Tag Archives: 3.5 stars

Book Review: Windfall by Jennifer E Smith

Windfall

Windfall

Release date: May 2nd 2017

3.5 stars

Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.
At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.
As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

This book was very typical Jennifer E Smith, in the best ways possible. It was a light read with quirky characters and that familiar writing style that has me reading until the last page. It dealt with a lot of topics other than just focusing on an eighteen-year-old winning a massive lottery and it changing his life. It dealt with death, survivor’s guilt, first love, heartbreak. I thought the book did a wonderful job showing how different people would react to winning and how they would choose to spend the money, which Jennifer E Smith was able to do by having her main character be the friend who bought the lottery ticket instead of the person who won.

Alice was a character I found myself both relating to and not quite understanding. Loving seeing her friend happy, worried he would change with all that money, worried people would use him, not wanting to confess her feelings, all those I got. Even being afraid of accepting some of the money in fear it would change her I could understand. The part I had a hard time with was that she could be very judgemental but that was part of her growth arc. With Teddy, we got to see his growth arc through Alice’s eyes and he had to learn what having all that money meant to the people who were suddenly appearing in his life. I couldn’t blame him for going a little crazy with it all at first. Even the adult in me knows I would too.

I love the friendship between Alice, Teddy, and Leo. They were a perfect balance to each other. Leo was very practical and seemed a lot more mature than the other two. Alice was a good girl, trying to make her late parents proud with her volunteer work but still looking to find who she really was. Teddy was the more brash and impulsive of the three of them and was the one often reminding the other two to have fun. The friendship was strong between these three, even with the feelings between Alice and Teddy. I liked that Leo wasn’t easily shoved to the side the second something started to develop between Alice and Teddy.

The plot went pretty much where I was expecting it to go but it was still a fun reading journey. It did a good job balancing the more fun aspects of the story like an eighteen year old suddenly having so much money and going a little crazy with it to and the more serious tones like Alice still dealing with the deaths of her parents and the downside to having all that money. It was a quick read and I would definitely say this is one of my favourite Jennifer E Smith books so far.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review: Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

blood-rose-rebellion

Blood Rose Rebellion

Release date: March 28th 2017

3.5 stars

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.
Her life might well be over.
In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.
As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

I went into this book expecting a lot of action and magic and rebellion, and it was all there, but I wasn’t expecting the connection to the history of the rebellion in Hungary and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It’s not a part of history I know a lot about and it was altered to fit the magical storyline but I still found it interesting and appreciated the author’s note explaining more about the history.

Anna was a character I think I could relate to if I was ever in her position. She was a middle child who was mostly ignored due to having no magic. She always felt like she was a disappointment to her mother and accidentally ruining her sister’s spell during her debut just added to that feeling. She loved her family even though she felt like an outsider as the only non-magical member and she really just wanted to make her parents proud. Being sent away to Hungary with her Grandmama was difficult but it gave her a chance to grow as an independent person and learn more about both herself and the truth about the magical society.

There were so many supporting characters to love. Some had bigger roles than others, like Noemi and Matyas who were Anna’s cousins, or Gabor who was a love interest. I liked that even though she was far away from them, her family still played a huge role in Anna’s thoughts. She was often thinking of what her father would want her to do versus what her mother would want. I enjoyed a lot of the interactions between the characters, from the playfulness Matyas’ would show toward Anna, to the slower way Noemi took to warm to her, to Gabor teaching her his people’s magic.

The magical society, the idea of Binding and breaking it, the way it was ruled with magically families having more power than those born without, it was all complicated and took a while to explain. It made the book a slow read because I didn’t want to skim through and miss some vital information. It was interesting, just not something I would want to skim. I have seen the rebellion part of this book compared to Les Mis and I will admit, when the students talking about revolution at the cafe were introduced that was exactly where my mind went. I didn’t find it too similar other than the students leading a rebellion.

This book did a great job of setting up the trilogy and I look forward to seeing how the rest turns out.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Love and First Sight by Joshquist

love-and-first-sight

Love and First Sight

Release date: January 3rd 2017

3.5 stars

Love is more than meets the eye.
On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?
As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a sweet but shy girl named Cecily. And despite his fear that having a girlfriend will make him inherently dependent on someone sighted, the two of them grow closer and closer. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn’t meet traditional definitions of beauty—in fact, everything he’d heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

I was a little hesitant going into this book but I ended up finding myself getting sucked right into the plot and into the lives of the characters. It was easy to read and was a great choice to pick up after having read quite a few heavier books in a row.

Will was very likeable and I fell in love with his sense of humour. The book was very focused on Will’s journey of attending high school for the first time and a new procedure that would allow him to see, and what that would mean for him. He had the chance to see but would it change him? I enjoyed reading about him with the group of friends he found at his new school. They were a bunch of misfits that just really fit well together.

I liked the connection between Will and Cecily. To me, it didn’t matter if they stayed friends or became lovers as long as they stayed together in some way. They just got each other. Mrs Everbrook, the journalism teacher, was amazing and I loved that she didn’t treat Will any differently than she treated her other students.

Another thing I liked was that the surgery aspect was only introduced after we really got a sense of who Will was, about a third or so into the book. The procedure would have many risks and be life-changing. The way it was described when Will could see for the first time was amazing. There was enough science and medical explanation to feel realistic but stopped before it got too complicated.

Overall, it felt like the author did a lot of research for this book and it showed. It was a very good choice as I really needed something a little lighter to read and this delivered.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: I’m Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl by Gretchen McNeil

not-your-manic-pixie-dream-girl

I’m Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl

3.5 stars

Beatrice Maria Estrella Giovannini has life all figured out. She’s starting senior year at the top of her class, she’s a shoo-in for a scholarship to M.I.T., and she’s got a new boyfriend she’s crazy about. The only problem: All through high school Bea and her best friends Spencer and Gabe have been the targets of horrific bullying.
So Bea uses her math skills to come up with The Formula, a 100% mathematically guaranteed path to social happiness in high school. Now Gabe is on his way to becoming Student Body President, and Spencer is finally getting his art noticed. But when her boyfriend Jesse dumps her for Toile, the quirky new girl at school, Bea realizes it’s time to use The Formula for herself. She’ll be reinvented as the eccentric and lovable Trixie—a quintessential manic pixie dream girl—in order to win Jesse back and beat new-girl Toile at her own game.
Unfortunately, being a manic pixie dream girl isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and “Trixie” is causing unexpected consequences for her friends. As The Formula begins to break down, can Bea find a way to reclaim her true identity and fix everything she’s messed up? Or will the casualties of her manic pixie experiment go far deeper than she could possibly imagine?

I haven’t read all of Gretchen McNeil’s books but the ones I have, I’ve enjoyed the writing and especially the dynamics between the characters. The manic pixie dream girl isn’t a favourite trope of mine so I was curious to see how it would be handled in this book.

Bea could be a frustrating character but one with overall good intentions. She wanted to find a way to stop her friends from being bullied and re-inventing themselves was her solution. She was always very mathematical in her thinking and I could see a lot of parallels between her and Charlie from Numb3rs, a favourite character on a favourite TV show.

The relationships between the characters were great, as expected. Gretchen McNeil can create these groups of friends that you want to hand out with, even if it’s just doing nothing. The family dynamics were also great and loved seeing Bea have a good relationship with her stepmother instead of it being full of tension.

The plot was a bit predictable but still fun to read. There was a nice romance and character growth for more than just Bea as the main character. It made for a quick read, perfect for curling up under a blanket on a cold night or reading poolside in the middle of summer.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

vassa-in-the-night

Vassa in the Night

3.5 stars

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.
In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling away again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.
But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…

I’ve been really enjoying so many of the retellings this year and I was excited for this one because of the Russian lore and the fact that it was chosen by Owlcrate for one of their monthly boxes. I really enjoyed how quirky the characters were and how vividly everything was described. It made it easy to get caught up in the characters’ lives and to picture everything that was going on.

I would say having a basic knowledge, even just reading the lore Vassilissa the Beautiful which this book is based on, would be helpful. Maybe not required to understand what was happening but definitely helpful. The magical realism was strong and wonderful and I enjoyed it. It really added to the creepy atmosphere of the overall story.

Vassa was a really cool main character. She was really snarky and I could have read a full book of just her talking to people. The whole book was very bizarre and one of those that is hard to describe without giving anything away. It was dark, bizarre, and a little disturbing. Definitely one to try for readers who like magical realism but probably not one to start with if it’s a reader’s first try at it.

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Book Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

of-fire-and-stars

Of Fire and Stars

Release date: November 22nd 2016

3.5 stars

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.
Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.
When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.
But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

I was really excited to get my hands on this book. It had caught my attention when I’d first heard of the premise of a betrothed princess falling in love with the prince’s rebellious sister mixed with the princess having a magical ability and being sent to a kingdom where she would have to hide that ability. It sounded intriguing and it ended up being a really good read.

Denna was a character I could find myself relating to quite easily. She was bookish and had a lot of knowledge that she wanted to use to be useful in her new kingdom. She was determined to prove herself in any aspect she could even though she was scared of her magic being discovered, of the rebels who got too close. I really liked seeing the friendship slowly form between her and Mare and then turn into something more.

Mare was just as great a character. I loved her rebellious attitude, her refusal to conform to what her father and brother and the whole court system expected of her. She was so opposite of Denna but their personalities ended up working well together and I enjoyed all their scenes.

I liked the magical world that was described but I would have loved more world building and information on its magic. The book began with Denna’s arrival to Mynaria so there wasn’t any feel to who she was as a princess in her own kingdom. I loved that it always felt like something was waiting on the next page, that the next big clue or an attack was just a chapter away. It made me want to keep reading and it made for excitement. It made for a book I wanted to finish.

Overall, I loved the main character, their dynamics, the whole concept. A little more backstory and world-building and this would have been perfect.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley

fate-of-flames

Fate of Flames

Release date: November 22nd 2016

3.5 stars

Four girls with the power to control the elements and save the world from a terrible evil must come together in the first epic novel in a brand-new series.
When Phantoms—massive beasts made from nightmares and darkness—suddenly appeared and began terrorizing the world, four girls, the Effigies, each gained a unique power to control one of the classical elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Since then, four girls across the world have continually fought against the Phantoms, fulfilling their cosmic duty. And when one Effigy dies, another girl gains her power as a replacement.
But now, with technologies in place to protect the world’s major cities from Phantom attacks, the Effigies have stopped defending humanity and, instead, have become international celebrities, with their heroic feats ranked, televised, and talked about in online fandoms.
Until the day that New York City’s protection against the Phantoms fails, a man seems to be able to control them by sheer force of will, and Maia, a high school student, unexpectedly becomes the Fire Effigy.
Now Maia has been thrown into battle with three girls who want nothing to do with one another. But with the first human villain that the girls have ever faced, and an army of Phantoms preparing for attack, there isn’t much time for the Effigies to learn how to work together.
Can the girls take control of their destinies before the world is destroyed forever?

I was really excited for this book because of the comparisons to things like Pacific Rim, Sailor Moon, and the Avengers. There was also a bit of Buffy thrown in with the ‘one Effigy dies and another gets activated’ addition. I really liked the concept of it and as a TV show or movie, I think the visuals would have been amazing. As a book, there were parts that ended up falling flat but it was still enjoyable.

Maia, the main character, was an Effigies fangirl. She was a member of their fan clubs, posted in forums dedicated to them, followed their action and their stats online. She was also harsh toward two of the girls she felt less deserving than the other two. So when one of the Effigies regarding as one of the greats was killed, Maia discovered she was chosen to replace her. And her whole world changed. She always wanted to be an Effigy, to be special, but the reality was nothing like she thought it would be.

I liked the other girls and I’m definitely hoping we get to see a lot more of them in the sequel. They were all dealing with becoming Effigies in their own ways, some more successfully than others, and really, they were all just girls who were chosen for something they didn’t really want but now they were the only thing that could save the world. It would be a lot for anyone to handle.

There wasn’t a whole lot of history or world-building yet. I would have liked a little more at least. Maia wasn’t too knowledgeable about why the world became filled with the Phantoms and where Effigies came from so I could understand having no big information moment. There were some moments where they were trying to figure out some mystery where we got some more information on Effigies but I’m hoping for more in the sequel.

Overall, it was an entertaining read and the action sequences were great.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Black Key by Amy Ewing

black-key

The Black Key

Release date: October 4th 2016

3.5 stars

For too long, Violet and the people of the outer circles of the Lone City have lived in service to the royalty of the Jewel. But now the secret society known as the Black Key is preparing to seize power.
And while Violet knows she is at the center of this rebellion, she has a more personal stake in it—her sister, Hazel, has been taken by the Duchess of the Lake. Now, after fighting so hard to escape the Jewel, Violet must do everything in her power to return to save not only Hazel, but the future of the Lone City.

The Black Key was the last book in The Lone City series and picked up soon after the cliffhanger from the second book. There seemed like it had so many things to wrap up in such a short time and I was unsure of how it would play out. If some things would be left unresolved, if some things would barely get a mention, if everything would feel too rushed. Other than the ending feeling a bit overstuffed, I thought it was well-paced and managed to do a good job in addressing all the loose ends that needed to be addressed.

I did think the book may have benefited from the occasional glimpse into another character’s POV. Violet was cut off from most of her rebellion group in her position so it would have been nice to see a chapter from Lucien’s POV, or Raven’s or Ash’s, just to get the whole picture on what was happening outside of The Jewel.

This book showed Violet as she was at her core: a protective and loving sister. She was going to find Hazel and save her at any cost. She was so important to the rebellion, one of its leaders, but her sister still came first and it was something I could fully understand, as someone with siblings. There was a part of me that thought she was being reckless, since she has no real plan, but I understood her need for immediate action. It was her sister.

It was a fast read. The action was well-paced so I didn’t want to stop reading. It was only near the end when it started to become a little too fast to keep up, requiring me to slow down my reading pace in order to hopefully catch everything. I also liked that, while it definitely felt like the end of Violet and Ash’s story, there were many other characters who could have their own spin-off if this world was ever revisited.

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Book Review: The Season by Jonah Lisa and Stephen Dyer

the-season

The Season

3.5 stars

She can score a goal, do sixty box jumps in a row, bench press a hundred and fifty pounds…but can she learn to curtsey?
Megan McKnight is a soccer star with Olympic dreams, but she’s not a girly girl. So when her Southern belle mother secretly enters her in the 2016 Dallas debutante season, she’s furious—and has no idea what she’s in for. When Megan’s attitude gets her on probation with the mother hen of the debs, she’s got a month to prove she can ballroom dance, display impeccable manners, and curtsey like a proper Texas lady or she’ll get the boot and disgrace her family. The perk of being a debutante, of course, is going to parties, and it’s at one of these lavish affairs where Megan gets swept off her feet by the debonair and down-to-earth Hank Waterhouse. If only she didn’t have to contend with a backstabbing blonde and her handsome but surly billionaire boyfriend, Megan thinks, being a deb might not be so bad after all. But that’s before she humiliates herself in front of a room full of ten-year-olds, becomes embroiled in a media-frenzy scandal, and gets punched in the face by another girl.
The season has officially begun…but the drama is just getting started.

This book was a quick but fun read. I enjoyed the main character’s determination to first get out of the event, then to succeed even though she didn’t want to be there in the first place. It was also fun to pick out which character from Pride and Prejudice each person was supposed to be in this re-telling.

Meghan was a pretty great character. She had no time for this debut her mother desperately wanted her to make, or for anything she thought of as too girly, she was so focused on her soccer career and making the national team. She could definitely be judgmental about the girls who wanted to participate and the event as a whole, but the longer she was in it, the more she saw the value. I really liked the relationship between her and her sister and the one between her and her father. The one between her and her mother was interesting, strained, and offered something different than the others.

I do wish we’d gotten to see more of all the other characters. Meghan was the main character but it felt like everyone else, besides her sister at points, were there to support her journey or be an obstacle, instead of being their own character.

The ending felt a bit rushed and confusing. There was a lot of talk through the book about business ventures and real estate deals, and while I understood the main points of it all, it still felt a little too much. It ended up taking me out of the story. And while I enjoyed the debutante aspect of the story, it was also hard to care about the hardships of these millionaires spending so much money on parties and dresses and everything to be perfect, especially when the debutante seemed to take a backseat in the later part of the story.

Overall, I enjoyed the writing and the main character. I would pick up another book by these authors.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Book Review: Replica by Lauren Oliver

replica

Replica

Release date: October 4th 2016

3.5 stars

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals since she was born. ‘A sickly child’, her lonely life to date has revolved around her home, school and one best friend, Alice. But when she discovers her father’s connection to the top secret Haven research facility, currently hitting the headlines and under siege by religious fanatics, Gemma decides to leave the sanctuary she’s always known to find the institute and determine what is going on there and why her father’s name seems inextricably linked to it.
Amidst the frenzy outside the institute’s walls, Lyra – or number 24 as she is known as at Haven – and a fellow experimental subject known only as 72, manage to escape. Encountering a world they never knew existed outside the walls of their secluded upbringing , they meet Gemma and, as they try to understand Haven’s purpose together, they uncover some earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls forever…

What drew me in, at first, with this book was the concept. Two separate stories that would come together to form one larger story. I was really intrigued to how that would play out. The two POVs were not alternating, instead they were one after the other. I had a digital edition of the ARC but I’m very curious to see how to final physical copy is presented.

I liked that it didn’t matter which story the reader chose to read first. I read Lyra’s first simply because it was first in the e-ARC and therefore was easier. Both girls had interesting stories and I was happy that I found myself enjoying both equally. When I was reading Gemma’s I didn’t find myself wishing I was still reading Lyra or thinking that Gemma made Lyra’s uninteresting. Both parts worked well together and were both needed. Each part gave clues to the overall story.

Lyra, or 24, was born at Haven. It was all she ever knew. She only had interactions with the doctors, nurses, and her fellow replicas. She loved to read and would read anything she get her hands on, which wasn’t much, and she yearned for affection. The doctors and nurses that would show the replicas affection never lasted long. When she escaped, everything was so new to her and that would have been hard enough to deal with but there was also the huge mystery of what exactly Haven was doing to her.

Gemma was very sheltered by her parents as she was sick a lot as a child. She had one friend, Alice, in school and when her parents decided at the last minute she couldn’t do spring break with Alice, Gemma rebelled. I understood her frustration and her need for answers to the secrets that her parents were obviously keeping from her. I liked seeing her test herself and find she was stronger than she knew.

The supporting characters were interesting. Pete and Jake and Alice on Gemma’s side, 72 on Lyra’s, Gemma’s parents who seemed to have some connection to Haven. I was excited to read to see how everything tied together. There was less time to develop them since some of them were only or mostly only in one girl’s part but they still felt like character who were important.

This book was over 500 pages but it didn’t feel that way at all. I flew through it. I had so many theories and I needed to know if they were right or I needed to find more clues to form better theories. I know there’s a second book planned and I’m excited for it.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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