Monthly Archives: October 2012

Goodreads Choice Awards – 1st Round

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Goodreads has opened their 1st round of voting for the Goodreads Choice Awards 2012.

Take a few minutes and vote for your favorite books. There are some great titles to choose from! I thought I read a lot of books, but looking at these lists made me feel like I hardly read at all!

If only there were more hours in the day!


Book Review: My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

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With a fresh take on zombies, My Life as a White Trash Zombie is proof that vampires aren’t the only ones who can go mainstream.

From Goodreads:
Angel Crawford is a loser.

Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she’s a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who’s been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.

That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn’t have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there’s a job waiting for her at the parish morgue—and that it’s an offer she doesn’t dare refuse.

Before she knows it she’s dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addiction: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey—just when she’s hungriest!

Angel’s going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn’t, she’s dead meat.

Literally.

This was a really fun read! What an awesome cover! A new spin on zombies – mainstreaming. Angel is so likable. Her southern voice and the fact that she is so flawed make her hopelessly endearing. She has some hilarious moments and some rough one’s too. Life as a new zombie can be pretty intense! But Angel can handle it.

Unbeknownst to her, Angel has traded in her drug addiction for a brain addiction. She wakes up in the ER unable to remember the previous nights events. She soon learns that if she doesn’t give in to her new cravings, death will become a reality.

She’s lucky. She has some friends, known and not known, who help her along the way. She’s set up with a job at a morgue which gains her access to brains. But all is not well and she has to turn zombie sleuth to solve the mystery of who’s decapitating locals.

This isn’t a slice and dice zombie story. In this one, they walk among us. We do get a little gore with the decapitations, death scenes and autopsies. Angel’s personality is what shines in this book. The murder mystery is the outlet in which the author reveals who changed Angel into a zombie.

All in all a fresh take with a great main character. It’s a fun, light whodunit and would be a great starter if you want to try a fresh zombie story and skip the usual.

View this book on Goodreads.

View this book on Amazon.


Book Review: My Enemy’s Tears: The Witch of Northampton

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Soaked in drama and steeped in history, My Enemy’s Tears is historical fiction at its best.

From Goodreads:
In the 1630s two young girls fresh from England settle with their families in the Connecticut River Valley. There, on the frontier of a terrifying wilderness surrounded by warring natives, they must face the rigors of life among the Puritans — a people steeped in superstition and piety. Based on the lives of Mary Bliss Parsons and Sarah Lyman Bridgeman and the men they loved, this fictional account of a true story transports us to a land founded on a dream, where life was uncertain, and where fear and jealousy would lead to ruin.

Well written and well researched, this book is equal parts history lesson and family drama. Based on a true story and set in Puritan New England circa mid 1600’s, we’re introduced to Mary Bliss as she and her family flee religious prosecution in England. Growing up in the New World is a harsh reality for Mary. This was a harsh time period all around. If I could travel back in time, this century would be far, far down on my list of times to visit. Religion is at the heart of these hard times creating poor living conditions (bathing is frowned upon), strict rules (especially for women) and harsh consequences.

We see Mary transform from child to young woman. Sent to serve in a more prominent household by her parents who view her as willful and outspoken, she befriends the young mistress of the house, Sarah. Eventually, circumstances make it impossible for Mary to remain in service and the girls part with Sarah blaming Mary for their parting.

Mary and Sarah’s adult lives are lived throughout the pages that follow. We are privy to marriages, alliances, many births and deaths. There’s plenty here to keep the drama going. Sex, lies, jealously and hatred run wild through Northampton. There’s plenty of action as Indians are an ever increasing threat and wars loom.

At the core of this story are women who gossip away the unexplained and accuse those they don’t like at the time. Fear of witches and the Devil work to weave doubt about even the most upstanding citizens. Women, and even some men, who deal in herbal remedies or have birthmarks are prime suspects of witchcraft.

I appreciate that the author used wording of the time but was careful not to make so much use of it that it made the book hard to read. The backdrop was so well thought out and the descriptives really put the town into focus.

I was delighted with this gem and would like to thank the author and PR by the Book for providing me with a copy to review. Hopefully, this author has other interesting ancestors that we can look forward to reading about!

You can read the first chapter of the book on the author’s website, myenemystears.com.

View this book on Goodreads.
View this book on Amazon.


Attention Historical Fiction Lovers: Today’s iBooks/Kindle Deal 10/28/12 – Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

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Today’s Kindle Deal is Blackberry Winter by Sara Jio. It’s a great light historical fiction/ romance.
The same deal is offered on iBooks.

I’m looking forward to reading this one! I really enjoyed The Bungalow.

View this book on Goodreads.


Give to Education by Listening to Neil Gaiman

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Download the short story Click-Clack the Rattlebag, written and narrated by Neil Gaiman, for FREE and Audible will donate $1 to DonorsChoose.org.

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Guest Post/Interview with Maimah Karmo Author of Fearless: Awakening to My Life’s Purpose Through Breast Cancer

Earlier in the week I introduced Maimah Karmo, a woman who overcame breast cancer and is helping other young women find strength and hope. She’s written a book, Fearless: Awakening to My Life’s Purpose Through Breast Cancer. On this guest post, Maimah Karmo answers questions about her life as a young refugee, her battle with cancer and her Foundation which continues to educate and support women through their struggle with breast cancer. You’re sure to find encouragement in Maimah Karmo’s words.

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Tell us about your book.

Fearless is the story that my heart has carried around for many years, but that I had to live out to this point, in order for me to share with others. It is me, being me, out in the open, authentically, freely, uninhibitedly, unabashedly and for the first time – proudly and unashamed or afraid to show all of me. It starts with my life in my native country of Liberia, fleeing to America, as a refugee at 15, building my life, then watching it all fall apart after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Initially angry, hurt and scared as I watched my life fall apart, I grew to see that there was a blessing, a hidden gift in the experience; through it all, I re-discovered my strength, myself, and my purpose.

What inspired you to write Fearless?

When you face your mortality in any way, it puts you at a crossroads – you either become a victim of the thing or a victor of it.

You also have the opportunity, if you survive, to start over, re-create yourself and your life, because you realize that you’re the artist and at your desire, you can draw anything you want on that canvas. My breast cancer diagnosis devastated me, but even more so, I know that many other things had to fall apart at once, for me to be pushed to the point where I begged God to show me my purpose, because I had nowhere to look but up. I had fallen so far so fast.

After my surgery, my fiancé walked away, unable to cope with my diagnosis. As my hair fell out and I lost my eyebrows, eyelashes, I felt parts of myself falling away. As I saw my career came to a standstill, I had to move in with my mother and give up my home, saw the way some of my friends now looked at me and watched my body become weak and frail, I learned that so much of what I had prioritized in life was unimportant. I had, first of all put other people, my career and material things first, and me and my passion last. I realized that so much of my life was a façade. Most of all, I realized that if I died, I would not have given a fraction of what I wanted to the world, and no one would really know me and the big, crazy love that I’d kept hidden so deeply inside, lest I be judged by others in some way for being too open with my heart.

Losing “everything” that wasn’t important showed me that I had everything to lose by not showing up. I began to live my life by giving all that I had away – my time, my love, my passion – to help others, through my organization, Tigerlily Foundation, and as I gave, God gave me more in return than I ever imagined. He gave me time with my daughter, blessed me with the ability to service others through my “work”, which isn’t really work to me, he gave me joy, faith, quadrupled all that I lost, and most of all, he gave me passion, and he restored me to the person I had been seeking all along. I also learned that life is not about wanting to take for oneself and garnering things, but about the moments we can commune with, affect and empower others.

What was it like experiencing your transition to life in the U.S. as a refugee?

It was very challenging. When we fled to the U.S. in my teens, it was very difficult for me. I dressed differently, spoke differently and had behaved differently than the other kids. I was painfully shy and bookish and wasn’t trying to be like anyone else, nor did I care to belong to any particular group or clique. I just liked people in general. I got picked on a lot, ostracized, and bullied in high school. I think then was when I got to start seeing a glimpse of how I would be in the future. When the kids teased me, tried to trip me, took my lunch or sat around me a the table making fun of my accent, or just ignored me, I had the option of accepting their behavior as a rejection of me personally; yet, I didn’t.

I always remembered my storybook friend Anne Frank in the attic and wondered what she would do, and I made up my mind to live my life the way I wanted. I knew who I was and how I wanted to be and that was that. When we came to the U.S. the final time, in 1989, it was hard as well, but I had finished high school, so I was free of the trappings of being stuck with kids my own age, who had this incessant need to “fit in”. I got a job and was able to be around people much older than I was; which is where I was more comfortable anyway. Most of my friends were 10 to 20 years my senior, but I could relate to them, and I felt free to be myself and to explore various ideas of who I wanted to be. They gave me books to read, music to listen to, invited me to different events and allowed me to sit with their other friends at parties and I became privy to interesting conversations on topics I couldn’t begin to speak about with my friends. I had always felt like a much older person in the body of a child, now I could free my mind and explore.

On another note, financially, it was very hard for my family. My mother was ill and I had my brothers to help out with. So, before my father came to meet us in the U.S., I would help my mother to cook and clean, help make her food and take care of her. I would take the bus with her to doctor appointments and keep her company. Once my father came with my brothers, I would wake up in the morning, make my brothers breakfast, make sure they got dressed and cleaned up and off to school. Then, I would help them with homework and dinner in the evenings. Because we only had a two bedroom apartment, my mother and father had one room; my brothers and cousin shared another; my other cousin slept on the living room floor and I slept on the couch – for many years. People from the church would bring us food. It was surreal, because just months before, we’d had everything. My parents had taught us that what mattered was our hearts and who we were inside, so I think that for me, the experience made me stronger and more resilient. Both of my parents had worked hard to become successful and always told me that I would do the same. I just didn’t expect to start doing it at 15, but that was that, so I made it work.

How do you think your experiences as a refugee can help move ideas and attitudes in our society forward?

I think that Americans take so many blessings for granted. Things like clean, unpolluted running water, lights, order, clean streets, hundreds of cable stations, gadgets, and most importantly freedom. People die in other countries every day that would have lived off the food that is thrown away daily. People in other countries use the same water to drink and cook, that they bathe in. In some countries, you get killed for speaking the truth or disrespecting authority. Women are disrespected and abused. When you come to live in America, especially for me, as a child, I realized that there was a whole world, here, open to me, if I wanted it. I felt like a kid in a candy store, not knowing where to go or what to do first. I could go where I wanted, do what I wanted, say what I wanted and not have to worry about my parents, or I being hurt, or killed because of it. Most of all, as challenging as the debate is with healthcare, there is so much more access to care here than in other countries. In Liberia, I remember walking down the street – almost any street in Monrovia, and seeing people with missing arms, legs, teeth, eyes or mangled torsos; there were so many handicapped people and children – and they couldn’t afford to get the healthcare they needed. They lived like that and begged for a living. That was how they lived. Many were too poor to get an education; and in the U.S., education can be subsidized. I know that there are issues with people living in socio-economic areas where there is less access to healthcare and education, but generally, people in many parts of the world have a fraction of these opportunities and some never do.

You founded the Tigerlily Foundation. Tell us about that.

In 2006, I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. I was 32 years old and had a 3-year old daughter. When I had initially gone to the doctor, I had been told I was too young to have breast cancer. She performed an aspiration, which was unsuccessful, but she insisted that I come back in six months, during which time the lump doubled in size. I began experiencing overwhelming fatigue and night sweats. When I went back, she insisted on a re-aspiration. I pushed for a biopsy. I was diagnosed the next day, then found out I had aggressive breast cancer. While undergoing my second round of chemotherapy, I would ask why this was happening to me; I was so afraid of the future. I learned that approximately 11,000 young women get diagnosed and approximately 1,100 of those women die because they are misdiagnosed. I thought of how many other young women were going through what I was experiencing. Then, I stopped asking why and began thinking how, and then what could I do to make a difference, instead of looking to someone else to make a change. I prayed about it and the next day, the vision for Tigerlily Foundation was born, with a mission to educate, advocate for, empower and provide hands-on support to young women – before, during and after breast cancer. What started as a promise and a dream is now a nationwide organization reaching thousands. Tigerlily Foundation provides education and empowerment to young women and their families, we educate healthcare practitioners, provide peer support to newly diagnosed young women, send young women in treatment breast cancer buddy bags, meals, pay their bills, and provide support to young women living with Stage 4 breast cancer.

I founded the organization while working a full-time job, and as a single mother. I did it because if it were not for the grace of God and a mother who taught me to do my breast exams at thirteen, I wouldn’t be here. I’m humbled to do this work, because I believe that when one is blessed with life, in some way, we must be of service to others. There is really no excuse to not give back or find the time to help others. There is so much we each can do to impact someone else’s life. I founded Tigerlily because I promised God that I would create something that would make a difference in the landscape of young women and breast cancer, and I promised my daughter that I would live – and I meant not just physically, but be truly alive, thereby giving her a legacy that would never die – hopefully an example of the importance of creating the life you want, pursuing your dreams, embracing life, loving the moment and walking along a path because you believe in something deeply, even if you can’t clearly see the way ahead.

I do this work because young women are needlessly losing their lives to a disease that many of them are not even aware of. Breast cancer floored me, but I made a decision to pick myself up and be even better than before – and I want other young women who are diagnosed to know that they have somewhere to turn, for support, love, empowerment and services. I want them to know that they can survive and thrive. I want young women who have not been diagnosed to know that they have a right to life and that they need to exercise their personal power and become their own best advocates. I will do whatever it takes to ensure that every young woman is aware of the issue of young women and breast cancer and I’ve dedicated my life to ensure that this happens. It is important to be living examples to our children. When my daughter was six, she woke me up one morning and asked me what she could do to “help the women too”. She asked me if she could have a fundraiser. The week she started first grade, she began planning, along with several of her friends to have her first fundraiser. In December of this year, she is holding a 100 person event at a local hotel. At six years old, she already knew she could make a difference. Imagine what the world would be like if little children grew up all wanting their lives to matter and wanting to give more than to get. That would be a wonderful thing. I hope to give this gift to others through my work.

You’ve connected with some amazing, inspirational women along your journey. What have you learned from them?

I have learned, as one of them said, “to eat life with a big spoon”. Life is so short, and we are so powerful. The women who make a difference don’t live scared – they show up and say what’s on their minds. They are passionate, purposeful, have faith and an amazing personal strength that comes from a sense of knowing oneself. They live with their heads held high and are never victims of this or that, but tend to see life with the glass half full, learning from mistakes, living with grace and knowing that their actions reverberate on a larger scale.

What was connecting with Oprah like? (Everyone always wants to know!)

She was amazing. She is a wonderful host – compassionate, kind and warm. You almost forget she is there, you feel like you’ve known her forever and that you’ve sat on that couch before with her in her living room. She has a way of focusing on each person and making them feel special. She was amazing. I love her even more after meeting her. She is 100% the real deal and is doing so much to help so many.

What’s the one thing you’d want someone recently diagnosed with breast cancer to know immediately?

That being diagnosed with breast cancer is not a death sentence; and that you are not alone. Those two things are the most fearful feelings. There are so many women, more than 250,000 diagnosed annually, who survive and thrive after breast cancer. That means that you have thousands of other women who have walked the path before you and who can support, empower and inspire you. What shifted me was the knowledge that I was in charge, not breast cancer or anything else. Breast cancer sucks, but the reality of life is that we all have to go sometime – from breast cancer or something else. What breast cancer did for me was put my life in perspective. It gave me a wake-up call, and helped me to see that I was and we are all here temporarily. So I needed to own my life and find my purpose, so that I would live the rest of my life with meaning. With this in mind, I focused my energy and fears into making my life count – that is what we all want at the end of the day to make a difference, love a lot and life like there is no tomorrow. What was interesting is that helping others healed me in so many ways. It taught me compassion and gave me more wonderful friends than I could have imagined.

Has writing Fearless changed you in anyway? Please elaborate.

Yes, it freed me and helped me to heal. So many times, we live our lives hiding a part of who we are, and afraid to show the world all of ourselves. Writing this book allowed me to really see myself in entirety for the first time and stop and take a look at things that I needed to see, to face and to heal from. It also helped me to really appreciate myself so much more. Often times, we just go about our lives, not really seeing what we do and how we matter. I have often been hard on myself, as a child and then coming here as a refugee, I always had this drive to succeed, that never allowed me to just sit back and see what I had accomplished. Writing this book allowed me to love the little girl and woman I was and in many ways, have compassion for her and reflect that love and compassion onto myself, and others; it will allow me to give my daughter the gift of taking it easy on herself and hopefully, enable her and other young women to have more self love and resolve, knowing that our life is in the journey and not to be so much lived focused on the destination. I also think that particularly as it pertains to bullying or insecurity, we can be our own worst critics. Writing Fearless allowed me to delve deeper into myself and I came out of it with more self love, confidence and freedom. I know now, that “this is me”, and I love who I am. It allowed me to heal from a broken relationship that was emotionally not healthy for me, and it helped me to learn many new truths about myself, most of all, as I mentioned earlier, to practice self love and care first, as the basis for any healthy relationship.

Finally, where can we find your book?

You can purchase it on Amazon or if you would like an autographed copy, visit my website at http://www.maimahkarmo.com.


Read The Hobbit Using These Great Resources Before You See the Movie

Planning on seeing The Hobbit movie? Plan on reading the book first?

Head over to The Hobbit Book Club for some great resources to make your reading experience even better. There’s links to discussions and some great reading guides to help you fully immerse yourself in this great classic.

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View this book on Goodreads.

View this book on Amazon.


Book Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

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A drama played out from childhood to adulthood, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter shows us two men who have to accept their past in order to face their future.

From Goodreads:
In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the county— and perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town.

More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they’ve buried and ignored for decades.

I’m kinda on the fence about this one. Well written with an interesting premiss, this book definitely has that 70’s feel. This book excels at taking you back to 1970’s small town Mississippi as the author paints pictures with words in regards to location and feeling. Unfortunately though, to me, it felt stifling and depressing.

This book teeters between childhood and adulthood and is told from the perspective of Larry and Silas, two childhood friends who grow apart due to circumstances beyond their control. Although the synopsis indicates a strong friendship, I had a hard time making this connection. Yes, they spent time together, but not enough to make me feel like they really liked each other or were best friends.

Larry’s whole life just made me sad. “Scary Larry” is constantly ill-treated and outcast by townspeople and harassed by authorities in his adult life even though he was never convicted of the murder they thought he committed.

For Silas, adulthood seemed kinder. Moving away after high school and returning to a job as constable, he ignores Larry until circumstances reunite them and they are forced to reconcile.

There’s a little mystery going on as to who recently killed another teenage girl and Larry is again a prime suspect. The mystery really isn’t the main focus and the outcome and the question of who did it are predictable.

Although information comes out that links Larry and Silas in more ways than one, there was no shocking moment of truth.

It’s a drama, and a good one, but not a feel good one. There’s no real mystery or life changing revelations, but it’s a good drama about how confronting your past can be painful but necessary.

View this book on Goodreads.

View this book on Amazon.


In Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I will be featuring an author interview of Maimah Karmo, author of Fearless: Awakening to My Life’s Purpose Through Breast Cancer, at the end of the week. She has an amazing story to tell!

Be sure to check back at the end of the week for the full interview.

Here’s a quick bio to introduce you to Maimah Karmo.

Maimah Karmo is a breast-cancer survivor and the founder of the Tigerlily Foundation, an organization that educates, empowers and advocates for young women affected by breast cancer. The idea was born after her second chemotherapy treatment, and when she appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to tell her story, Oprah’s advice was emphatic: Maimah must write a book.

So Maimah did. Fearless: Awakening to My Life’s Purpose Through Breast Cancer (Brown Books, October 2012) is about her transformation, and how she learned that a challenge can be a gift.

Fearless is a stunning account of Maimah’s upbringing in Liberia—which was uprooted when she was 15 years old, and her family was forced to flee to the U.S.—to living the American Dream, watching it all fall apart with a breast cancer diagnosis, and ultimately, bouncing back.

Today, Maimah has made her mark in the world of breast cancer, and her work has been celebrated everywhere from The Oprah Winfrey Show to Redbook Magazine to ­­­­Good Morning America.

Dedicated to changing the breast cancer landscape, Maimah’s goal is to create a legacy of a world free of breast cancer.


Book Review: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

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A non stop roller coaster of emotion, Monsters of Men is a worthy ending to a remarkable series.

From Goodreads:
“War,” says the Mayor. “At last.” Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others. Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape. As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there ever be peace when they’re so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await? But then a third voice breaks into the battle, one bent on revenge – the electrifying finale to the award-winning “Chaos Walking” trilogy, Monsters of Men is a heart-stopping novel about power, survival, and the devastating realities of war
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I have to confess, I put off reading this book because I didn’t want to think about this series ending. Throughout the series I’ve grown so attached to Todd and Viola and their goal of peace. This series has some of the most remarkable young characters who are unique, who don’t fit into a tidy, ready-made package of persona, and who make mistakes, have regrets, but ultimately learn from them. They are great role models. I love the incorporation of animals, who I have such a soft spot for.

Monsters of Men picks up where The Ask and the Answer left off. I really like how the author doesn’t spend time reiterating what happened in the last book. It starts right in the thick of it. In this book, we are treated to a third narrative. I don’t want to give a way who it is, but I’ll just say that this character’s representation allows so many questions to be answered and for the story to come full circle.

This book is action packed! Never slowing down, it’s a constant roller coaster between war and peace. It muddies the waters of who’s good and who’s evil and to what end. Through it all Todd and Viola’s commitment to each other is unwavering and stays true. Death comes for many in this installment, some of which are surprising.

The one thing that didn’t satisfy me was the ending. I wanted more. I wanted things tidied up more. I wanted a glimpse in to the future to see if what all these characters went through was worth it.

This is my favorite YA series. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out in movie form and will be anxious to see if they can recreate the emotion that is captured in the book.

See my review of The Ask and the Answer.

View this book on Goodreads.

View this book on Amazon.


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