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Reviews Written by
Michelle Cardozo (Wokingham, Berkshire)

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Crow Mountain
Crow Mountain
Price: £6.47

4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely story about breaking free from expectations and taking risks with your heart, 17 Sept. 2015
This review is from: Crow Mountain (Kindle Edition)
Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis was another hugely fun read. I have to admit that I didn't know very much about the story before I decided to dive into the book. And you know what? Crow Mountain was hugely interesting and something that felt a little bit different as I was reading.

Crow Mountain has two time lines, a story set in the modern day and another set in the 1800s as settlers are moving west. Both characters in each of the story lines share many similarities. They both end up stranded in the Montana wilderness, both fall in love and their stories end up being a little bit more intertwined than you'd think.

In the modern day, we are introduced to Hope, a teenage girl who is in Montana on holiday with her mother. She is a little bit shy and reserved and more than a little intimidated by her bossy mother who does her best to mould Hope into a miniature version of herself, even though Hope has different interests and dreams to that of her mother. And there is also Emily, a girl who has promised in marriage to a man she's never met in San Francisco and shipped off from England to settle. Hundreds of years separate Hope and Emily but their destinies are linked.

Again, historical elements to a YA book are not story lines that grab my attention normally. However, I absolutely loved the historical parts of Crow Mountain. While travelling to San Francisco, Emily's carriage is destroyed and she becomes the only survivor in the midst of the Montana wilderness. Soon, she is rescued by horse trader, Nate, and lives with him for some time, slowly learning to become self-sufficient and accustomed to living in a very different environment to the one she has been brought up in. What I loved about Emily's story was witnessing her gradual changes from somebody who apologises for her the space she takes up in the world to that of a woman who can hold her own. I also found it really fascinating to hear of her experiences with the Native Americans in the area, the detail about the railroad expansion in the west, and also the fate of the bison.

I think I was less enthralled by Hope's story in the present. Her mother, Meredith, takes on a bit of a caricature role and I didn't feel as invested in Cal's story or the reasons why he is persecuted by his community or the police. However, I did quite like Hope and the ways in which she eventually stands up for herself. I think perhaps if there were more page time for Hope and Cal, I would have eventually loved them more. However I think that Emily and Nate stole the show for me!

As for the romance, I really loved Emily and Nate. It wasn't always great between the two of them, Nate makes choices I didn't agree with that take away Emily's choices for her own destiny but he makes up for that later on. The two of them were just not what I expected. Nate wasn't what I expected. And as I said, I loved seeing Emily's transformation and that was very much down to Nate pushing her into becoming more independent. The ending felt a little bit rushed and I think could have done with a bit more time to develop fully.

I wasn't quite sure where or how the two stories were ever going to meet and it really is in that last third of the novel that things start coming together and making sense. The ending is explosive and surprising and emotional. It plays a little bit with readers' emotions, but I also found myself swept away in the events that occur and hoping for the best.

Crow Mountain was a lovely story about breaking free from expectations, striking out on your own, being independent and taking risks with your heart.

by Helen Maslin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, addictive, romantic and very fast-paced!, 17 Sept. 2015
This review is from: Darkmere (Paperback)
I absolutely loved Darkmere by Helen Maslin! I'd followed the author on Twitter for quite some time and because she's lovely I was, at first, a little bit nervous to start this book for that reason. There was no need to worry as I absolutely loved it. I thought Darkmere was really pacey and addictive as well as being quite emotional.

Darkmere tells the story of two girls separated in time by hundreds of years. The first, Kate, in the modern day has been invited to spend the summer at a remote castle alongside the beach. Good-looking, popular Leo has invited Kate and some other friends to stay in this castle he has just inherited. Kate fancies Leo so says yes, despite the differences in their wealth and social standing. Darkmere isn't at all what she imagined it would be and soon she finds herself interested in the local legends of the castle and of the ghost who is said to haunt it. This is where Elinor comes in who tells us her story in the 1800s and how her own social standing and romantic prospects are called into question and how she eventually ends up at Darkmere.

I really loved both Kate and Elinor's perspectives in telling the story. I was hugely invested in both of these main characters and I found myself pulled easily into their stories and was rooting for them throughout, even when it became more obvious that Elinor's story becomes more tragic. What I loved about both of these story lines was that they are both hugely interesting and as the end of their chapters loomed little tidbits of exciting things were mentioned that left me hugely intrigued by what would happen next. There is quite a bit of surprise and twists to the story that kept me entertained and hooked.

Another favourite aspect to the story is the setting on the English coast line and discovering Darkmere's history with smuggling and how that aspect of the story unfolds as a bit of a surprise. I lapped every detail of this part of the story and now having finished the story I'm quite excited to learn more! Elements of historical fiction don't always grab at me the way the historical bits of Darkmere did, so I was quite surprised by this.

The romance elements to both of these stories ends up being a little bit dark and in a way, doomed and I loved that type of love story. Leo definitely isn't all that he seems, however I still found myself being slightly won over by him anyway. There was something appealing about him anyway. And also the other characters who come along on this summer get away. It's always nice to see that first impressions aren't always the best at showing a person's true character!

I absolutely loved Darkmere and I highly recommend it! Dark, addictive, romantic and very fast-paced. This is definitely a book to look out for

It's About Love
It's About Love
by Steven Camden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A story about film and story telling, 23 Aug. 2015
This review is from: It's About Love (Paperback)
I really loved It's About Love by Steven Camden. I had heard of the book when it was first published at the beginning of the year but I always felt a little bit on the fence about reading it. I knew it was about two characters, Luke and Leia, and that they meet on a film studies course at college, but nothing else apart from that.

It wasn't until I attended YALC in July that I changed my mind. I heard the author, Steven Camden, do a performance poem about this novel and that made me really sit up and take notice. This piece of poetry was amazing and his delivery of it made me incredibly intrigued. So when I saw It's About Love on a library shelf recently, I snapped it up immediately. It isn't the first or last book that I've read because of YALC. And with It's About Love I'm really glad that I did give this book a chance.

It is about two characters, Luke and Leia, and they do meet on a film studies course. That is true. But this novel felt like much more than that as well. It felt like a journey towards creating something wonderful and about identity and friendship and family and love and how all of those things can be messy and complicated and painful and beautiful. This book was filled with so many honest truths that I cried several times at the beauty of it. There was one particular bit about tears and how there are only two types of tears and reading it brought tears to my eyes so quickly that it took me really by surprise.

I really loved the unusual format of the story. It's told from Luke's perspective and it has his narration, but there are also hand-written journal entries of his memories or thoughts or dreams. There are also some bits that read like a film script with scene headings and descriptions. It really worked and the whole film motif really worked throughout the story. I loved all the film mentions and particularly the creative process Luke and Leia writing their own screenplay for the film studies class. I loved the idea of Luke taking inspiration from his friends and family for ideas and how these little bits of conversation help shape both his writing but also his identity.

This book, as I said, is many things. It's a bit of a love story between Luke and Leia. But it's also about Luke adjusting to a new school and a different setting and social circle and trying to reconcile this new part of his life with his old friends. It's also about Luke's brother, Marc, coming home from prison and Luke and his family adjusting to life with him home again. I loved some of the scenes between Luke and his father especially in which it felt like more was said in their silence than in their words. It's also a book about film and about telling stories in different ways. And I really, really enjoyed it.

House of Windows
House of Windows
by Alexia Casale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and populated with amazing characters, 10 Aug. 2015
This review is from: House of Windows (Paperback)
I really loved House of Windows by Alexia Casale. It is a book I'd been looking forward to reading very much, ever since Alexia Casale's previous book, The Bone Dragon, swept me away and broke my heart. I had very high expectations of House of Windows but luckily I enjoyed this book very much. It didn't initially feel as though I would be as affected emotionally by it as I was by The Bone Dragon but I found House of Windows to be a real slow-burner. It came as a huge surprise when in that last quarter, I had to put my book down and cry for a bit because I'd come to care a great deal more about these characters than I'd realised.

House of Windows is about a 15 year old boy, Nick, who is starting his first year of university in Camridge. And Nick will be the first to correct anyone who calls him a genius, he's not. What Nick is is somewhat prickly and sarcastic and I loved him for that. I always find myself relating to people completely unlike myself or with characters who have personality traits that I aspire to, and what Nick is definitely not is a people-pleaser and I loved that about him. What I also loved is getting to know Nick and finding out just what has turned him into the sort of person he is when we meet him.

I have to admit, it was a little difficult to get into this book straight away. That first 50 pages or so are all about the different words and phrases that people who go to Cambridge University call things. They have their own words for everything and it felt like a steep learning curve for both Nick and the reader trying to navigate through this new lingo. And at first, I wasn't sure how necessary it was but it got to a certain point and I started thinking differently. I think having this language for things helps set up the incredible setting that is Cambridge University. I've never been, but after reading House of Windows, I really feel like planning a day-trip and doing some exploring of my own. And I felt like I was part of it too, in learning these new phrases for everything and seeing Cambridge University through the eyes of Nick.

But also, I felt like this book was about Nick finding a place to belong and everything worth joining has it's own language. From families to universities to sports teams (like the rowing crew Nick joins). It felt like it all came together as Nick was learning the language and the people involved and his part in everything. It just made sense.

The thing that I loved so much about this book is that it's very character driven. There isn't a great deal of plot, it covers an academic year and follows Nick on his journey through this first year of university. But it felt like so much more as Nick really progresses throughout the story from this kind of unlikeable, lonely teenage boy into someone who belongs.

The family relationships and friendships in this book really made me cry. But what I loved about them in particular was how real Alexia Casale made them all. I read this book and it felt like she'd brought these characters to life for me. And even if I didn't always like them (looking at you, Nick's dad) I at least always felt like they were believable in the things that they said or did. I loved the realisations that Nick comes to about the meaning of friendship and what it is to be a family.

House of Windows is a really beautiful book. It's beautifully written and populated with some amazing characters. The themes brought up of belonging and of family and letting other people in were really important felt incredibly emotional for me. It felt like the book I needed to read at exactly the right time. This is an amazing book and I really highly recommend it.

The Memory Hit
The Memory Hit
by Carla Spradbery
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Really entertaining, 17 July 2015
This review is from: The Memory Hit (Paperback)
I really enjoyed The Memory Hit by Carla Spradbery. It was a tense, pacey read and I loved how the characters interacted and how all of the different story lines merged together. Admittedly, story lines involving drugs and memory aren't my favourite and I was hesitant to read this book, I am still really glad that I did. I loved the way this book managed to surprise me. Both in terms of twisty plot line but also how dark it went.

The Memory Hit by Carla Spradbery is the story of two main characters, Jess and Cooper after both have pretty intense experiences on New Year's Eve. Jess ends up in a house fire after discovering her best friend and boyfriend have been cheating and that her boyfriend has been dealing drugs. And without having any time to adjust to that new scenario, her best friend is in hospital badly injured. Meanwhile, Cooper is attacked and ends up on the bad side of local drug dealer and is forced into coming up with way more money than would be possible with their family's limited income.

I really liked Jess and Cooper as narrators. Occasionally the narration drifts off into other perspectives and I found these fairly short chapters from another point of view jarred me out of the story but at least they were infrequent and I felt like Jess and Cooper did well to invest me emotionally throughout. The fact that these two are exes made everything between them super intense and I loved that between them. But I also just really liked them as individuals.

Jess is one of those strait-laced girls whose main focus is very much on good grades and this whole thing with her boyfriend and her best friend really sends her for a loop. She becomes very intent on finding out answers for all the questions raised by the texts she's seen on her boyfriend's phone and the things that Cooper has experienced. The whole idea of Nostalgex was intriguing. A drug that simulates past memories and helps clarify things and contort the memories into different ways. And Cooper was just lovely. Obviously a boy who has made plenty of mistakes but you can tell he's still a good guy. Especially by the way he treats his sister and how he shoulders the burden of keeping them both afloat after they fall on hard times.

I feel like there is so much to talk about with The Memory Hit. I loved the family relationships and the complicated mess of being exes and ex-friends after a break-up and the twisted family histories that crop up, both with Cooper and Leon, the drug dealer. I loved Jag and Cooper's friendship in particular. I thought it was interesting to see one of the characters succumb to the temptation of Nostalgex. The person behind it all was an absolute surprise to me and there were a couple of really gruesome deaths that felt a bit shocking. I loved that darkness. I just really found this book to be really entertaining throughout!

The Young Elites
The Young Elites
by Marie Lu
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Gasping to read the sequel, 17 July 2015
This review is from: The Young Elites (Paperback)
The Young Elites by Marie Lu was exactly my kind of book. In fact, if I'd know how wonderfully dark this book and the main character would be, I think I would have picked this book up far sooner.

It's so rare, I think, to read of a character like Adelina. And it would probably be easy for her to be turned into a different kind of character if she wasn't written just right. But I think Marie Lu did an amazing job of having her do questionable things but still remain as sympathetic as she is. There wasn't a single page or chapter where I wasn't rooting for her or hoping the best for her. And I think that's where the skill lies in Marie Lu.

The Young Elites is the first book in a trilogy set in a fantasy land in which an illness spread many years ago and some of the survivors were left with markings and these marked survivors are branded malfettos and treated like second-class citizens. But amongst the malfettos are a small group of people who possess gifts or powers that further separate them from the majority. They are called the Young Elites.

Adelina is a malfetto, her hair is silver and she is left with a scar where one of her eyes used to be. And since childhood, her father has beaten her and treated her horrifically in the hopes that Adelina's gifts would show themselves. Things begin to change when Adelina leaves home and is taken in by a band of young elites whose aim is to overthrow the corrupt government and put the outcast malfetto prince back on the throne. Adelina spends a great deal of time in this book mistrustful of her surroundings and this unusual band of superpowered teenagers. But also mistrustful of herself and the things she is capable of.

And I loved every second of this book.

I did. I loved it. I loved Adelina and her internal struggles, especially her uncertainty of where she fits into the world. I loved her bond with her little sister and her conflicted feelings for Enzo, the malfetto prince. I loved her friendship with Raffaele. And everything about the ways in which Adelina is trained and getting a clearer picture of what she can do. There is just so much about this book that made my heart sing.

But I think it was really just the magnetic pull of Adelina as a character that made me fall so hard for this book. There's something deeply dark about this book. But it's also sexy and painful and just felt really truthful. The pain that Adelina feels as she has faced such hardship and rejection in her life makes for a complex character in which darkness competes with her goodness.

I'm absolutely gasping to read the sequel to this book. I finished The Young Elites and I wanted nothing more than to flip this book back to the front and read it all over again just to be back in this world and with these characters.

The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo
The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo
by Catherine Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An incredibly fascinating story, 9 July 2015
I'd really been looking forward to reading The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo by Catherine Johnson for awhile now. So I was very happy to get a copy sent to me and jumped in straight away.

And I really liked this story. It's based on a true story of an actual young woman called Mary Willcox who managed to convince a wealthy family that she was a princess from the South Seas and that makes this story even more fascinating to me. I know that Catherine Johnson did change some aspects of the story but I still think the original basis of what happened to Mary Willcox to be incredibly interesting. As is this book! I really didn't know what was going to happen throughout the story and I was really intrigued from the moment I started reading.

The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo has sort of a harrowing beginning. As we see poor Mary Willcox in bad shape and she is further attacked by some men and in that moment she decides that things will be different from now on. And that's what happens.

She pretends to be this different person, this princess from Java. And it becomes quite an elaborate lie that is spun as Caraboo manages to convince this local wealthy family, the Worralls, that she is in fact royalty and they take her in for several months. An entire language is created as well as a religion and a style of dress and mannerisms that Caraboo creates herself. At times both Caraboo (and surely the reader!) are sort of preparing for this lie to be caught out and for Caraboo to be sent packing ... but things carry on for a very surprising length of time.

I really liked the character of Caraboo that Mary Willcox pretends that she is. Caraboo becomes this fierce warrior princess who hunts and climbs and does what she likes. It really felt like she had decided not to be held back by her gender or her (lack of) wealth and just decided to become this person she and society had never allowed her to become until one day when she just makes that decision and a transformation happens.

As well as being incredibly interested and invested in Caraboo's character and how she gets on, I was also really fascinated to see the changes within this family that Caraboo is staying with and the different reactions they all have to Caraboo's intrusion into their lives. There is Mrs Worrall, who seems to relish the attention as well as the fact that she is at the centre of a scientific investigation and has scientists of the day from phrenologists to electricity experts, coming into her house and that she is able to participate in something larger than her in her every day life.

And then there are the Worrall children: flighty Cassandra and skeptical Fred who in turns befriend and question Caraboo's sincerity and actions. Cassandra and Fred really shouldn't be likeable characters. They are both overly privileged and entitled and yet still, I found myself warming to both characters a great deal. I liked that Cassandra and Caraboo formed this friendship and that Fred seemed to struggle with his relationships with women after a comment made to him by a prostitute. I also loved the juxtaposition of Cassandra's love affair with that of the reluctant growing of feelings that happens for Caraboo.

I thought Lady Caraboo's story was an incredibly fascinating story. It felt like a story of choices and love and about being the person who most want to be. I loved this glimpse into a POC historical figure and time period and I was swept away by the circumstances of Caraboo's life. Really enjoyed this one!

The Baby
The Baby
by Lisa Drakeford
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read that covered lots of fascinating topics, 9 July 2015
This review is from: The Baby (Paperback)
The Baby by Lisa Drakeford was an interesting read that covered lots of topics that I found fascinating. Each of the five characters' stories were really interesting and I thought it was great how each character's story really builds on the overall theme of teen pregnancy/parenthood whilst also giving each character time to shine in their own right.

I found the structure of the novel to be quite unusual. There are five narrators in this book each of the five being people who have attended this 17th birthday party in which one of the guests unexpectedly (even to her!) gives birth to a baby. The rest of the story is the aftermath of this big surprise.

There is Olivia, the birthday girl. Alice, Olivia's little sister. Ben, Olivia's gay best friend. Nicola, the new mother (and Olivia's best friend.) Jonty, the father (and Olivia's boyfriend.) You can kind of see how there might be some conflict as the father of the baby is the boyfriend of someone else. And that there'd be obvious fall-out between the two best friends. But what I liked about this book is that while this book is quite slim, there was quite a lot packed into it. The exploration of these complicated relationships. Nicola (and Jonty) dealing with the fact that they are now teenage parents and what that means for their lives and futures.

Through the eyes of Nicola and Jonty we can see some of the reactions that other people have towards teenage parents which is quite sobering. There is a lot of stigma and negativity surrounding teen parents which can be quite sad to read about. For me, there was a bit of a disconnect between me and most of these characters, however, Nicola's adventures of being a new parent and caring for a newborn made tears come to my eyes. I knew exactly the frustration and fatigue and helplessness she felt as she tried so desperately to soothe a colicky baby in the middle of the night.

But I also found Alice and Ben's story lines very interesting in that they are involved in Nicola and her baby's lives and give support but they also share and we get to explore some of their own life problems. Alice with her difficulty in finding friends and being different and Ben and his search for love. But it was definitely the domestic violence aspect of Jonty and Olivia that made me really intrigued by this novel. I found it an interesting topic to explore and I quite liked seeing Jonty's character development from the beginning to end.

The Baby was something a bit different and I really liked that!

The Lost and the Found
The Lost and the Found
by Cat Clarke
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Very emotional, 9 July 2015
This review is from: The Lost and the Found (Paperback)
I have been very much looking forward to reading The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke! She is a definite favourite author of mine and I went into reading her new book expecting something very emotional and that is definitely what I got from this book!

The Lost and the Found is a story about a girl who was lost ... she's abducted from her family and then returns 13 years later. It was very much a story about families and about sisters and about missing children. I loved the exploration of the media portrayal in particular and how not every missing child has the same response.

The Lost and the Found is the story of missing Laurel Logan. How she was abducted 13 years ago and that returns to them after a very long time. The story is told from the perspective of Faith, Laurel's younger sister and she is a wonderful narrator. Really showing the reader how difficult it was at times to live in Laurel's shadow and how difficult it was to transition into having a sister and sharing their family after such a long time.

My favourite aspect of the book is Faith and Laurel's relationship. That instant connection. That bond between the girls even though they've been separated for such a long time, it felt easy for them to become sisters. Faith takes it upon herself to let Laurel shine for awhile, to do things she would rather not because Laurel requested it. I loved them together. They're not perfect or without conflict, but I really believed in their relationship.

I also really loved Faith's family. In particular, her father's partner, Michel. I loved Faith and Michel's relationship and Michel was by far my favourite character. I loved that Faith had somebody like Michel in her life to talk to and be open with who isn't so intrinsically linked to Laurel's abduction. Plus he's French and makes macarons. Also, plus points for having both same sex parental figures and also a bisexual man. Both need more representation in YA and I'm glad that Cat Clarke included both.

At the heart of this book, there is this underlying tension and I felt quite unsettled while reading that Laurel wasn't telling us everything. I was quite glad that a lot of her experiences while she was away were glossed over (and just because we didn't hear the gruesome details doesn't mean that the reader won't come away unsympathetic to her.) But I also mean that Laurel's secrets put me on edge and I found it really interesting to go on this journey with Faith and Laurel.

The Lost and the Found was surprisingly emotional. In that, I didn't realise until that last page just how emotionally invested I was in this story, in these characters and in this relationship between Faith and Laurel!

When Mr Dog Bites
When Mr Dog Bites
Price: £4.80

4.0 out of 5 stars When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan, 2 Jun. 2015
This review is from: When Mr Dog Bites (Kindle Edition)
I really enjoyed When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan. I started reading it last year when I received a hardback copy of this book for review and I loved Dylan's voice in particular. But for some reason, I put the book down and didn't return to it. Until now, when in an attempt to read more UKYA and more diverse books, I thought that I would pick this book up again and give it another go. I'm really glad that I did.

When Mr Dog Bites is Dylan Mint's story. He's a 16 year old boy living in Glasgow with his mother and he has Tourette's. At a doctor's appointment, Dylan overhears his mum and doctor saying that Dylan has a year left to live. With this new, scary knowledge Dylan decides to make a bucket list. He has just three things on his list.

1) He'd like to have sex. Particularly with Michelle Molloy a girl at his school.
2) He wants to make sure his best friend, Amir, has friends and isn't all alone after Dylan dies.
3) He'd like his father home from the army.

It isn't easy completing these tasks at all. He's up against his own physiology with the first (what girl is going to like it when she offensive things at her?), battling racism in the second and fighting the impossible with the third. But throughout this story, I was really rooting for Dylan. He had amazing presence and voice in this book and I couldn't help but be very emotionally involved in this story.

There were a few things especially that I loved about this book:

The first is the way in which language is used throughout. Dylan adopts some Cockney rhyming terminology and also fuses different types of language into his own unique style and it really made me happy. He also lives in Glasgow and his accent comes through when he's speaking and there was some phrases where I could guess the meaning but had never come across before. This of course is separate from his outbursts of swearing. He deliberately chooses his own language but it cannot be helped what he shouts out from time to time. Prepare yourselves for lots of swearing and offensive language in this book!

Another thing I really liked about the book is that it paints a much clearer picture of what it might be like both to have Tourette's but also what it might be like to attend a special school like Dylan, Amir and Michelle attend. All three face different types of abuse but we also get to see them as individuals and learn their stories and I thought all three were fantastic. With Dylan, I'm sure I had plenty of preconceived misconceptions about what Tourette's is and he helped me become better educated and sympathetic. There were times, especially when he felt very down about his doomed love life, that I really felt for him and began to realise how very difficult it is to do or have things that other people take for granted.

But of course the thing I loved the most about When Mr Dog Bites are the relationships. Dylan's friendship with Amir. His interactions with Michelle. The way he treats the poor taxi man. But especially Dylan's relationship with his mother. There's something really sweet but also incredibly realistic about their relationship. It isn't cheesy or overdone but it just felt so believeable.

I absolutely loved this book and I'm really glad to have read it!

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