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Book Review: The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

The Last Namsara

The Last Namsara

Release date: October 1st 2017

4.5 stars

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be dark—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death bringer.
These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up hearing in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.
Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

I was really excited to get my hands on this book. It was one of my most anticipated to come out and I will definitely be buying a hardcover when it hits shelves. This book had an interesting world, plenty of interesting characters, and dragons. At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to think after the first chapter with Asha being a dragon slayer but the plot turned into directions I enjoyed.

Asha was the only daughter of the king, the youngest child, and had been declared the Iskari, a title that made people fear her and a way for her to atone for the destruction she caused as a child. She was the kingdom’s dragon slayer and each dragon she killed was one step closer to making up for breaking the law she had when she was younger. The Asha at the beginning of the book was so different from the Asha by the end. There was so much character development that it will be interesting to see where the character goes in the sequel. She was very protective of the people she cared about, though she counted few among that group, and I loved seeing her open up to knowing more people and questioning the laws and her beliefs as the story went on.

There were a few main dynamics in the book. The most prominent was the one between Asha and Torwin, a slave belonging to Asha’s betrothed. Torwin challenged her to think for herself and was a great partner through the book. Secondary was the dynamic between Asha and Jarek, the jerk she was supposed to marry and I loved seeing Asha finding ways to show her independence even as Jarek tried to control her. There was also great dynamics between Asha and her cousin Safire, and Asha and her older brother. They both showed glimpses that they were not exactly who Asha thought they were so I’m excited to see more of that developing.

I loved all the old stories that broke up a lot of the chapters. It was a great way to show some backstory and historical content without feeling like an info dump. It was reading folk lore for this kingdom and learning why the people had their beliefs. The book started off a little slow but not in a bad way. The pace picked up the more Asha found herself outside the walls of the kingdom, hunting, and by the end, I had to finish the book even though I should have been asleep hours before. It really was a book I just couldn’t put down.

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

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Book Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Mask of Shadows

Mask of Shadows

Release date: August 29th 2017

3 stars

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class and the nobles who destroyed their home.
When Sal Leon steals a poster announcing open auditions for the Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen’s personal assassins named for the rings she wears — Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal — their world changes. They know it’s a chance for a new life.
Except the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. But Sal must survive to put their real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.

I was really excited for this book when I first heard about it. A fantasy book with a gender-fluid main and an assassin competition? Yes please. The idea of the competition to find a new assassin to join the Queen’s group, with the competitors killing each other off, was reminiscent of Throne of Glass and The Hunger Games. I loved both of those books so if felt like I should have fallen in love with this one. But I didn’t.

Sal was an orphan who worked as a thief but when they found a flyer saying there would be a competition looking for a new Opal, part of the Queen’s assassins, they decided to drop everything and hurry to prove themselves. They wanted to serve the Queen. Sal could definitely be likeable. I enjoyed their interactions with Maud, the servant assigned to them during the competition, and their interactions with some of the other competitors. Sal showed how determined they were to become Opal, it was almost all they thought about, but revenge was also on their mind. Revenge against the people they felt had abandoned them and their people during the war, who’d betrayed them and left thousands to die. Becoming Opal would make their revenge easier.

All the competitors were identified by numbers and they all wore masks. It made it more difficult to get attached to any of them and only the ones who Sal either made a connection with or spoke of a lot made any kind of an impact. Very few of them stuck out and were just faceless numbers in the way of Sal’s end goal.

One of my biggest issues with the book was that Sal told everyone that they dress as they are on any given day and to address them as such, which is fine, but when combined with a first person POV, I, as a reader who couldn’t see what they were wearing, had no idea how to think of the character unless it was said how they were dressed. It was also something that was accepted by most of the characters unless the character was a jerk so did that mean gender fluidity was something that was accepted in this universe or did Sal just happen to join a competition with a lot of really accepting people? I did like that gender fluidity did seem like it was accepted as just a part of who Sal was but I would have liked more context in regards to the universe they were in.

I read through the book pretty quickly. The competition and Sal’s quest for revenge felt a little repetitive after a while, almost formulaic. It wasn’t often I felt the need to slow down my reading pace in fear of missing vital information because it didn’t feel like a whole lot was being revealed. I do want to know more about the world, the shadows, and to see what will happen to Sal next, so there was enough interest in the book that I will read the sequel. It’s just not one I can see myself re-reading.

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

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Book Review: The Color Project by Sierra Abrams

The Color Project

The Color Project

Release date: August 17th 2017

3.5 stars

Bernice Aurora Wescott has one thing she doesn’t want anyone to know: her name. That is, until Bee meets Levi, the local golden boy who runs a charity organization called The Color Project.
Levi is not at all shy about attempting to guess Bee’s real name; his persistence is one of the many reasons why Bee falls for him. But while Levi is everything she never knew she needed, giving up her name would feel like a stamp on forever. And that terrifies her.
When unexpected news of an illness in the family drains Bee’s summer of everything bright, she is pushed to the breaking point. Losing herself in The Color Project—a world of weddings, funerals, cancer patients, and hopeful families that the charity funds—is no longer enough. Bee must hold up the weight of her family, but to do that, she needs Levi. She’ll have to give up her name and let him in completely or lose the best thing that’s ever happened to her.

This book had made its way on to my must read list a while ago and once I had it in my hands, it didn’t take me long to settle in to read it. I really enjoyed the friendships, family dynamics, the relationship between Bee and Levi, and the whole concept of The Color Project. It’s the type of book that can make the reader want to go out and get involved the way these characters did. I also really liked all the scenes that involved Bee at her job at a florist’s, especially once she began designing her own arrangements.

Beatrice, Bee, was the second oldest in a family of four and I found she was a very easy character to relate to. When she found a project she believed in, she threw herself into it, like with The Color Project. She loved her family, sometimes they could annoy her, but when they needed to pull together or comfort each other, they were there. She had some great friendships with Gretchen, her best friend who had recently moved, with some of her brother’s friends, and new friendships with some of the workers at The Color Project. She went by her nickname, Bee, instead of her full name and only a few people even knew her full name. I liked that Levi made a game out of guessing her name. It was cute and playful.

The relationship between Bee and Levi was a huge part of the story so I was glad I enjoyed it. There was an immediately attraction and interest between them but it was a slow developing relationship. They were good for each other and I thought it was a believable relationship with the issues that ended up appearing, like the big one from the synopsis with Bee not wanting to reveal her full name. There were times when I wanted to yell at them to just talk to each other and to actually listen to what the other was saying, but it showed that as cute as they were together, they were not immune to having problems in their relationship.

There was a few times the book felt a little long. From the synopsis, I knew there would be an illness in Bee’s family but it seemed to take forever for it to be revealed. I think I was about halfway through the book before that storyline took place. It did make me feel like the story was dragged out a bit, even with all the cute interactions between characters(which I am always a fan of). I did find the plot easy to predict but the character dynamics did their best to make up for it.

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

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Book Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

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There’s Someone Inside Your House

Release Date: September 26th 2017

4 stars

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.
International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

This book was definitely a complete turn-around from the themes of Anna and the French Kiss and its companions. Is it wrong to call a book full of horror and gore a fun read? This book gave me the same kind of feelings I get when I am all comfortable, wrapped in a blanket with popcorn, waiting for a horror movie to start. I know I’ll probably be creeped out and wonder why I chose to do that to myself but I’m excited anyway.

Makani was the new girl in a small town, sent to live with her grandmother by her divorcing parents. She was escaping an incident back home and was hoping to hide her past from her new classmates. When the attacks started to happen, I could see why she feared it was linked to her past even before it was revealed what had happened back then. I liked the romance she had with Ollie, though it was pretty fast and got intense but it did provide a catalyst for some hilarious scenes between Makani and her grandmother.

This book was pitched as Scream meets YA and I can definitely agree with that. A lot of the murdered characters got little page time but still had little moments to make the reader feel when they died. The death scenes were gory but it was the smaller moments that were really creepy. There were still moments of friendship during the book as Makani tried to balance her new relationship with hanging out with her two friends.

It was an entertaining, creepy read and very different from Stephanie Perkins other books. I can’t wait to see what she has planned next

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

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Book Review: a Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess

Poison Dark and Drowning

A Poison Dark and Drowning

Release date: September 19th 2017

4 stars

In this seductive and explosive second book in the Kingdom on Fire series, Jessica Cluess delivers her signature mix of magic, passion, and teen warriors fighting for survival. Hand to fans of Victoria Aveyard, Sarah J. Maas, and Kiersten White.
Henrietta doesn’t need a prophecy to know that she’s in danger. She came to London to be named the chosen one, the first female sorcerer in centuries, the one who would defeat the Ancients. Instead, she discovered a city ruled by secrets. And the biggest secret of all: Henrietta is not the chosen one.
Still, she must play the role in order to keep herself and Rook, her best friend and childhood love, safe. But can she truly save him? The poison in Rook’s system is transforming him into something monstrous as he begins to master dark powers of his own. So when Henrietta finds a clue to the Ancients’ past that could turn the tide of the war, she persuades Blackwood, the mysterious Earl of Sorrow-Fell, to travel up the coast to seek out strange new weapons. And Magnus, the brave, reckless flirt who wants to win back her favor, is assigned to their mission. Together, they will face monsters, meet powerful new allies, and uncover the most devastating weapon of all: the truth.

This sequel picked up pretty soon after the first book left off. It felt like everything I loved from the first book, the darkness, the magic, the relationships between characters, the interesting society, was amplified in the sequel and it was great. I loved the little moments where the characters still tried to go on with their everyday lives even though they were sorcerers being called to battle monsters. The book was fast paced and ended up being a quick read because of it.

Henrietta was even more determined in this book to prove that she can handle herself as a woman with powers. She may not be the chosen one but she was still very badass and it was easy to see why her group of friends would follow her. Her strength was in her belief in herself and her friends, in her determination to save people even if it meant going against her vows and using the “wrong” magic. The dynamics between the group was great, just like in the first book. I did find myself missing a couple of the boys who had lesser roles in this sequel but hopefully the next book will have lots of scenes with the whole original group. If they all survive because the fight scenes were very intense and brutal.

The new characters introduced were great and it added to the dynamic of the group. I really liked Maria, a witch they found during a journey and who was more badass than all of them combined. Her addition to the group changed the dynamics a bit and it gave Henrietta another female character to interact with, which was nice.

There were many twists in the plot, some easier to predict than others, but all the twists made sense, which I liked. There was a lot done to set up the third book without sacrificing development of the plot and characters in this one so it didn’t feel like it suffered some middle book syndrome. It definitely has me excited for the third book(last one?) but with a big battle looming I do worry about losing some of my favourite characters.

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

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Book Review: Click’d by Tamara Ireland Stone

Click'd

Click’d

Release date: September 5th 2017

3.5 stars

Allie Navarro can’t wait to show her best friends the app she built at CodeGirls summer camp. CLICK’D pairs users based on common interests and sends them on a fun (and occasionally rule-breaking) scavenger hunt to find each other. And it’s a hit. By the second day of school, everyone is talking about CLICK’D.
Watching her app go viral is amazing. Leaderboards are filling up! Everyone’s making new friends. And with all the data Allie is collecting, she has an even better shot at beating her archenemy, Nathan, at the upcoming youth coding competition. But when Allie discovers a glitch that threatens to expose everyone’s secrets, she has to figure out how to make things right, even if that means sharing the computer lab with Nathan. Can Allie fix her app, stop it from doing any more damage, and win back the friends it hurt-all before she steps on stage to present CLICK’D to the judges?

I really loved Every Last Word, which dealt with the world of poetry, so I was really excited to see how Tamara Ireland Stone would handle the world of technology and apps. As this is a middle grade novel, I thought the author did a great job using the world of app development and the technology required in a way that felt realistic but without getting too detailed to overwhelm the reader. It was really great to see a middle grade book with a female character focused on coding and friendships. The writing was beautiful in a way I’ve come to expect for Tamara Ireland Stone and, while it was a short, quick read it still had a good message.

Allie was a young character, only twelve years old, so I thought it was understandable that she could be a little selfish and immature. She got caught up in the hype surrounding the app she designed and didn’t want to admit to her parents when there were glitches. Asking for help and taking responsibility for mistakes is a huge part of growing up and it was something Allie slowly did through the book.

I really liked the dynamics in the relationships Allie had with her friends, her parents, and her nemesis. The book was short so the turnaround between Allie and Nathan going from enemies to friends felt a little rushed and it would have been nice to see it fleshed out just a bit more, but overall it was really good.

I also liked the whole idea for the app. The scavenger hunt aspect of it sounded like a lot of fun and it’s always fun to find people you have something in common with and make new friends. The glitch in the app sounded like a legitimate problem that could easily happen, one that could end up being an app-killer if not solved. It also led to some good questions being raised about privacy on the internet and could create some good discussions.

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

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Book Review: Dramatically Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

Dramatically Ever After

Dramatically Ever After

4 stars

Senior year is not shaping up to be the picture perfect movie Em Katsaros had imagined. Her super hot leading man is five thousand miles away. Her dad just got laid off. And Em can kiss her first-pick university goodbye if she doesn’t snag a scholarship.
To turn this Shakespearean tragedy into the Academy Award-winning dream Em has written for herself, she enters a speech competition and manages to cinch a spot in the US Youth Change Council national round. She gets to spend a week in Boston and her prayers might be answered if she can kick butt and win one of the national scholarships.
Everything seems to be going by the script until she finds out Kris Lambert–senior class president, stuck-up jerk, and her nemesis–is going, too. Cue the dramatic music. In Boston, Kris is different. Nice. Cute, even. But she knows his game way too well–be nice to your opponents and then throw them under the bus on your way to victory. Instead of becoming his next victim, Em decides to turn the tables by putting her acting and flirting skills to work. Unfortunately, as they get close to the final competition and judging, reality and acting start to blur.
Can Em use the drama from the stage to get the future she’s been dreaming of?

This companion novel to Bookishly Ever After brought me back to a cast of characters I fell in love with and, this time, put the spotlight on theatre and the world of competitive speeches. There were so many movie and theatre references, along with some of Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon(those were definitely my favourite). This book was really cute, had great character growth, and I had a lot of fun going back into the Ever After universe. I can’t wait to see who will be staring in the third book.

Em, the main character in this sequel, loved the theatre, loved performing, and often made references toward movies and actresses she loved. Her ability to act and harness her emotions into her scenes really helped when she delivered speeches. I really loved seeing her grow into herself as the story went on, becoming more confident in her own abilities instead of hiding behind a character. The dynamic she had with Kris was a lot of fun to read and reminded me a bit of the Anne/Gilbert dynamic from Anne of Green Gables. They drove each other crazy and argued all the time but there were definitely always underlying feelings.

This group of friends was so much fun to read. They were all so close, the chemistry in that group of friends that was a huge draw in the first book was back in this one. Even with Em in Boston for a lot of the book, we still got to see the group of friends interacting, either before, after, or by phone and text throughout her speech competition. The romance was also a lot of fun. I loved seeing Em and Kris debate over everything.

I really liked the speech writing aspect of the story as well. Em was vying for a scholarship so she could attend the college she wanted instead of her parents’ choice but she was insecure about her actual talent for writing since she thought performing was where she excelled. It was interesting to see her work with her mentor to improve her speech and see her perform the final result.

This book was a very cute read, one perfect for sitting outside in the Summer or curling up in a chair by a fire. This is a universe I really have come to love and I can’t wait to visit it again.

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

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Book Review: The Art of Feeling by Laura Tims

Art of Feeling

The Art of Feeling

Release date: August 15th 2017

3.5 stars

Since the car accident, Samantha Herring has been in pain, not only from her leg injury, but also from her mother’s death, which has devastated her family. After pushing away her friends, Sam has receded into a fog of depression.
But then Sam meets Eliot, a reckless loner with an attitude and an amazing secret—he can’t feel any pain. At first, Sam is jealous. But then she learns more about his medical condition…and his self-destructive tendencies. In fact, Eliot doesn’t seem to care about anything at all—except maybe Sam. As they grow closer, they begin to confront Sam’s painful memories of the accident—memories that may hold a startling truth about what really happened that day.

This book ended up being a quicker read than I’d originally thought it would considering it was dealing with a family grieving and attempting to move on with their lives after the death of the mother of the family. It also dealt with a boy who couldn’t feel pain and how the teenage daughter from the family and the boy became friends. They were helping each other in ways no one else could. Both teens had interesting family dynamics. Both family fought quite often but they also very obviously did care about each other.

Sam was a likeable character. She struggled with the fact that she’d been in the car with her mother during the crash and has been unable to remember any details about the other car or person who took off. She’d pushed away all her friends during her time out of school right after the accident and was finding it hard to connect with them again when she returned. That led her to becoming friends with Eliot, who both intrigued and frustrated her with his lack of self-preservation. Their dynamics was really interesting and I loved seeing their friendship unfolding.

Sam’s family were all struggling with their grief in their own ways. Her father lost his soulmate, her brother was self-medicating his pain away, and her sister simply stayed away as much as she could. Eliot and his older brother had a very interesting dynamic. His older brother was his primary guarding because their parents were never around. Eliot resented his brother trying to be a parent and his older brother struggled with balancing letting Eliot have independence and making sure he was safe.

Other than these two characters’ developing friendship and Sam’s struggle with her grief, we had some side plots of Eliot being bullied, both of them caught up in being targeted by a childhood friend of Sam’s who was trying to rebuild his image as a tough drug dealer, and the mystery of who was in the other car that hit Sam and her mother. None of them felt too overwhelming and they all tied nicely into the main plot. I thought the author did a good job making sure everything connected.

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

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Book Review: One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

One Dark Throne

One Dark Throne

Release date: October 4 2017

4 stars

The battle for the Crown has begun, but which of the three sisters will prevail?

With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.

In this enthralling sequel to Kendare Blake’s New York Times bestselling Three Dark Crowns, Fennbirn’s deadliest queens must face the one thing standing in their way of the crown: each other.

This sequel picked up soon after Three Dark Crown’s left off and, in very typical Kendare Blake fashion, built on everything the first book delivered and added even more darkness, blurred lines, and engaging plot details. I liked that this series so far balances the big shock moments with little reveals that can be just as surprising. A lot of times I find myself more surprised by the little reveals since I’m not looking for them as much as I am the big twists. I really like the moral greyness of so many of the characters. They can be brutal but it would usually be for their survival or the survival of a loved one.

After this second book, I would say my favourite sister is a toss up between Mirabella and Arsinoe. Katharine was very interesting and I can’t wait to see where her story arc goes but so far, I feel more of a connection to the other two sisters. Mirabella, the original favourite to win who now seemed like the underdog, and Arsinoe, the one no one thought had a chance. We can see how devoted and loyal these girls are to the ones they love and they would have been the best of sisters if they’d been given the chance instead of being pit against each other. All three girls had a lot of development through this second book and it set up the last book so well.

Jules was a character who also got quite a bit of POV time and we see her dedication to Arsinoe through her arc. She discovered a lot more about herself and her family and I can’t wait to see where the third book takes her.

I loved that this sequel retained the elements I loved from the first book and pushed them even further. The magic, the dynamics between the sisters, the battle for the throne, all of it was more intense and darker. I’m excited to see just how dark it will get in the last book.

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

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Book Review: Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows

Before She Ignites

Before She Ignites

Release date: September 12th 2017

4 stars

Before

Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland. But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.

After

Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect. No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.

 

I love Jodi Meadows so I was really excited to see a new book by her coming out. And this one involved dragons! I really liked the world Jodi Meadows created and can’t wait to see more of it in the second book. I also very much enjoyed reading about Mira and all the people surrounding her. It was a very strong cast of characters and it was fun to read.

Mira was a very interesting character. She had anxiety and her struggle with it was very relatable. With always being told her looks were her best asset, it was great to see Mira finding herself and her voice through the book. I really enjoyed her whole journey through her growth arc. And the dynamics between her and the supporting cast were so amazing that I could have read about them all just hanging out together.

The setting was another thing that was great. Dark and a little scary but perfect to set up the whole story. It was broken up by flashbacks. These flashbacks worked well within the story and didn’t interrupt the flow of the narrative, which was great.

Dragons! There were dragons in this book and not just some passing-by mentions. They were heavily important to the story and it was great. I’m very excited that this is a trilogy because I can’t wait to see where Jodi Meadows takes us all.

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

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