps to know that these two events are happening at the same time and so on. In addition, without giving any kind of spoilers, I knew that Chiseled Cheater was going to play a more prominent role. I waited for him to show up the entire first book and I was thrilled at his appearance.

The dynamic between Merik and Vivia is really interesting throughout. I really enjoyed getting Vivia’s perspective on things because, in the first book, Merik portrays her as this evil, power-hungry person. She’s actually extremely likable, in my opinion, and it’s crazy to me how neither of them can see how manipulative Serafin is. I think Merik said at one point that Serafin wouldn’t waste his time or energy pitting his children against each other, but he very clearly has wasted a LOT of time and energy doing just that. Speaking of Merik… I know this kind of gets explained later in the book, but he’s always talking about how weak his witchery is, but he’s never seemed particularly weak to me. I mean, he can still use his powers to fly so…just how weak can he be?

Another thing that I’ve enjoyed in this book and series is that Dennard has done a great job including diversity without hitting the reader over the head with it. I feel like when diversity is so “present”, it kind of defeats the purpose. I think what we diverse readers are looking for is for diversity to be included in an authentic and organic way. Undue attention does not need to be drawn to it. I feel like Vivia’s sexuality is handled really well, in that regard. She obviously thinks about her relationship with Stix from time to time, but it’s not something that gets brought up in every single paragraph. I also appreciated the vitiligo rep with Cam. I don’t think I’ve EVER read a book that included a character with vitiligo.

The plot got a little more confusing in this book. It clearly feels like this book is being used to set up events in future books. That’s not necessarily bad, but there are some things that just feel like they don’t quite make sense yet.

While I really enjoyed this book overall, there were a few things that I didn’t quite care for. Fairly early on in the book, Iseult calls the Puppeteer by name, Esme. I didn’t remember her learning Esme’s name in the first book, so I did a quick Kindle search. The name “Esme” doesn’t appear ANYWHERE in the first book. So…yeah. All of the sudden Iseult knows her name and just casually drops it in there? The second thing is that I feel like Aeduan’s bloodwitchery should work on blood stains. I mean, he can seize blood, right? Stop it circulating in someone’s body? So why can’t he seize dried blood and lift it out of clothes?

The last thing, to address the title of this post, is that pretty much the whole book I anticipate feelings developing between Safi and one of the characters that she’s with. It kind of seemed like things were heading that way. Nothing comes of it in this book (luckily) but we’ll see what happens in future books. All I’m saying is that if Safi is part of a love triangle, that will completely cheapen the ENTIRE series.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

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Windwitch review

Turns out, I don’t hate this series | Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch

Safiya fon Hasstrel is a Truthwitch which means she can sense when people are lying. But if anyone besides her closest friends knew that, then she would immediately become a political pawn or be assassinated. With a 20-year-truce between nations coming to a potentially bloody close, Safi finds that her secret has been discovered and that her ability is more sought-after than ever. With the help of her friend and Thread-sister Iseult and finding an unlikely ally in the Nubrevnan Prince Merik, Safi is on the run.

ebook | Paperback | Hardcover

TL;DR – Writing, worldbuilding, and plot are all good. Strong female friendship gets an A+. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

I was so prepared to hate this book and the entire series. There had just been so much hype around it and for some reason I had this belief that it was going to be poorly written with a myriad of plot holes, probably a love triangle, and abysmal world-building. I think I’ve just been disappointed one too many times on hyped books/series–I’ve become jaded. Regardless, I went into this book prepared to be disappointed and was completely blown away instead.

Now, the book isn’t perfect, but I was really impressed by the writing and the world/magic system that Dennard had created. Even though the world seemed complex, I didn’t feel completely lost in the beginning like I have in other books. The magic system is pretty reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but I’m willing to look past that.The switching POV was a good way to give the readers perspective and helped us to learn about the different nations and the political climate pretty quickly. However, not all of the POVs felt distinct. Safi and Iseult particularly felt like the same character was narrating.

I really, REALLY enjoyed that Dennard highlighted friendships in this book as well. The friendship between Safi and Iseult is so pure and it kills me that they both think that they’re holding the other person back. I wish that the friendship between Merik and Kullen had been explored more, though. It felt like we were more told about that friendship rather than shown. If that makes sense.

One last observation that I had was that the contract between Merik and Safi’s uncle stated that she couldn’t spill any blood, right? Well, what if Safi had been on her period??? Typical male-written contract…

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am excited to continue on with the series. So far, I’m not super convinced that Safi’s Truthwitchery is actually that valuable, but I’m hoping the next books prove me wrong.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

ebook | Paperback | Hardcover

 

 

BLOG TOUR: Who I Am with You by Robin Lee Hatcher [GIVEAWAY]

who i am with youWho I Am with You
by Robin Lee Hatcher
Release Date: December 11, 2018
Genres: Christian fiction, Romance

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N

SYNOPSIS: For these two broken hearts, the first step toward love will be a huge leap of faith.

Jessica Mason isn’t looking for love when she meets Ridley Chesterfield. Instead she is still reeling from the tragic, unexpected loss of her husband and daughter—and awaiting the arrival of her unborn child. Harboring the secret of her husband’s betrayal, her pain is deeper than anyone knows.

Ridley Chesterfield is hiding out in Hope Springs, Idaho, avoiding a political scandal and the barrage of false media headlines that have tarnished his good name. The last thing Ridley wants is a relationship—but when fate leads Ridley to form a friendship with his reclusive and pregnant neighbor, he wonders if this small-town hideout might be more of a long-term destination.

When Jessica begins to read her great-grandfather’s Bible, she finds a connection with a man she never knew. Somehow the verses he marked and the words he wrote in the margins open her heart to healing. And as Ridley and Jessica help each other forgive the people who have broken their hearts, they must decide if the past will define them or if they will choose to love again.

Who I Am with You weaves together a modern-day romance with Jessica’s great-grandfather’s story from the 1930s, reminding us that some truths can cross generations and that faith has the power to transform families forever.

Who I Am with You is the first book in Robin’s new “A Legacy of Faith” series.

REVIEW: I’m always a little wary of Christian fiction because I think sometimes the religion aspect is too heavy handed. That being said, I thought Hatcher struck a great balance with this book. Obviously their faith is present, but the characters aren’t talking to God or reflecting on Christ every other paragraph.

Both Jessica and Ridley were enjoyable, sympathetic characters. They both start off the book a little angry because of things that had happened to them in their past and it was interesting to see the different ways that they dealt with that anger. Ridley chose to escape and turn to God, while Jessica chose to become more closed off and independent. The reader gets a chance to see both characters develop as they work towards forgiving those that have wronged them.

The plot is nothing crazy, but it helps us to get to know the characters and by the end, the reader really wants both Jessica and Ridley to be happy. Andrew’s sections were not quite as compelling to me, so I was glad that they were significantly shorter than the present day narrative. One thing I wished was that more of a connection was struck between Jessica and Andrew. I think it mentions her reading through his Bible once? They were going through some similar things I would have liked to have seen Jessica find more comfort and kinship in her great-grandfather.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. It’s the first book in the series and it looks like the next book starts with Jessica handing off Andrew’s Bible to another relative. It will be interesting to see how Andrew’s story continues with this new family member.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Mild


Who I Am with You blog tour

Click on the banner above to be taken to the giveaway!



robin lee hatcherABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of over 75 novels and novellas with over five million copies of her books in print. She is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. Robin is an ACFW Carol Award winner and an eight-time finalist and has won two RITA Awards and been a finalist eleven times. Her numerous other awards include the Christy Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Reader’s Choice Award, and the Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award. She is also the recipient of prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards from both American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.

When not writing, she enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, Bible art journaling, reading books that make her cry, watching romantic movies, and decorative planning. A mother and grandmother, Robin and her husband make their home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with a demanding Papillon dog and a persnickety tuxedo cat.

For more information, visit www.robinleehatcher.com, Facebook: robinleehatcher, Twitter: @robinleehatcher and Instagram @robinleehatcher.


Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Let’s just say it’s been a while since I’ve read some of these books [Mini-Reviews]

There are so many books that I read last year that I still haven’t gotten around to reviewing. Hopefully, this post can make a (small) dent in that list.

mini-reviews

The Conspiracy of Us and Map of Fates by Maggie Hall

map of fates

conspiracy of us

I really thought I was going to like these books because it seemed like it was going to be one massive treasure hunt. Instead, we’re gifted with insta-love and a completely unnecessary love triangle. I also don’t really understand why there’s this slight magical element? I mean, one of the characters is literally fireproof and I don’t know how that can be explained without magic. The main character is so naive and very annoying. I never understand why protagonists have such a hard time being left behind on “missions” when they have no training and would clearly only get in the way. I, personally, would be happy to sit on my behind in the hotel room and let people with ACTUAL TRAINING take care of the dangerous stuff. I honestly don’t know why I even bothered with the second book, but I am definitely NOT going to be reading the third one. 3/5

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Orphan Monster SpyI wasn’t super impressed by this book. I thought it actually started off pretty strong, but it didn’t maintain that excitement through to the end. While I felt like it had a different tone from most books, that didn’t really make things any more interesting. The plot was fine, but not super engaging and I had a hard time figuring out what the end goal was supposed to be. Our main character is going through a bunch of stuff, but for what? I also didn’t find myself connecting to any of the characters. The main character was…fine. Kind of bland–you really don’t get to know her that well. The author also chose to include some pretty messed up characters, but I didn’t really feel like they added to the story. 3/5

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The ArchivedThis book had been on my TBR forever because I really liked the Monsters of Verity duology. Also, I love any kind of twist on the “library” so if you know any good alternate library books, let me know in the comments! To get into my review, I felt like the world was pretty complex and didn’t really get explained very well at the beginning, which just left me feeling confused. I was also very confused for the first three chapters because I didn’t realize that Da and Dad were not both Mackenzie’s father. I liked Mackenzie as a main character, but she made some really questionable decisions. I never really understood her resistance for sharing information with the librarians, but especially Roland. He seemed to obviously be on her side and some things could have been prevented if she had been more transparent. I thought Wesley was a bit much as a character, but I did like watching his relationship with Mackenzie develop. Owen, on the other hand…that relationship seemed to come out of nowhere. In the end, there was a twist that I did NOT see coming and I’m just left with so many questions. Like, what is up with Ms. Angelli? Such a mystery. 4/5

ebook | Paperback

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

The ChristmasaurusThis is such a fun middle grade Christmas book. The language was pretty silly throughout, so I would definitely recommend for younger middle grade readers, but I think that age will find the silly language really enjoyable. This book has wheelchair representation which I don’t think I’ve seen in any other books–let alone middle grade. I’m no expert, but it felt like it was portrayed accurately and definitely felt super respectful. I also thought that the characters developed in a realistic way. Even though Brenda is horrible, I felt like I understood her and that’s not always the case with antagonists. I loved all of the illustrations throughout and the Christmas feels were SO STRONG. There’s a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming (am I just oblivious???) which was such a fun surprise. I recommend getting the version of the book that comes with the soundtrack–not necessary, but a really fun and festive bonus. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Musical Edition

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Two Dark ReignsOkay, I’m hoping to get through this review without any spoilers, but it’s book three in the series, so I’m really sorry if I reveal anything from the first two books–unintentional. After the second book I wasn’t sure how invested I would be in the rest of the story–I didn’t really see where Blake could take it from there. However, the third book got me reinvested real quick. I found myself liking this book much more than the second one and the different POVs continued to be a nice change of pace. I enjoyed each POV equally. There continue to be many, many questions and I need the next book asap. The ending took me by surprise and I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on or what’s going to happen. There’s some interesting things going on on the island and I guess we’ll just have to see what happens next. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, & Brodi Ashton

my plain janeI love this series! The tone is fun and light and easy to enjoy. Once again, I thought the rotating perspective worked well, but Jane’s sections were probably my least favorite. I do wish that I’d read Jane Eyre first, though, because there are certain plot points that were so strange and I don’t know if they were extra or if they’re part of the original text. This is partly why one of my 2019 reading goals is to read Jane Eyre. I also liked that this is somewhat of a “Jane Eyre origin story”. The plot itself was good, but not completely thought out or explained. Why do the talismans work on ghosts? What really determines if a ghost moves on or not? Is a special “moving on” room really necessary? I also felt like red rooms were mentioned several times and I don’t really know why. Despite all that, the tone of the book is so enjoyable that I happily overlooked the times when things weren’t fully explained and I’m excited to continue on with this series. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover


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